The stem and leaves of the Yacón plant can be cooked and eaten as a vegetable.
The tuberous of the Yacón has an intermediate consistency between potato and apple and an intermediate flavor between the apple and the watermelon, with an aftertaste of cane sugar and pear.
It is preferable to eat the raw tubers, after removing the skins, the brown one outside and the white one inside, which have a resinous taste.
The pulp, sweet, crunchy and amber-colored, cut into pieces can be added to any salad, from the more traditional green one to potato salad or Waldorf salad. Yacón slices tend to absorb the flavor of all the spices present.
The Yacón cut into long and thin slices can be an interesting addition to a plate of raw vegetables, while dipping the slices into sauces such as guacamole, cheese sauce or other to suit your taste.
In Peru the Yacón tubers are even transformed into candies.
The Yacon tubers are a sweet and refreshing food that can also be consumed by diabetics without the risk of raising blood glucose levels, but they are also a food that gives a feeling of satiety with very few calories, so it is very useful, to those on a diet to calm their appetite.
The children who live in the Andes for centuries consider the Yacón a "special prize", but it is a food appreciated by all thanks to its sweet and refreshing taste and its healthy properties.
From the nutritional point of view the Yacón contains very few calories, but a lot of potassium.
Once harvested, the Yacón tubers can have a starchy taste, but after being left to mature for a few days in a dry and sunny place they become sweet, crunchy and juicy and are excellent to eat raw. The tubers can be eaten as a fruit or cut into cubes and added to salads. The peel is usually removed, since it has a resinous taste. Yacón tubers can also be boiled, steamed or baked. Even when cooked they remain sweet and slightly crunchy.
Yacón can also be used in desserts such as pies or apple, pear or chocolate crumble.
Yacón tubers can be turned into juice with a centrifuge and used to sweeten other juices or as an ingredient in a fruit cocktail.
In the Andes they are grated and squeezed through a cloth to get a sweet and refreshing drink. The juice obtained can also be boiled to obtain the famous Yacón syrup. In South America the juice is concentrated to form sugar cubes called chancaca.
The leaves and stems can be cooked and consumed as a vegetable and contain from 11 to 17% protein (on dry weight).
The sugar present in the tubers, inulin, does not produce any calories since our body is unable to digest it.
Yacón is a naturally low-calorie product: a jar of Yacón syrup contains half the calories compared to a jar of honey of the same size and its particular type of sugar does not increase blood glucose levels.
The tubers contain from 86 to 90% of water and only traces of proteins and lipids. They have a high content of fructo-oligosaccharides (also known with the acronym FOS, oligofructose or oligofructans), a dietary sugar that the human body does not metabolize, hence its use for weight control and for diabetics.
Furthermore, an increase in fructo-oligosaccharide intake was associated with improved bowel health thanks to the stimulation of bifidus bacteria in the colon.
Tubers can be composed of up to 20% carbohydrates, but stored sugars contain only minimal amounts of glucose and are composed mainly of fructose, sucrose, some oligosaccharides and inulin - sugars that are poorly absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract of humans.
Yacón stores carbohydrates in the form of inulin instead of glucose, which makes a huge difference for diabetics and dieters.
The human body does not contain the enzyme needed to metabolize inulin, so this substance, responsible for the sweet taste of Yacón, passes through the entire digestive tract without being metabolized. In other words, Yacón has a very low glycemic index and very few calories.
As if that wasn't enough, this tuber offers a balanced intake of 20 amino acids. It has a high content of potassium (one of the highest among plants) and calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and iron, vitamin D.
But what's still in this sweet, refreshing and low-calorie snack?
When some scientists analyzed a fresh Yacón tuber, they discovered that it is composed of 69-83% water, 20% sugar (mostly inulin) and 0.4 to 2.2% protein. However, after drying, when the tubers are ready to be eaten, the percentage of sugars rises to 65%, proteins to 6-7% and 4-7% of ashes, 4-6% of fibers and are present 0.4-1.3% fat.
A tuber of Yacón then, after drying, is a healthy snack and low in calories and is an excellent alternative to potatoes, tortillas or dried apples.
Dried Yacón slices are perfect for those moments when you want something sweet. To obtain them maintaining their nutritional properties it is important to use a low-temperature dryer. Infused in elderberry juice offer the same nutritional properties, but with a good dose of antioxidants and an excellent flavor.
YACON MEDICINAL USES
The Andean traditions attribute numerous medicinal properties to Yacón: it is useful to diabetics because it controls blood sugar levels, dry leaves are used for medicinal teas (alone or in combination with normal tea leaves), it is also believed that it can cure kidney and digestive problems and rejuvenates the skin.
The following properties are attributed to the Yacón:
● is useful for diabetics because it helps control blood glucose levels
● helps in digestive problems due to its high fiber content
● is useful for those who want to lose weight because it is a very nutritious food but low in calories
● helps prevent kidney problems
● rejuvenates the skin
● prevents colon cancer
● improves fertility
It is also believed that Yacón is useful for hypertension, insomnia, insect bites, dog bites, open wounds, inflammation, etc.
And the benefits are not over yet!
Yacón is very useful for the health of the intestine, as it helps to maintain the right balance in the intestinal flora, or the "good bacteria" that live in the intestine and prevent the spread of "bad bacteria". A strong and healthy intestinal flora allows you to have better blood, a better facial complexion, better digestion and more.
The properties of the oligofructose contained in the Yacón have been discovered by the ancient Peruvians, but modern science has confirmed that a Yacón leaf tea allows to avoid the sudden peaks of glucose in the blood that one has when eating something sweet or rich in starch . This is one of the biggest problems for people with diabetes who have high levels of glucose in their blood and whose body does not make or does not adequately use insulin, a hormone that is normally released to act on ingested food.
Research has also shown that Yacón is useful for people suffering from hypertension. By making the blood more fluid, the Yacón can lower blood pressure by 5 to 10%. Yacón can also lower cholesterol levels and prevent clot formation.
Other less known benefits of Yacón are its laxative properties and its ability to help prevent colon cancer and osteoporosis.
Yacón tubers store carbohydrates in the form of Inulin, a type of fructose, which is a sugar also suitable for diabetics. People with type II diabetes are not insulin dependent, so they can control blood sugar levels through diet and Inulin-containing plants like Yacón can be a useful supplement.
In addition to supplying the enzymes that are often lacking in those who follow a strict diet, Yacón offers the satisfaction of being able to indulge in something sweet without feeling guilty. Some people with diabetes have said that eating even a small amount of Yacón has allowed them to lower their blood glucose levels.
Thanks to the simplicity with which Yacón juice can be extracted, it is possible that in the future this product will be used by the industry for the production of sucrose-free foods for diabetics and dieters.
Inulin has recently attracted much interest in the world of science. Inulin has been shown to stimulate the immune system when it is injected, but it is not absorbed along the intestinal tract and therefore its immunostimulating effects have never been noticed with its oral use.
Inulin has been shown to stimulate the growth of "good" bacteria, the lactobacilli, in the large intestine. In a study in which 15 grams of Inulin per day were administered to subjects for 15 days, it was observed that the population of lactobacillus bifidus increased by 10%, while at the same time the population of pathogenic bacteria decreased. Inulin may also prevent precancerous changes in the colon.