What is Yacon Root?
YACON, Llacon (Smallanthus Sonchifolius)
What is yacon? This sweet, root-like vegetable originates and predominates throughout the pre-Andes ranges from Ecuador to Chile to Argentina. It is also grown in New Zealand, Italy, Czech Republic, Philippines, and Vietnam as well.
This plant’s root is a crunchy vegetable that tastes similar to an apple. Sounds good, right?! It also has a texture and flavor similar to jicama – namely, it has a sweet taste (most likely because of the presence of inulin, a natural storage carbohydrate used by plants as an energy reserve and for regulating cold resistance). Inulin contributes to a sweeter taste in yacon roots.
Despite tasting sweet, it is actually a “tuber,” just like a potato. Tubers grow a thick stem/root underground. Yacon root will grow in pink, orange, white, and even purple colors.
Yacon can be eaten cooked or raw, used for juicing, made into a syrup, roasted, baked, or even fried to make chips.
Nicknames include Peruvian ground apple, possibly from the French name of potato, pomme de terre (ground apple)  and jicama in Ecuador.
As early as the 2000s, yacón was not known outside its native habitat. In fact, even larger, more metropolitan cities within the same countries where it was grown did not know of this root for years either! Japanese researchers investigated yacón’s possibilities and discovered anti-hyperglycemic benefits. These benefits have been widely recognized and advertised and validated through various trials.
Yacon creates the feeling of satisfaction, which helps prevent or reduce overeating or eating too frequently. This is possibly occurring through regulating gut neuropeptide Y and increasing leptin. Yacon inhibits bowel constipation, acting as a prebiotic to bifidobacterium that creates a myriad of bioactive molecules to benefit the gut and an overall sense of wellbeing. Yacon increases calcium and magnesium concentration and fructooligosaccharides (FOS), a kind of carbohydrate. FOS is also recognized as a prebiotic and soluble fiber. At least 30% of Yacon syrup is made up of FOS, a tiny chain of natural sugar molecules that promote weight loss.
Variation in FOS content is common among different lots of production. FOS found in the syrup has a positive pharmacokinetic effect on uptake of isoflavones.
A Czech study concluded that yacón could be used as an organic sweeter and it had potential for use in pharmaceutical products. This included helping diabetics and persons suffering from digestive problems through eating yacon because even though it tastes sweet its sugars are not available for digestion from the small intestine.
The leaves of the yacón actually contain benefits as well. contain quantities of protocatechuic, chlorogenic, caffeic, and ferulic acids, which gives herbal teas made from the leaves have both prebiotic and antioxidant properties.
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