Yacon syrup is a natural sweetening agent extracted from the tuberous roots of the yacon plant. The syrup has a molasses-like dark brown coloring and consistency, and it tastes similar to molasses or caramelized sugar.
With an extremely low score on the glycemic index, half the calories of sugar and a high concentration of indigestible inulin, yacon is a great alternative natural sweetener for diabetics and those looking to reduce sugar consumption or kick their sugar addiction. You can use yacon syrup in baked goods, smoothies, desserts, sauces and dressings, just to name a few of the possibilities!
Yacon Syrup Nutrition Facts
Yacon (yah-KON) is also sometimes called llacon, strawberry jicama, Bolivian sunroot, ground pear, and Peruvian ground apple or apple of the Earth. The scientific name of the yacon plant is Smallanthus sonchifolius (formerly Polymnia sonchifolia), and it’s a species of perennial daisy 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. The cluster may include up to a dozen large roots.
Yacon syrup is high in fructooligosaccharides (FOS), an indigestible polysaccharide made up of fructose or fruit sugar. Fructoogliosaccharides are found in fruits and vegetables such as bananas, garlic, onions, leeks, chicory root, asparagus and jicama as well as the yacon plant and the blue agave plant. Some grains, such as wheat and barley, also contain FOS. The Jerusalem artichoke (also known as sunchoke), yacon and blue agave have been found to have the highest concentrations of FOS content of cultured plants. Yacon is a close relative of the Jersusalem artichoke and the well-known sunflower.
Yacon syrup contains a high percentage of fructooligosaccharides, which are prebiotics that pass through the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract and remain undigested. When fructooligosaccharides reach the colon undigested, they are then fermented by gut microflora, increasing bowel mass and promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria. For these reasons, yacon syrup can be helpful when it comes to digestive issues, such as providing natural constipation relief and treating traveler’s diarrhea.
5 Benefits of Yacon Syrup
1. Reduces Obesity & Insulin Resistance
A 2009 study published in Clinical Nutrition evaluated obese and slightly dyslipidemic (having an abnormal amount of lipids in the blood) premenopausal women over a 120-day period in a double-blind placebo-controlled experiment. The study found that a daily intake of yacon syrup produced a significant decrease in body weight, waist circumference and body mass index. In addition, the women had a decrease in fasting serum insulin.
The consumption of yacon syrup was also shown to increase defecation frequency and satiety sensation. Overall, the study found that yacon syrup is a good source of fructooligosaccharides and its long-term consumption produced beneficial health effects on obese premenopausal women with insulin resistance. Thus, consuming yacon syrup works as a natural way to treat obesity.
2. Better Bone Health
The fructooligosaccharides in yacon syrup increase calcium absorption in the body, an important consideration for pre- and post-menopausal women who are losing critical bone mass, which increases their risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures. According to research published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, yacon has been found to increase the concentration of minerals like calcium and magnesium in bones, which is a key factor in the prevention of bone diseases such as osteoporosis. That means you should add yacon syrup to your osteoporosis diet natural treatment regimen.
Improved bone mass and overall bone health is one of the many reasons yacon root is considered a functional food, according to the British Journal of Nutrition. In general, fructooligosaccharides are known to promote absorption of minerals from the colon, helping to preserve bone mass by providing more exposure to dietary minerals (like calcium, magnesium and phosphorus) that are involved in regulating bone mass.
3. Improves Digestion & Immunity
The prebiotic properties of yucan syrup make it an excellent ingredient for improved digestion and immunity. The prebiotic nature of the fructooligosaccharides in yacon syrup help stimulate selectively the growth of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli (two friendly bacteria) in the gut and, thereby, increase the body’s digestive process as well as its natural resistance to invading pathogens.
In general, the consumption of prebiotics, like those found in yacon syrup, promotes a positive modulation of the immune system, improving resistance to infections and decreasing allergic reactions.
4. Increases Testosterone
Male reproductive function seems to have deteriorated considerably in the past four to five decades. Low testosterone levels have been associated with increased risk for the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease. Luckily, yacon syrup works as a natural testosterone booster and natural infertility treatment.
Animal studies have found that yacon tuber extracts increase sperm number and serum testosterone levels. Conclusively, in a study published in Biomolecules & Therapeutics, yacon showed possibility to be a suitable herbal supplement in treating male infertility and alleviating chronic low testosterone levels such as late-onset hypogonadism (LOH) syndrome.
