Yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius) is a large perennial plant that is mostly cultivated for its tuberous roots. The plant is native to South America, including the Central and Northern Andes, but it is also grown in New Zealand, Australia, the United States of America, China, Japan, as well as South Korea. It is a traditionally-grown herb that contains a wide range of health benefits. As a matter of fact, yacon syrup and powder are often used as healthy alternatives to sugar and as sweeteners in certain meals. In addition, yacon root can be consumed raw, just like a potato. Most of the plant’s density has been attributed to the presence of fructooligosaccharides, which is actually an indigestible form of fructose. This one reason why yacon is considered unique and very valuable.
As we mentioned earlier, yacon tubers are primarily made up of fructooligosaccharides, but they also contain water. What this implies is that a major amount of carbohydrate and sugars in the herb are indigestible by the body, which then results in a really low-calorie level. This situation prevents excess sugar from entering the bloodstream. Although it does not contain many vitamins and minerals, yacon is effective in increasing the absorption of vitamins and minerals in the body. Yacon also contains very important essential components, including calcium, phosphorus, and potassium.
Studies have also shown that yacon leaves contain a range of valuable organic compounds, which is one reason for the love for yacon tea and syrup, which are now being added to meals. In fact, recently, there was a rise in the popularity of yacon syrup, as there were claims that it is a superfood that treats for diabetes. It is also believed to help people who are trying to lose weight.
Some of the health benefits of yacon include its ability to fortify the immune system, aid in weight loss, prevent cancers, control blood sugar levels, improve liver health, lower “bad” cholesterol, and boost digestive health.
The Health Benefits of Yacon
Now, let’s take a closer look at the impressive health benefits of yacon.
Aids in Digestion
Although the body finds it difficult to absorb the fructooligosaccharides in yacon, interestingly, the healthy bacteria in the gut find it really delicious. Yacon also possesses prebiotic components that help to stimulate the growth and health of the microflora in the body. When the probiotic bacteria in the body are well-taken care of and healthy, the body can make good use of its intake of vitamins and minerals. When the absorption level of our food is optimized, we are able to get more nutrients from what we eat as well eat any other food. Due to its mild laxative effect, yacon is effective for reducing bloating, constipation, and other more severe gastrointestinal issues like colon cancer and gastric ulcers.
Increases Weight Loss
While there still some controversies in some quarters, some studies suggest that the consumption of yacon can significantly aid in weight loss. This is particularly because it does not contain starch, but is filling and has a very low-calories level. The ability of yacon to induce overall weight loss has been attributed to its mild laxative effect and the increased feeling of being full that people have after consuming the sweet herb.
Many people around the world have started using yacon so often and this has been tied to its anti-hyperglycemic abilities. The fructooligosaccharides present in yacon mean that the body is unable to absorb any simple sugars. As a matter of fact, it lowers the amount of glucose produced in the liver and leads to lower fasting glucose rates. Yacon is very beneficial for people suffering from diabetes as studies have shown that it has the potential to increase insulin sensitivity in the body. This is very helpful for diabetics or for people who are at the risk of developing the health condition.
Regulates Cholesterol Levels
Apart from how beneficial it is for diabetics, yacon is also helpful for people who need to regulate their cholesterol level. According to certain studies, the consumption of yacon leads to a general reduction in fasting triglyceride as well as low-density lipoprotein levels. What this implies is that the fructooligosaccharides in yacon can help to reduce lipid levels and inhibit the build-up of “bad” cholesterol. The herb aids in the prevention of a range of heart issues, including coronary heart disease.
Controls Blood Pressure
Yacon contains a host of heart-healthy benefits, including its high levels of potassium. Potassium is actually a vasodilator, which means that it helps to relax blood vessels and minimizes the strain on the cardiovascular system. It then increases blood flow and oxygenation to parts of the body that require it most. It also reduces the risk of developing health conditions like atherosclerosis, heart attacks or strokes. Potassium, with the help of sodium, is also known to help regulate the fluid balance in the body’s cells and tissues.
Improves Liver Health
We know how the liver is the source of glucose in the body. This is why the control of glucose via the consumption of yacon can have a huge effect on liver health. In fact, studies suggest that sufficient amounts of yacon, especially when used with milk thistle, helps to inhibit the build-up of fat in the liver and improves liver health and function.
According to some studies, the compounds present in yacon can significantly prevent the growth of cancer cells. Although these studies are still somewhat in their preliminary stage, you can incorporate the herb in your diet to enjoy its health benefits, including its inhibitory effects on cancers.
Side Effects and Precautions
Generally, yacon is considered safe when taken in moderate doses. Taking higher than normal doses can result in intestinal side effects like flatulence and loose stool.
Yacon leaves also contain sequesterpene compounds which are likely harmful to renal tissue. In addition, according to the result of some preliminary studies, the leaves of yacon may be harmful to the kidneys and should not be consumed for the time being.