Jicama is a root vegetable that originated in Mexico and Central America. It has a sweet, nutty flavor and a crunchy texture similar to apples or raw potatoes. Jicama can be eaten raw or cooked and is low in calories and rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Some research suggests jicama may have potential benefits for blood sugar control due to its fiber content and low glycemic index. This article reviews the evidence on whether jicama can help lower blood sugar levels.
What is jicama?
Jicama (pronounced HEE-kah-mah) is the edible root of the Pachyrhizus erosus vine that grows in tropical climates. This tuberous root veggie has brown, papery skin and crunchy, juicy white flesh.
Raw jicama has a sweet, nutty flavor reminiscent of apples or raw potato. It can be eaten raw, roasted, sautéed, or added to salads, salsas, and stir fries. Jicama tastes best when harvested during the cooler months between October and March.
In addition to its sweet flavor, jicama offers an impressive nutritional profile:
– Low in calories – one cup (120 grams) of raw jicama contains only 46 calories (1).
– Rich in fiber – 6 grams per cup, approximately 24% of the Daily Value. The majority comes from inulin, a soluble fiber associated with blood sugar regulation (1, 2).
– Packed with vitamin C – over 20% of the Daily Value per cup (1).
– Provides small amounts of other vitamins and minerals like vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, and iron (1).
This combination of sweet flavor, high fiber content, and low calorie density makes jicama a nutritious addition to the diet, especially for those seeking better blood sugar balance.
How does jicama impact blood sugar?
Jicama contains two key components that may help moderate blood sugar levels – fiber and low glycemic carbohydrates.
Blood sugar regulation through fiber
Jicama is a rich source of soluble fiber, containing around 5-6 grams per cup (3). Soluble fibers like inulin have been shown to help slow digestion, which prevents blood sugar from rising too quickly after eating (4, 5).
Fiber may also prolong the time carbohydrates take to be digested and absorbed. This leads to a more gradual rise in blood sugar over a longer period (6).
One study gave people with type 2 diabetes either white bread or high-fiber jicama bread with the same amount of available carbohydrates. The jicama bread resulted in lower blood sugar and insulin responses compared to regular white bread (7).
Fiber may also change the types of gut bacteria in the intestines, which can improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar regulation (8).
Overall, incorporating soluble fiber-rich foods like jicama is recommended as part of a healthy diet and blood sugar management plan.
Blood sugar control through low glycemic impact
The glycemic index (GI) is a scale that ranks carbohydrate-containing foods by how much they raise blood sugar.
Jicama is considered a low glycemic food, with a GI of 15-18 (9). For comparison, table sugar has a GI of 65 while beans have a GI around 40 (9).
Low glycemic foods cause a slower, more gradual rise in blood sugar. In contrast, high glycemic foods lead to spikes in blood glucose and insulin (10).
Eating more low glycemic foods may improve long-term blood sugar control in people with diabetes. One review found low GI diets reduced HbA1c – a marker of average blood sugar – by 0.5% more than higher GI diets (11).
Not only is jicama low glycemic, but its soluble fiber further helps slow the digestion and absorption of its sugars. This makes it an excellent choice as part of a low GI eating pattern for better blood sugar regulation.
Blood sugar lowering effects of jicama
A few human studies have specifically examined how eating jicama impacts markers of blood sugar control. The results suggest jicama may benefit both short-term and long-term blood sugar regulation:
Improved post-meal blood sugar response
In one study, people with or without type 2 diabetes ate 50 grams of carbohydrates from either jicama or white bread (12).
Those who ate jicama had significantly lower blood sugar and insulin levels compared to white bread. Jicama delayed the blood sugar peak by over 90 minutes.
Researchers concluded that eating jicama with a meal can suppress the postprandial glucose and insulin response.
May lower fasting blood sugar
A 2019 study had 36 women with obesity and elevated blood sugar add 120 grams of raw jicama to their daily diet for two months (13).
