What Is Jicama and What Are the Health Benefits?
This sweet, crunchy vegetable is great for snacks, salads, and slaws. Here's what you need to know about buying, eating, and storing jicama.
When you find yourself in a little bit of a healthy eating rut, trying new-to-you foods can be a great way to snap out of it. If you're a fan of sweet, crunchy veggies like carrots and turnips, jicama is probably right up your alley. Native to Mexico and popular in Central American cuisine, jicama is a nutrient-packed root vegetable that's available in most mainstream supermarkets. Before you add it to your grocery list, here's what you need to know about jicama's taste and texture, plus how to cook, eat, and store it.
Jicama is high in fiber and water.
Pictured recipe: Jicama Radish Slaw
One cup of jicama (130 grams) is 90-percent water, and contains 38 calories, 9 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber, 2 grams of natural sugars, less than a gram of protein and almost no fat. "Jicama is a great source of fiber and water," says Ximena Jimenez, MS, RDN, LDN, a Miami-based dietitian.
Most of us fall short of eating the recommended amount of fiber each day (25 grams for women, and 38 grams for men)—a shame, because adequate fiber intake has been linked to healthy weight, healthy bones, and a reduced risk of chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Snacking on sliced jicama can help boost your daily fiber count. Jimenez says it's especially great for people with diabetes, because it delivers a little bit of sweet flavor, but the fiber will prevent big changes in blood sugar.
Read more: Best Foods for Diabetes
It's also rich in vitamin C.
Jicama is high in important vitamins and minerals, Jimenez says. One cup packs 20 milligrams of vitamin C (more than 25 percent of what an adult woman needs in a day), which is essential for collagen production and linked to a reduced risk of certain cancers. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant, Jimenez says. "Antioxidants help us fight the damage caused by free radicals," she says, which ultimately protects our DNA.
It's a little sweet and a little starchy.
Pictured recipe: Chili-Lime Jicama
"Jicama reminds me of an apple when it comes to its crunchy and juicy texture and flavor," Jimenez says. "But I could also compare it to the feel and texture of potato." It's best served raw, cut into sticks or slices. You'll need to cut off the thick brown skin using a sharp knife (a vegetable peeler likely won't cut deep enough) before you chop the white, crunchy flesh. Consider substituting it for carrots and celery, using it to dip into hummus or peanut butter or adding thin slices to salads for some additional crunch.
"I like to add it to a pico de gallo or salsa: all you need is chopped tomatoes, onions, jicama, cilantro, lemon, a little bit of salt and pepper," Jimenez says. "I also put some papaya, mango or pineapple for additional taste."
Pictured recipe: Chopped Jicama Salad
Store it on the counter before you cut it, and in the fridge once it's cut.
Whole, uncut jicama will stay fresh in a cool, dry place in your pantry for two to three weeks. That said, if you buy a jicama that was chilled at the grocery store, you'll need to store it in the fridge. If you use half a jicama, you can wrap the remaining half tightly in plastic and store it in the fridge for a few days. Once you've sliced it, a squeeze of lemon or lime juice will help it stay fresh if you're planning on storing it for a few days.