5. Cancer Prevention
In addition to all its other benefits, yacon syrup also shows characteristics of being a cancer-fighting food. The potential anticancer benefits of yacon were demonstrated in a tissue culture study of human cervical cancer cells published in the October 2011 issue of the journal Fitoterapia, a journal dedicated to medicinal plants and to bioactive natural products of plant origin. In this study, yacon compounds inhibited the growth and reproduction of cancer cells.
In another tissue culture study published in Chemistry & Biodiversity, a fungus that grows on the roots and leaves of yacon demonstrated anticancer benefits against skin, colon, brain and blood cancers. These studies show the potential of yacon syrup as a natural cancer treatment.
Yacon Syrup History & Interesting Facts
Some say that the name yacon is a Spanish derivation of the Quechuan word llaqon, which means “watery” or “water root,” referring to the juiciness of the yacon tubers. Quechua is the original language of the Incas, who spread the cultivation of yacon along the west coast of South America. Legend has it that traveling Inca messengers relied on the tubers to quench their thirst on long journeys.
In colonial times, yacon consumption was identified with a Catholic religious celebration held at the time of an earlier Inca feast. The yacon plant was introduced to Japan in the 1980s, and from there, its cultivation spread to other Asian countries, including South Korea, China and the Philippines, and yacon is now widely available in markets in those countries.
In the Peruvian Andes where yacon production is flourishing, you can find yacon processed into almost anything in the local markets from jam to pancake syrup to soft drinks to pudding to breakfast cereals. Currently, fructooligosaccharides, like the ones contained in yucan syrup, are increasingly included in food products and infant formulas due to their prebiotic effect, which stimulates the growth of nonpathogenic intestinal microflora.
The crisp, sweet-tasting, tuberous roots of yacon have a texture and flavor similar to jicama. Yacon is a perennial plant, which means that it lives for at least two years, possibly many years. A yacon plant looks similar to a sunflower plant and has little yellow flowers. It typically grows four to five feet tall. Some varieties may grow as tall as seven to eight feet in an ideal climate. A yacon root’s tubers range in color from white or light brown to purple-brown.
In Brazil, the dried leaves are used to make yacon tea, which studies have found to be anti-diabetic. In addition, a study published in the Journal of Natural Medicines demonstrated the antimicrobial activity of yacon leaves against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.
You can purchase yacon syrup online or at many health stores. Look for 100 percent pure yacon syrup with no additional additives or other substances.
When using yacon syrup as a sugar substitute or for health reasons, the recommended dose is one teaspoon, which has only 13 calories and less than three grams of sugar.
Yacon Syrup Recipes
Yacon syrup can be used in similar ways that you use honey, maple syrup or molasses. For starters, yacon syrup is delicious drizzled over squash, oatmeal and probiotic yogurt. It can also be used as a sweetener in coffee, tea and smoothies. Looking for a healthy snack that includes yacon syrup? Try this quick and easy recipe for candied (in a healthy way) walnuts.
Yacon “Candied” Walnuts
Total Time: 25 minutes
- 2 cups walnuts
- 2 tablespoons yacon syrup
- ½ teaspoon sea salt or pink Himalayan salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Mix ingredients well in a large bowl.
- Place nuts spread out on a cookie sheet lined with unbleached parchment paper.
- Roast nuts at 350 degrees F for 10–15 minutes.
- Allow nuts to cool and enjoy!
The possibilities with yacon syrup really are pretty endless, and there are over 50 healthy yacon syrup recipes to help get you started with incorporating yucan syrup into your diet.
Possible Side Effects of Yacon Syrup
In large quantities, yacon syrup can cause minor digestive issues including gas, abdominal discomfort or bloating. In general, fructooligosaccharides seem to be safe when taken in quantities of less than 30 grams per day. A typical serving of yacon syrup is one teaspoon or five grams.
Since fructooligosaccharides appear to be able to feed less friendly organisms (as well as good bacteria) in the colon, it is a good idea to avoid high quantities of yacon syrup if you have candida symptoms or any other issue involving unbalanced digestive flora, such as irritable bowel syndrome.
Although it is thought to be very rare, it may be possible to be allergic to yacon tubers. Discontinue use of yacon syrup and consult a doctor if you exhibit any signs of a negative reaction to yacon syrup. Pregnant and nursing women should consult a doctor before using yacon syrup.
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