Yacon is ( Smallanthus sonchifolius) is a South American tuber grown in the northern and central Andes. Yacon’s texture is similar to that of jicama, and is slightly sweeter. Yacon has been cultivated for food by indigenous peoples from Colombia to northern Argentina for at least a thousand years.
Yacon has only recently found its way out of the Amazon and onto the international stage. The tuber is mostly water and fructooligosaccharides (FOS) which are carbohydrate sugars indigestible by the human body. In short, yacon is a refreshing vegetable, which can prevent excess sugar from getting into the bloodstream. It helps the body increase vitamin and mineral absorption of other foods, so while it may not possess an abundance of nutrients itself, yacon can be essential in enhancing the intake of nutrients from other sources. Yacon does have high levels of potassium, making it heart-healthy, in that potassium relaxes blood vessels and reduces strain on the cardiovascular system.
Yacon’s very high levels of FOS mean that simple sugars are not going to be present and causing any trouble! The amount of glucose production is actually lowered, resulting in lowered fasting glucose rates.
Yacon also has anti-oxidant phenolic acids, chlorogenic acid, ferulic acid caffeic acid, all active free radical scavengers. Along with that, it has been reported that yacon has free tryptophan, an essential amino acid for protein synthesis.
Yacon has some very unique properties, and these are now finding their way to the marketplace in forms we can use to benefit our own health. In tests on obese pre-menopausal women over a period of 120 days, they were given yacon syrup twice per day. At the end of the 120 day period, there was a significant decrease in body weight, waist circumference and body mass index. The researchers concluded that yacon syrup is a good source of fructooligosaccharides, and the long term (120 day) consumption was beneficial. In another study, freeze-dried powdered yacon was found to be a good source of FOS, and that daily consumption can have a beneficial effect on serum glucose in the elderly. Powder, being easy to use and store, makes this even more viable as an addition to one’s health regimen.
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