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Properties of yacón

January 15, 2021
yacón Therapeutic Benefits and Uses

Have you heard of the “diet potato”? Perhaps that name is not so familiar to you, but if I say the word “yacón” then it is very likely that you already know that it is an Andean tuber, whose flavor and nutritional value have made it a legend.

More and more studies are dedicated to investigating the properties of yacón . The most promising findings indicate that these roots can help prevent and treat numerous health conditions, from diabetes and obesity, to cancer and heart disease.

Keep reading below to learn about the healthy benefits attributed to yacon , what the scientific evidence says, and what other general aspects we should take into account.

What is yacón for? Therapeutic Benefits and Uses

What is it about yacón that makes it so special? The tubers of this plant have been found to be rich in a type of carbohydrate known as fructogliosaccharides (FOS). FOS are a class of insoluble / prebiotic fiber that our bodies cannot digest. Said that way, it might seem like a bad thing, but this is precisely the explanation for its healing properties.

See further on: Yacón – Origin, Types, Characteristics, Benefits and Ways of Consumption

Thanks to the fact that fructogliosaccharides remain intact as they pass through the digestive system, their consumption constitutes a great source of food for probiotic bacteria, helping them to reproduce and colonize our intestines. It is known that the stronger the intestinal microbiota, the better the organism functions and the more protected our general health is1.

The active compounds in yacon are fructooligosaccharides called fructans (inulin), which serve as food for the beneficial bacteria in the intestine and produce various beneficial effects on metabolism. Keep in mind that yacon is not the only food that contains fructans; although in smaller amounts, these are also found in artichokes, onions , garlic , leeks, and other vegetables.

While more scientific research is needed to corroborate the current evidence in humans, different sources and studies have reported that yacon 2:

1. Helps prevent and treat diabetes

This is the number one reason why so many people around the world have started using yacon. Currently, the Andean yacon is considered a dietary supplement for the natural treatment of diabetes . Its fructooligosaccharide compounds have been found to have anti-hyperglycemic action in the body, as they prevent the absorption of simple sugars , decrease the production of glucose in the liver and help reduce fasting glucose levels.

According to a study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition , yacon syrup can serve as a complementary therapy to lower blood sugar levels3 . The researchers revealed that the syrup had reduced insulin resistance in diabetic people, as well as controlling appetite and promoting weight loss. This syrup appears to have an inhibitory effect on the enzyme α-glucosidase, which plays an important role in sugar metabolism.

Yacon’s potential to increase insulin sensitivity , another beneficial effect for diabetics and those at risk of developing the disease , is also being investigated .

2. Promotes weight loss

Taking into account that fructooligosaccharides are not digested by our digestive system, the consumption of yacon adds practically no calories, a characteristic that makes it a good alternative ( non-starchy carbohydrate ) for those who are trying to lose weight. In addition, its fiber content helps control appetite by reducing the release of the hunger hormone : ghrelin.

The prebiotic fiber in yacons, which serves as food for intestinal bacteria, is said to promote the release of short-chain fatty acids that have anti-obesity properties.

3. It is rich in antioxidants (cancer prevention)

The free radicals that are constantly being formed in our bodies damage cells and their DNA, accelerating the aging process and causing life-threatening diseases such as cancer. The regular consumption of antioxidants through the diet is considered a fundamental tool to neutralize the effect of free radicals and prevent different types of cancer, among other health problems4 . Specifically, yacon,rich in phenolic compounds and tannins, appears to have preventive properties against leukemia, colon cancer, and skin cancer.5.

The creation of a healthy intestinal microbiota is another aspect linked to the anticancer power of this tuber.

4. Has anti-inflammatory effects

It has been observed that yacon leaves contain compounds with antiinflammatory effect. In fact, they have been used for centuries as a traditional remedy to alleviate common conditions, including joint pain , arthritis, and gout . Several studies have already confirmed the anti-inflammatory properties of extract from yacon leaves and tubers .6

5. Improves digestive health

As we said at the beginning, the fructooligosaccharides and inulin abundant in yacon are prebiotic compounds, that is, they serve as a food source for intestinal bacteria that maintain good health and the functioning of the digestive system.7 . Eating yacon boosts regular bowel movements, prevents constipation, improves mineral absorption, and speeds up metabolism. Undoubtedly, this tuberous root from the Andes is a prebiotic food that is worth including in your diet.

