Have you ever wondered what this wobbly vegetable that looks a bit like a turnip painted beige is? It certainly does not have a bright rainbow color so sought after in an anti-oxidant rich anti-cancer diet.
Jicama root, native to Mexico, may not be as phytonutrient rich as many others in the vegetable kingdom, but it serves a very important purpose that makes it a staple in my conquering cancer kitchen.
What is Jicama?
Jicama (pronounced “hee-pause-kama”) is actually the underground tuber of a legume. After peeling, it reveals a crunchy, ivory flesh that tastes slightly sweet. It is a low calorie food, made up of almost 90% water and rivals watermelon in this regard.
Nevertheless, it boasts high levels of Vitamin C, fiber, potassium and a trace mineral we usually do not hear a lot about – molybdenum.
Molybdenum plays a critical role in the formation of an enzyme called sulfite oxidase which plays a key role in a vital sulfoxidation liver detoxification pathway. Impaired sulfoxidation can lead to chronic inflammation, something we cancer survivors want to avoid.
What makes Jicama indispensable though is that it is a valuable gut health promoting pre-biotic food. Jicama is high in inulin, a carbohydrate-based source of fiber belonging to the group of fructooligosaccharides (FOS). FOSs are found as “resistant starch” in the fiber of many vegetables. Unlike most carbs, they do not act as fuel for energy, but rather move through our digestive system all the way to the colon where they serve to feed our healthy gut bacteria, both the Lactobacilli as well as Bifidobacteria species. They also help to reduce any harmful bacteria by increasing butyrate, a desired short-chained fatty acid, and they help eliminate toxins.
Healthy Gut and Cancer
A healthy gut environment is essential in cancer care as it helps prevent gut dysbiosis, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, SIBO and helps regulate bowel function and nutrient absorption.
How to enjoy this little tuber?
As the peel is inedible, make sure to always peel Jicama either with a sharp knife or a vegetable peeler. Sometimes, the first flesh under the peel is a little fibrous, and benefits from peeling too.
- Eat it raw!
- As a substitute for carrot and celery sticks with some hummus or tzatziki
- Cut up into cubes or shredded into salads. It pairs well with another refreshing food, watermelon, as well as avocado or try it in a black bean salad or salsa. It’s refreshing crunchiness is what makes it unique
- By itself, sprinkled with a little lime juice and a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper (the way the often eat it in Mexico)
- Bake it just as you would a potato, an excellent choice if you wish to shed some extra pounds (however the Vitamin C content is highest if consumed raw)
Kirstin’s Tip: Jicama does not turn brown when peeled, so it can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the fridge in a tightly sealed container in a little water to retain crispness.
Watermelon Jicama Salad
- 3 cups seedless watermelon, chopped into small cubes
- 3 cups jicama root, peeled and chopped into small cubes, same size as watermelon
- 1⁄4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 1/8 cup mint leaves, sliced fine
Combine in a bowl that offsets the colors nicely (glass, white or blue)
- 1/8 cup olive oil
- 3-4 tablespoons unfiltered apple cider vinegar
- Himalayan sea salt to taste (start with 1⁄2 teaspoon and taste)
- 3-5 swirls with black pepper mill
Mix until well combined and creamy.
Add to chopped ingredients, fold gently.
Keeps in fridge for up to 3 days.
Sabater-Molina M, Larqué E, Torrella S, Zamora S. “Dietary fructooligosaccharides and potential benefits on health”, Journal of Physiology and Biochemistry, 2009, Vol 65, Page 315
Li P, Burr GS, Gatlin DM 3rd, Hume ME, Patnaik S, Castille FL, Lawrence AL. “Dietary supplementation of short-chain fructooligosaccharides influences gastrointestinal microbiota composition and immunity characteristics of Pacific white shrimp, Litopenaeus vannamei, cultured in a recirculating system”, J Nutr. 2007 Dec;137(12):2763-8
Blaut, M, “Relationship of prebiotics and food to intestinal microflora”, European J of Nutr. 10/2002, Volume 41, Supplement 1, pp i11–i16
Staying Healthy with Nutrition by Elson M Haas MD with Buck Levin PhD, 2006 edition
Herbal Medicine, Healing and Cancer by Donald R. Yance Jr. C.N., M.H., A.H.G. with Arlene Valentine
The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia by Rebecca Wood The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, ND
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