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Jicama (Pelenga) – Benefits, Characteristic Properties, Types and More

February 3, 2023
Jicama (Pelenga) - Benefits

If you like vegetables, you are going to love jicama! Read on to learn about the main characteristics of this tuber, the types of jicama that exist, its nutritional properties, health benefits, consumption options, possible contraindications, as well as frequently asked questions related to its cultivation and storage.

What is jicama?

Jicama or pelenga is an edible tuber originating from the Mexican peninsula. It is white in color, has a sweet flavor and a crunchy texture, similar to a mixture between sweet potato and apple. It can be eaten raw as a snack, in salads or it can be cooked in a similar way to a potato or potato .

Characteristics and data of interest

  • The jicama plant is related to legumes.
  • The size of this tuber can range from 1 to 5 pounds; surprisingly some jicamas can reach up to 50 pounds (22 kg).
  • It is a tuber with an oval shape, rough brown skin and juicy, crisp and white flesh. Jicama has a texture similar to uncooked potato, but it is crispier and juicier.
  • Its flavor is something sweet and apple-like.
  • The origin of the word jícama comes from the Nahuatl aboriginal, which means “watery root”. It is botanically classified as pachyrhizus erosus, which means  thick root.” It is also known as a sweet turnip, Mexican potato or Mexican turnip.
  • In Mexico, jicama is recognized as one of the four typical foods in the celebration of the Day of the Dead, on November 1. Added to it are sugar cane, tangerines and peanuts.
  • In Spain, “jícama” is a term used to refer to any type of root vegetable ( tuber ).

Types of jicama

There are 2 types of jicamas, the water one and the milk one:

  • Water jicama. Water jicama is the preferred type and the most common in the markets. It has a rounder root and its juice is translucent (transparent).
  • Milk jicama. Milk jicama has a more elongated shape than water jicama and its juice is milky-white in color.

Nutritional properties of jicama

Jicama is a very versatile vegetable that contains essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals for good health. It is rich in dietary fiber, minerals and vitamins such as vitamin C, copper, potassium, B vitamins and vitamin E. It also contains amino acids such as histidine, valine, threonine, isoleucine and lysine.

Nutritional table of jicama (100 g):

  • Calories: 38
  • Protein: 0.72 g (1.44%)
  • Grease: 0.09 g (0.26%)
  • Carbohydrates: 8.82 g (6.78%)
  • Dietary fiber: 4.9 g (12.89%)
  • Azúcar: 1.8 g
  • Vitamina C: 14.1 mg (15.67%)
  • Vitamina B6: 0.04 mg (3.08%)
  • Vitamin E: 0.46 mg (3.07%)
  • Vitamina B5: 0.121 mg (2.42%)
  • Vitamina B2: 0.028 mg (2.15%)
  • Vitamina B9: 8 mg (2.00%)
  • Iron: 0.57 mg (7.13%)
  • Copper: 0.046 mg (5.11%)
  • Potasio: 135 mg (2.87%)
  • Magnesio: 11 mg (2.62%)
  • Dosage: 0.057 mg (2,48%)
  • Phosphorus: 16 mg (2.29%)
  • Histidine: 0.019 g (1.54%)
  • Valina: 0.022 g (1.04%)
  • Treonina: 0.018 g (1.02%)
  • Isoleucina: 0.016 g (0.96%)
  • Weight: 0.026 g (0.78%)
  • Leucine: 0.025 g (0.68%)

What is jicama good for? Importance, benefits and uses

The nutrients in jicama provide unique benefits for good health, including:

