What is yacon? Many foodies will tell you that yacon is a delicious and nutritious vegetable that can be eaten raw or cooked. Alternatively, some others will describe yacon as a way to help lose weight or as a unique vegetable with various health benefits. A diverse and delicious root-like vegetable, yacon has been used for many different purposes.
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Yacon is a sweet, crunchy vegetable that has a flavor similar to that of an apple. The actual vegetable is called a "tuber," which is a thick stem or root that grows underground, as does a potato. Yacon grows in a variety of different colors, including pink, orange, white or purple. In the United States, yacon that is sold in produce markets is typically white. The vegetable is very high in fiber and low in calories, making it a healthy, nutritious snack.
Yacon is grown in South America, primarily Peru. It grows in warm, moist climates and is typically farmed in mountain valleys at an altitude of under 9,300 feet. Yacon has been grown and used for centuries. It has been hypothesized that Incan chasquis, or messengers, often pulled yacon, which has a water content of up to 90 percent, out of the ground in Andean valleys to quench their thirst on long journeys.
Yacon can be eaten cooked or raw. In South America, yacon is used in fruit salad dishes called salipicón, which include a variety of fruits such as berries and melons. Also, South Americans use the leaves of the yacon to wrap their foods while cooking. Yacon can also be eaten raw; a popular dish is raw yacon sprinkled with sugar or honey and lemon juice. Because of its high water content, it can also be used for juicing. Yacon can be made into a syrup, roasted, baked or cut into quarter-sized pieces and fried to make chips.
Yacon has also been known as natural way to lose weight. In a study performed by Dr. Ray Sahelian, obese, pre-menopausal women lost a considerable amount of weight with daily consumption of yacon syrup. Yacon contains fructooligosaccharide (FOS), which is a tiny chain of natural sugar molecules that is used as an artificial sweetener. FOS began being used in the 1980s due to the fact that people wanted a healthy alternative for sugar with less calories.
Because the human body does not metabolize the FOS found in yacon, it is a popular artificial sweetener for diabetics. Yacon has also been known to improve digestion by promoting the growth of bacteria beneficial to human health in the intestine. People with hypertension have used yacon to help reduce blood pressure by up to 10 percent. The vegetable has also been known to reduce cholesterol in some people.