By the end of the study, the women had significant decreases in fasting blood sugar, averaging a reduction of 15 mg/dL. Jicama supplementation also led to decreased insulin resistance.
While more research is needed, this indicates daily jicama intake may help improve long-term blood sugar management.
Improved markers of insulin sensitivity
Insulin resistance occurs when the body’s tissues stop responding as well to the hormone insulin. This causes insulin and blood sugar levels to rise.
In one small study, giving people with obesity 100 grams of jicama extract daily for 12 weeks led to decreased insulin resistance compared to placebo (14).
Though jicama shows promise for better blood sugar regulation, most research so far is limited. Larger, longer-term studies are needed to determine jicama’s effects across diverse populations.
Other potential health benefits
In addition to possible blood sugar benefits, eating jicama may provide several other health advantages:
– Weight loss – Jicama is low in calories and high in fiber and water, which can help promote fullness and reduce calorie intake (15).
– Heart health – Jicama contains potassium, which helps lower blood pressure. Its fiber content also reduces cholesterol levels (16, 17).
– Digestive health – Fermentable fibers in jicama provide food for healthy gut bacteria. This improves gut health and regularity (18).
– Immunity – Jicama is high in immune-boosting vitamin C. One cup provides over 20% of the recommended Daily Value (1).
– Anti-inflammatory – Nutrients in jicama like vitamin E, vitamin C, and magnesium have anti-inflammatory properties (19).
– Longevity – Inulin fiber from jicama may extend lifespan by altering gut bacteria linked to aging (20).
Though these benefits are promising, more research is needed to confirm jicama’s effects across different populations.
How to add jicama to your diet
Here are some simple ways to enjoy jicama as part of a healthy, blood sugar friendly diet:
– Peel and slice raw jicama to dip into hummus, guacamole, or nut butters.
– Dice jicama and add it to salads, slaws, and fresh salsas.
– Cut jicama into sticks or fries and bake at 400°F for 15 minutes as a snack.
– Stir fry jicama with other veggies and serve with fish or lean protein.
– Roast cubed jicama tossed in olive oil, cumin, salt, and pepper.
– Make jicama nachos by topping sliced jicama with beans, salsa, and avocado.
– Add shredded jicama to omelets, frittatas, and scrambled eggs.
Aim for 1/2 – 1 cup of fresh jicama 1-2 times per day as a nutritious snack or side dish. Combining it with protein sources helps prevent blood sugar spikes.
Jicama is generally safe when consumed in normal food amounts and can fit well into a healthy, diabetes-friendly diet.
However, a few precautions apply:
– Allergic reactions – Jicama is part of the legume and pulse family. Those with legume allergies should use caution with jicama.
– Pesticide residues – Peel thickly or buy organic, since jicama skin can harbor pesticide residues (21).
– Blood thinning medication – Jicama’s vitamin K levels can interfere with blood thinning drugs like warfarin. Monitor your PT/INR closely (22).
– Fructan content – Jicama contains fructans, a type of FODMAP that some people don’t digest well. This could cause gas or bloating.
Start with small portions of jicama cooked or raw to see how your body reacts. Increase intake slowly while monitoring blood sugar and GI symptoms.
As with any dietary change when you have diabetes, discuss jicama with your healthcare provider, especially if taking medications that interact with vitamin K.
The bottom line
Jicama is a low calorie, high fiber, and low glycemic root vegetable that may offer benefits for blood sugar management.
Research suggests jicama can help slow carb digestion, improve insulin sensitivity, and lower both short-term and long-term blood sugar levels.
Incorporating jicama into a balanced diabetes diet can provide sweetness along with antioxidants, fiber, and nutrients that are important for blood sugar regulation.
Enjoy jicama peeled, raw, roasted, or added to salads and sides. Pair it with healthy protein sources and monitor your blood sugar response. Talk to your doctor about how jicama can be part of your personalized diabetes management plan.