  • It is an excellent source of prebiotic fibers. Although it is a root vegetable, jicama is surprisingly low in starch, sugars, and carbohydrates, compared to other root vegetables like potatoes, turnips , beets, and rutabagas . Jicama also stands out as a high-fiber food, providing about 25 percent of your daily fiber needs in a 1-cup serving.
  • The fiber in jicama contains a beneficial type of prebiotic carbohydrate called inulin oligofructose, which is indigestible within the human digestive tract and is fermented in the intestine; in this way it  benefits the digestive organs and the body in general (including the immune system).  Inulin acts as a prebiotic once it reaches the intestine, that is, it favors probiotics or “good” bacteria that live in the gastrointestinal tract.1
  • Supports weight loss and blood sugar control. Being a high fiber vegetable, jicama has a low glycemic index, making it a great option for anyone who needs to balance blood sugar, has diabetes, or wants to lose weight. Its fiber content and low carbohydrate content helps keep you satisfied without increasing the number of calories you eat.
  • Helps strengthen immune function. A large percentage of the immune system (more than 75 percent) is found in the gastrointestinal tract, hence the immune function depends on the delicate balance between the bacteria that dominate our gut. Jicama can be a good ally to maintain this balance, since it provides very important prebiotics to promote the growth of healthy intestinal bacteria.
  • These prebiotics are also believed to increase protection against cancer. Including more jicama in the diet is one way to prevent possible cell mutations and tumor growth within the digestive organs.
  • It benefits the health of the heart. Like many vegetables, jicama has a high density of water and nutrients. Inulin oligofructose, which makes up a high percentage of the fiber found in jicama, is linked to better cardiovascular health and a natural reduction in cholesterol levels.
  • A diet that includes many foods rich in fiber is able to improve arterial health and reduce inflammation, therefore it also offers protection against chronic diseases such as metabolic syndrome, high cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and insulin resistance . 2  Other nutrients found in jicama that promote good heart health are vitamin C (a powerful anti-inflammatory) and potassium (important for healthy blood vessels, circulation, and blood sugar control).
  • It is ideal for good digestion. Fiber-rich vegetables and water are beneficial for anyone with digestive problems; in this case, jicama hydrates, provides fiber, electrolytes, and essential nutrients that promote intestinal health.
  • Jicama is also an anti-inflammatory food that can reduce breakouts in the gastrointestinal tract associated with irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, leaky gut syndrome, and autoimmune digestive disorders.
  • It is high in vitamin C. In addition to its prebiotic properties, jicama is an excellent source of antioxidants, especially vitamin C; One cup of raw jicama provides more than 40 percent of your daily vitamin C needs. This vitamin prevents free radical damage, controls inflammation, and protects against cancer, autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease, and cognitive decline.3
  • Supports bone health. The oligofructose inulin in jicama helps maintain strong bones by enhancing mineral retention, suppressing the process of bone loss, and enhancing the absorption of calcium in the bones. This tuber also contains nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, and manganese, which are necessary for proper bone mineralization and the protection of bones in old age.
  • Helps control blood pressure. Being a rich source of potassium, jicama can help control blood pressure, as this mineral is a vasodilator that reduces tension in the blood vessels and arteries. In this way, stress is reduced throughout the cardiovascular system.4  Potassium is also essential for maintaining fluid balance and counteracting excess sodium in the body.
  • Improves blood circulation. The amounts of copper and iron present in this tuber help maintain the good health of the circulatory system; both minerals are also essential in the production of red blood cells.
  • Improves brain function and mood. Vitamin B6 has been linked to increased brain function and cognitive abilities; In addition, it is essential for mood control and necessary to avoid fatigue, depression, pain and anxiety. In addition, this vitamin is essential for the breakdown of proteins into usable amino acids, which maximizes metabolic processes and the efficiency of various organs.5  Jicama precisely has vitamin B6 in significant quantities, hence its regular consumption improves brain function and elevates our mood.
  • Helps heal wounds. Vitamin C is essential for the manufacture of collagen, a protein that is present in the body’s connective tissue. Eating foods rich in vitamin C, such as jicama, speeds up the healing process of minor cuts, deep wounds, broken bones, and burns.

How to eat jicama?

This slightly sweet vegetable can be eaten both raw and cooked . It is crispier and lighter in texture than most root vegetables due to its high water content and relatively little starch. It looks a lot like turnip, but its flavor is closer to apple.

Before eating the jicama you must first remove the skin. Unlike other tubers, such as potatoes or sweet potatoes, the rind of jicama is difficult to digest, and even contains a type of molecule called rotenone that should be avoided.

It is not necessary to cook the jicama to eat it, you can simply peel it, cut it into strips or cubes and enjoy it raw.

The truth is that jicama is a very versatile tuber. It can be used:

  • As a substitute for French fries
  • In the form of slices, as an ingredient in your salad
  • Roasted, like potatoes or turnips
  • Sliced ​​and lightly baked to make a substitute for “tortillas” or wraps
  • Cut into chips and seasoned with sea salt
  • Boiled to consume as a source of carbohydrates in a meal

Jicama is used in many Mexican recipes; its flavor combines very well with avocado, sea salt, peppers of all kinds and lime.

