What is this funny-looking crop in the grocery stores that’s called a jicama?
You may take a look at it and wonder, is jicama a fruit or vegetable.
I’ll cover everything about the jicama and its many nutritional benefits.
- Related article: Fruit versus Vegetable
Is Jicama a Fruit or Vegetable?
Jicama is a tuberous root vegetable that grows beneath the soil’s surface. The Jicama root is the cultivated plant part used for food.
A vegetable is classified as an edible plant part. It is not a fruit because it does not contain seeds or develop from a ripened ovary or flower.
What Is Jicama?
The jicama is a thick, brown-skinned root vegetable. It is an edible plant root that is round and fleshy. With starchy white inner flesh. It grows on vines, with only the root being edible.
The vegetable’s appearance could be described as a brown or tan-hued beet. It feels much like a raw potato does complete with papery golden-brown skin.
This plant does produce beans, similar to lima beans, but the jicama beans are highly toxic.
For botanists, jicama is the Pachyrhizus erosus. As a species, it belongs to the Pachyrhizus genus of the Fabaceae akabean family. This is the same family that peas belong to, even if there is no resemblance.
The jicama vegetable has some other names it’s known by:
- Mexican turnip
- Mexican Yam Bean
- Chinese Potato
- Mexican Potato
- Mexican Yam
- Mexican Water Chestnut
- Leaf Cup
Jicama has white flesh that has a sweet crunchy texture. It is often compared to a sweet potato, although its skin is not edible. The jicama’s texture is closer to a turnip’s than a potato.
The jicama’s brown skin is thicker and tougher than a regular potato, so you will need a paring knife or sturdy vegetable peeler.
The jicama taste is said to resemble that of a nutty apple, although less sweet. Some however describe a pear potato mix, while others cite the water chestnut. When you cut the jicama, the flesh will not turn brown like that of an apple.
The jicama plant is a vegetable for warm climate cultivation. It is cultivated in Central America, the Caribbean, Southern Asia, and in several South American Andean regions.
Jicamas can grow to weigh 50 lbs., but the smaller-sized roots are reputed to be better for eating.
Jimaca cultivation needs a long growing season. It will not tolerate frost, so it can only be grown where climates are warm year-round.
Jicama Nutritional Content
One of the great things about jicama is that it is rich in nutrients, including important vitamins and minerals for overall health.
The majority of its calories are from carbohydrates, with a small amount of calories coming from fat and protein. Jicama is also packed with dietary fiber, making it a friendly food for those wishing to lose weight.
One cup or 130 grams is 49 calories and contains these nutrients:
- 1 gram of protein
- 1 gram of fat
- 12 grams of carbohydrates
- 4 grams of fiber
- 44% of the Recommended Daily Intake of Vitamin C
- 6% RDI of Potassium
- 4% RDI of Folate, Magnesium, and Manganese
It has small quantities of vitamins B6 and E. It also contains
- Pantothenic acid
Jicama Health Benefits
1. Jicama Lowers the Risk of Chronic Diseases
Jicama contains a good amount of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant. Antioxidants aid in the prevention of damage to the cells. They counteract free radicals or molecules that stress the cells through oxidation.
Oxidative stress is linked to chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, cognitive decline, diabetes, and heart disease.
2. Jicama Protects the Heart
With its dietary soluble fiber, it lowers cholesterol and inhibits the liver from producing more to improve heart health.
Increasing fiber content in your diet can lower LDL or bad cholesterol. Jicama’s potassium content will relax blood vessels and lower blood pressure.
3. Jicama Improves Digestion
Dietary fiber can increase stool bulk to improve movement through the digestive tract.
Jicama has inulin, a type of prebiotic and fiber that improves bowel movements in those suffering from constipation. Digestive health is also helped by jicama’s high water content.
4. Jicama Improves Gut Bacteria
Jicama has a lot of inulin. This type of dietary fiber is prebiotic, meaning that it can be used by your body’s bacteria. Prebiotics are not digestible, but they can be fermented by gut bacteria.
Including high amounts of prebiotics in your diet will decrease unhealthy gut bacteria. Prebiotics are also known to lower the risk of chronic diseases.
5. Jicama Reduces Cancer
Jicama has a good supply of antioxidants like vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and selenium. These help protect your body from free radical damage to cells that can lead to different types of cancer.
It is also high in dietary fiber. Fiber consumption is known to lower the risk of colon cancer.
6. Jicama Helps Weight Loss
Jicama is packed with nutrients and very low in calories. It also contains impressive amounts of fiber and water, which contribute to feeling “full.”
The fiber content can also help control blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance is considered an important component in obesity. This is because glucose is no longer able to enter cells and remains in the bloodstream.
Research indicates that jicama may increase sensitivity to insulin. This will aid in lowering blood sugar levels.
Is Jicama a Fruit or Vegetable? Final Thoughts
Jicama is a root vegetable that offers many health benefits because it’s a great source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
You can find jicama at most grocery stores. If you don’t see it there, ask for it at your local farmers market.
For other fruits and vegetables and how they’re classified, check out these articles: