Every week, I try to incorporate one new food into my menu.
A few months ago, my local grocery store began stocking jicama. Having read about its nutritional benefits and seen it on a few menus around the city and in recipes, I was intrigued enough to purchase one. For those who haven’t had the pleasure of tasting jicama – yes, it’s that delicious – allow me to enlighten you.
An underground tuber vegetable native to Mexico and Central and South America, jicama’s shape is similar to that of a turnip or rutabaga. However, it’s brown, somewhat fibrous skin and white interior resembles that of a potato. Jicama typically ranges in size, from 10 to 15 centimetres in diametre. If your grocery store carries it, you’ll likely find it beside other root vegetables.
In terms of taste and texture, jicama has a mild, sweet flavour and is crisp and crunchy, lending itself to a multitude of culinary applications.
I usually peel jicama and snack on it raw with freshly squeezed lemon juice or grate it into a homemade coleslaw mix.
Here are some other ways to include this delicious vegetable into your repertoire:
• Replace croutons in a green salad with small cubes of jicama. You’ll keep the crunch while adding a boost of nutrition.
• When cooked, jicama takes on the flavours of accompanying foods and sauces making it a tasteful addition to a stir fry.
• Cut jicama into thick slices, brush it with olive oil, add desired spices and/or herbs (for example, rosemary, chili powder or cilantro) and toss on the grill for two to three minutes on each side.
Not only is jicama appealing for its taste, but it also boasts an attractive nutritional profile.
With only 50 calories per cup, virtually no fat and high soluble fibre content, jicama is the ideal food to incorporate into a weight loss meal plan as it will satisfy appetite without providing unnecessary calories.
Additionally, inulin, which is the type of fibre found in jicama, works as a broom to sweep toxins from the intestines. It is also considered to be a prebiotic as it stimulates the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, thereby protecting against colon cancer and promoting regularity.
Jicama is also rich in vitamin C, an antioxidant heralded for its ability rid the body of toxic free radicals and protect against viruses such as the flu, as well as inflammation and certain cancers.
This vegetable also contains a number of B vitamins, including niacin, riboflavin and folate. Respectively, these vitamins help to lower cholesterol levels, metabolize energy, fat and carbohydrates and reduce health problems in the fetus. In combination, B vitamins are also believed to elevate mood by promoting the production of a “feel good” chemical known as serotonin.
While potassium is perhaps most commonly associated with bananas, high levels of this essential mineral are also found in jicama. Potassium is important for the proper function of cells, tissues and organs, especially the heart. Its role in muscle contraction also makes it crucial for digestion. Some studies suggest that people who consume foods rich in potassium have a lower risk of stroke.
I was surprised to learn jicama is also a source of iron, a trace mineral that helps carry oxygen to the cells. Low levels of iron are associated with fatigue, decreased concentration and hair loss. To increase absorption of iron, always pair the iron-rich food with a source of vitamin C.
When purchasing jicama, choose small- to medium-sized roots and those with smooth, unblemished skin. Once home, store jicama in a cool, dry place – even a small amount of moisture can lead to rotting.
When cut, place it in a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. If it begins to discolour, cut away the exposed flesh.
Until next month, enjoy!
Jessica’s first foray into the food industry was in Grade 5 when she wrote The Sweet Tooth Recipe Book and sold to raise money for the Hospital for Sick Children. While her sweet tooth has subsided, her passion for healthy living has grown and is what led her to a career in food and beverage communications. Follow her on Twitter at @JessicaSquibb.