The health benefits of yacon include its ability to regulate blood sugar levels, lower the LDL, or “bad” cholesterol levels in your body, help with weight loss, lower blood pressure, improve the health of the liver, prevent certain types of cancer and cancerous growths, and improve digestive health. With an extremely low score on the glycemic index, half the calories of sugar and a high concentration of indigestible dietary fiber, yacon is a great alternative to processed white sugar for people with diabetes and those looking to reduce sugar consumption.
What is Yacon Syrup?
Yacon syrup is a natural sweetening agent that may be extracted from the tuberous roots of the yacon plant. This plant is indigenous to the Andes Mountains located in South America. The edible part of the yacon plant and the source of its syrup is its cluster of tubers or storage roots – up to a dozen of the most mature plants. The syrup has a molasses-like dark brown coloring and consistency, and it tastes similar to sweet molasses or caramelized brown sugar. Yacon syrup and powder are most commonly used as healthy replacements for sugar as sweeteners in different recipes. Yacon root may also be eaten raw, like jicama, or sliced thinly and tossed in salads or sauteed.
The Nutritional Value of Yacon
Yakon contains specific prebiotics that passes through the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract and yet remains undigested. It also has important, fibrous compounds called fructooligosaccharides. These are an indigestible polysaccharide made up of fructose or fruit sugar. When fructooligosaccharides reach the colon undigested, they are then fermented by your body’s gut bacteria, increasing your bowel mass and promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria. Yacon also helps the body increase its vitamin and mineral absorption of all other foods. While Yacon itself isn’t high in may vitamins and minerals, it is very important to help your body gain vital nourishment.
Yakon syrup has become very important to those with metabolic syndrome and pre-diabetes due to its anti-hyperglycemic effects. Diabetes occurs when your blood sugar levels swing widely – very low or very high. This prevents your cells from receiving the nutrition they need to function. The fructooligosaccharides in yacon help reduce blood sugar levels by lowering the amount of glucose production in the liver. This is very important for people suffering from metabolic syndrome or diabetes. Researchers are looking into yacon’s potential to increase insulin sensitivity in the body. Insulin sensitivity determines whether your cells can receive nutrient from the blood, delivered through insulin.
Improve Blood Pressure
Certain minerals may help your arterial walls remain smooth and supple – this helps to reduce blood pressure levels that can strain your heart and cause stoke. Potassium, one of the few minerals found in high concentrations in Yacon root, is a vasodilator, meaning that it relaxes blood vessels and reduces strain on the cardiovascular system. This, in turn, leads to increased blood flow and oxygenation to parts of the body that need it most, and a reduced chance of developing heart conditions like atherosclerosis. Potassium also helps to regulate the fluid balance in our body’s cells and tissues, in conjunction with sodium.
Lower Cholesterol Levels
High levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood can result in clogged arteries and stiffer arterial walls. Reducing the amount of cholesterol in the bloodstream is critical to preventing heart diseases. Research has shown that consuming yacon results in a general lowering of fasting triglyceride and low-density lipoprotein levels. In other words, the fructooligosaccharides that compose yacon help to lower lipid levels and prevent the saturation of “bad” cholesterol. This helps with the prevention of a wide variety of heart concerns, including coronary heart disease.
Aid Weightloss Goals
Weight loss is a complicated process for many. Eating certain foods instead of others may help reduce the number of calories you are taking in, thereby creating an energy deficit. This, in turn, prompts your body to consume stored fat for energy. Some research has shown that eating yacon can help weight loss efforts. Since it is not composed of starch it but fills you up, and has a very low level of calories, it is thought to result in overall weight loss. This can also be caused by the slight laxative effect of yacon from its fibrous tissues and the increased satiety that people feel after eating this sweet plant.
Although Yacon contains fibrous compounds, called fructooligosaccharides, the body can’t absorb them. The gut bacteria in your body, however, need them to properly function and assist your gastrointestinal system in absorbing nutrients. Yacon also contain prebiotic materials, stimulating the growth and health of the microflora in our bodies. When our probiotic bacteria are well-taken care of and healthy, our body can maximize its intake of vitamins and minerals. Yakon also acts as a laxative, and reduces constipation, bloating, and other more serious gastrointestinal conditions.
Reduce Cancer Risk
Although the likelihood of cancerous growths and tumors is an inexact science, there is some research that indicates Yacon plants contain anti-oxidant and cancer-inhibiting compounds. Research has shown that the compounds found in yacon can have inhibitory effects on the growth of cancer cells. This research is somewhat preliminary, however. Adding Yacon to part of your diet, especially as a substitute for processed foods, may have an overall general improvement of your health.
Improve Liver Health
The liver is the source of glucose in our body, and while it can create its own, an overabundance of glucose in your diet can inhibit proper liver function. This can lead to fatty liver diseases.Some studies have shown that proper amounts of yacon prevent fat accumulation in the liver and maintain appropriate liver health and function.
Incorporating Yakon Syrup into Your Diet
You can harvest yacon after the rhizomes (flowers) at the top of the plant die and fall back. This is an indication that the tube underneath the ground is ready to be eaten. Yacon may easily be grown in home gardens and requires very little expertise or farming experience. The juicy flesh of the tuber is slightly sweet, thanks to the fructose-based composition. The leaves of the plant also contain a variety of beneficial organic compounds, which is why yacon steeped tea and syrup have become valuable and sought after components to add to people’s diets. In fact, yacon syrup has had a recent surge of popularity, as it is claimed to not only be a superfood for diabetics, but also for people trying to lose weight.