We all know that broccoli and spinach are healthful foods. However, there are plenty of nutritious foods flying under the radar, unnoticed by most grocery shoppers. These secret gifts from the garden are tasty, readily available and provide a wide array of nutrients and health benefits. Let's bring one of these best kept secrets into the light – meet jicama!

What is Jicama?

Jicama (HEE-ka-ma) is a turnip-shaped root veggie that is indigenous to Central and South America. It has light brown skin and white flesh and ranges in size from 1-3 pounds.

Jicama has a crunchy texture and an appealingly sweet flavor, something like a mix of apple and potato. Jicama slices can be substituted for pricey water chestnuts in most recipes and make a quick, easy snack.

What Makes Jicama So Healthy?

Though jicama is tasty and packs a nutritional punch, it won't head straight for your hips. Just one cup of raw jicama provides 27% of the RDI of fiber and 35% of vitamin C – all for a mere 49 calories. It is also an excellent source of molybdenum and potassium and a good source of folate.

In addition to being a very low calorie source of nutrients, jicama can help balance and heal your digestive tract. In fact, if you suffer from IBS, bowel irregularity, gas, bloating or other digestive discomfort, jicama may become your new best friend!

Jicama is chocked full of a fructo-oligosaccharide (FOS) called inulin, an indigestible sugar that is the favorite food of good bacteria, or probiotics, in the body. Bad bacteria cannot eat inulin, so consuming foods rich in it helps to encourage the growth of friendly bacteria while discouraging the bad guys that can cause infection and digestive problems.

Where Can I Find Jicama?

Fresh uncut jicama can be found in the produce section of your local grocery and may or may not be refrigerated. Select a smaller tuber, as the big ones are older and tend to be more fibrous. Avoid jicamas that are shriveled, moldy or soft as they have gone bad.

You can sometimes find pre-cut jicama alongside other cut vegetables in better grocery stores, but it may not be the best choice. Within minutes of being cut, the vitamin C content in jicama will begin to plummet, so choose a whole root for maximum nutrition.

How Do I Eat Jicama?

Jicama is best when peeled, diced and eaten raw, especially with a bit of lime juice and fresh cilantro. Used in this way, it’s an ideal finger food for lunch or an after school snack or as a side dish with spicy Latin foods.

Jicama is also great for juicing or shredding over salads and makes a perfect base for a cultured vegetable mix.

To use, wash your jicama thoroughly in hot soapy water and slice it in half lengthwise, then slice each half into 1-inch thick half-moons. Lay each half-moon on the cutting board and cut away the peel and the thin layer of fibrous, tan-colored flesh just beneath the skin. Cut the rest of the jicama into cubes or sticks or shred in a food processor.

To store, place the cut jicama in an air tight container in the fridge for up to three days. A whole root will keep well in the crisper for weeks.

Jicama Recipes

If you really want to capitalize on the gut-healing benefits jicama has to offer, it is best to culture or ferment your jicama with probiotics. My Gut-Healer Jicama Salad recipe may be just what you need to soothe your belly and enjoy the crisp sweetness of this healthful vegetable.

Gut-Healer Jicama salad is a wonderful digestive aid loaded with live probiotics that help to digest food and heal your gut. It also contains inulin, the zero-calorie sugar that feeds the good bacteria, along with live enzymes and nutrients. Here's what you will need:

1 small to medium jicama, peeled and shredded
2 large carrots, shredded
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
¼ cup arame (sweet tasting sea veggie), soaked and drained

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl with a packet of cultured veggie starter or ½ cup fresh raw kombucha, stirring well to coat. Spoon the mixture into mason jars or ceramic crocks, filling to about ½ inch from the top. Add warm water to the jar to fill, and cap tightly.

Set the jars in a warm spot in your kitchen for several days. You will know the veggies are done when they have a slightly tart taste and bubbles rise to the surface when the jar is gently agitated.

You may enhance the flavor of your salad by dressing it with sea salt and a bit of vinaigrette or apple cider vinegar just before serving.

Just a few spoonfuls of this salad with a meal can:

Aid digestion
Kill off unwanted food-borne pathogens
Prevent gas and digestive discomfort
Reduce inflammation
Help heal your gut

It also helps you to better absorb nutrients and get the most nutritional value from your meal. It can be served as a side dish, a condiment or a topping for steamed vegetables or salads.

Go on, I dare you; be brave and try jicama, the low calorie mystery veggie that is just waiting to be discovered.

Your body will thank you for it!

Author's Bio: 

Carisa Holmes is a holistic health advocate, Reiki practitioner and author based in the Powell area of Columbus, Ohio. Carisa has worked in the holistic health and natural beauty fields for nearly 10 years.

Through overcoming a plethora of personal health issues and working with clients, Carisa has developed a clear understanding of the functions of the physical body as well as the more subtle layers of the human energy field.

In her practice, Carisa helps empower people to move toward higher levels of wellness. Using tools such as whole food, natural skin care and powerful yet gentle Reiki energy healing, Carisa helps clients lose weight without starving themselves, heal sickness and injury, increase energy levels and feel more calm, happy and alive.

Carisa is very grateful for the many things she has learned and is eager to share them with others. Carisa writes a health and wellness column for GrapeVine Columbus Diversity News Source and maintains a private practice in the Powell/Columbus, Ohio area.

To contact Carisa about how you can heal yourself naturally, visit www.CarisaHolmes.com or email directly at info@carisaholmes.com