6. Promotes heart health

Several studies carried out in pre-hypertensive patients have found that the consumption of yacon helps reduce LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and systolic / diastolic pressure, hence its consumption has been linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases .

Another of its benefits for heart health is its potassium content , a vasodilator that helps relax blood vessels and reduce stress on the cardiovascular system8 . This results in increased blood flow and oxygenation to the parts of the body that need it most, as well as a lower chance of experiencing hypertension, atherosclerosis, heart attacks or strokes.

7. Supports healthy liver function

We previously explained how yacon helps regulate glucose levels, something that has a direct impact on liver health. Eating the roots or taking the yacon syrup makes the liver not have to work as much to regulate our blood glucose levels.

Scientific evidence indicates that the combination of yacon,  maca  and silymarin ( an active component found in milk thistle ) is effective in reducing cholesterol levels and preventing the accumulation of fat in the liver , thus promoting proper liver function. organ9 . Furthermore, the antioxidant properties of yacon also protect liver cells against oxidation.

8. Improves bone density

The syrup or syrup yacon has the potential to increase bone density to enhance the absorption of minerals like calcium and magnesium, which are essential for the growth and development of healthy bones. It is said that regular consumption of yacon can prevent the appearance of conditions such as osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and scoliosis10.

9. Has diuretic properties

This tuber increases urine output and frequency of urination, which results in greater removal of toxins and preventing common conditions, such as kidney stones , the cystitis and infections of the urinary tract11.

10. Prevents anemia

Iron deficiency (a mineral involved in the production of hemoglobin ) is the main cause of anemia. Eating yacon is a tasty and healthy alternative that allows us to increase iron intake and avoid the development of anemia.

11. Increases male fertility

A recent study showed that the chlorogenic acid present in yacon extract has spermatogenic activity (improves sperm production) by preventing the breakdown of testosterone. Preliminary studies suggest that yacon can be used in extract or supplement form to treat male infertility12.

12. Has antimicrobial properties

The leaves of the yacon plant contain phytonutrients of an antimicrobial nature 13 , hence they are traditionally used as anantifungal and antibacterial remedy.

In summary, these are the most relevant properties of the surprising Andean yacon :

  1. Anti-hyperglucémicas
  2. Digestive
  3. Slimming
  4. Antioxidants
  5. Anticancerígenas
  6. Anti-inflammatory
  7. Antimicrobial
  8. Immunoprotective
  9. Diuretics

What is the way to consume it?

The most traditional way is to eat the fresh yacón. It has a crunchy texture similar to apple, and its flavor is sweet similar to that of watermelon. In South America it is usually eaten raw tubers as fruit , with lemon juice and honey, or as a vegetable in salads . Yacon can also be sautéed, roasted or baked as if it were a vegetable.

The yacon leaves rich in inulin, can be used to wrap other foods, as you would cabbage leaves or lettuce. In addition, they are used to make a traditional herbal tea .

The syrup and powdered supplements yacón are two forms of consumption available.

See also: Yacón – Nutritional Properties and Forms of Consumption

Does yacon have contraindications? Can it be used safely?

Although yacon roots are highly valued for their nutritional value and health benefits, their consumption is not without possible side effects and contraindications .

Keep in mind that large portions of the tuber , as well as overdose in case of taking syrup or another supplement, can cause adverse digestive symptoms. On the other hand, excessive consumption of yacon has been linked to several deleterious long-term health effects.

Make sure to consult your doctor first before using it as a dietary supplement, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or under any medical treatment ( risk of drug interaction ).

All the details on this subject in: Do you know the Contraindications of Yacón? Dosage and Side Effects

References:

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/biochemistry-genetics-and-molecular-biology/fructooligosaccharide
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4963912/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3671746/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26457985
  5. http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1413-70542016000500596
  6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0102695X13700656
  7. https://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/155214
  8. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/how-too-little-potassium-may-contribute-cardiovascular-disease
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18054420
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22510044
  11. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/c54c/0e1fd037436b44bc1715d52a3b6f8f5a1114.pdf
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3762319/
  13. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/6c6b/e428bb3efacc2afabbe53b5bc40f736a0989.pdf

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 Dreamsship.com I show the properties, benefits, characteristics, photos and images, ways of growing and how to make delicious meals from starchy vegetables.