In Southeast Asia, the tubers of the jicama and the immature pods of the plant (substitute for French beans) are eaten raw as a vegetable. In these regions, the crisp white pulp can be sliced, diced, or shredded to be used as a garnish, in salads or sauces. It is also served as a snack, with lemon juice and a pinch of spicy powder. In Latin America, jicama is a starch source commonly used in custards and puddings.

Fried jicama recipe:

Contraindications and side effects

The most important precaution to take into account when consuming jicama is the presence of rotenone in the flowers, leaves and stems of this plant. Rotenone is a natural substance with insecticidal action that is toxic to our body, which is why special emphasis is placed on eating only the roots. The tuber of the jicama is the only part that can be safely eaten. One of the main caveats raised by the scientific community is that taking rotenone can increase the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.6 7

Note: the young pods of this plant are consumed in some regions, but it is important to note that the mature pods are also toxic.

On the other hand, jicama has a high content of dietary fiber, which although it can be very favorable for the functioning of the digestive system and provide numerous health benefits, it can also be counterproductive if consumed excessively . If a person eats a lot of jicama frequently, he may experience digestive disorders such as constipation, stomach pain, gas, etc. If you are a sedentary person, this can lead to bloating and intestinal obstruction in the worst case.

Also, its effect on blood glucose levels can interact with prescription diabetes medications, leading to low blood sugar levels. In general, maintaining a regular consumption of jicama without first consulting a doctor may be contraindicated in diabetic patients and people with disorders in the gastrointestinal system.

Precautions to take into account :

  • Peel the jicama very well before eating it raw. It is important to wash it and remove all the thick and fibrous skin.
  • Introduce it slowly into the regular diet, eating small portions and accompanied with plenty of water.
  • Lightly steam to soften the dietary fiber and aid digestion.

Frequent questions

What is the jicama plant like?

The jicama plant is a climbing legume that has long, large, tuberous roots; they can sometimes become extremely large and weigh more than 50 pounds.

This plant has green bean-shaped pods and white flowers that grow in clusters 20 to 30 cm long. The leaves of the jicama are trifoliate and inedible.

Only the root or tuber of the plant is edible; leaves, stems, pods and seeds (dried) are toxic and should always be discarded.

What is the origin of jicama?

Jicama is native to Central America, from southern Mexico to Costa Rica, although it has become naturalized elsewhere after its introduction. The use of jicama spread from Mexico to the South Pacific hundreds of years ago, when Spanish explorers carried it on their travels.

Jicama is currently cultivated for its tubers in Southeast Asia, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Oman, the Philippines, Australia, South America, Africa and the Pacific Island.

Does jicama make you fat?

Jicama is not fattening. It is a low-carbohydrate tuber, high in fiber and rich in water; This combination is excellent for keeping your stomach feeling full for longer. It is an ideal food to avoid cravings, it helps to consume fewer calories during the day and it is compatible with a weight loss plan.

How to buy and store jicama?

Jicama is available throughout the year, however the period of greatest availability is from October to May. When purchasing, select tubers that are firm and dry. Make sure they have healthy skin and are not bruised.

Once purchased, you can store the jicama for up to two weeks in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen to extend the freshness of the tuber for up to 6 months.

What is the glycemic index of jicama?

Jicama has a low glycemic index, GI = 35.

How is jicama grown?

Jicama is generally planted from seed, in hot climates with a medium amount of rain. If you want to grow this tuber you should choose a location in full sun, where there is support for the growing vine.

The plants should be sown spaced, approximately 30 cm apart. The roots require 5 to 9 months of growth before harvest. An interesting fact is that the elimination of the flowers increases the performance of the plant.

What does it taste like?

Jicama has a somewhat sweet taste, with an apple-like texture and flavor.

What other names does it have?

Other common names for jicama are pelenga, sweet turnip, Mexican potato, Mexican turnip, arboloco, puhe, jíquima, jíkima, and jiquimilla. Its scientific name is pachyrhizus erosus.


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My name is Louise Hammond, and I am the creator of this website, a place to find information about tubers, bulbs and medicinal roots. In I show the properties, benefits, characteristics, photos and images, ways of growing and how to make delicious meals from starchy vegetables.