1. Blood Sugar Management
Syrup made from yacon root may help lower your blood sugar, according to a study published in the April 2009 issue of “Clinical Nutrition.” Sugarlike molecules in yacon known as fructooligosaccharides, which are derived from a nondigestible carbohydrate called inulin, provide about half the sweetness of sugar without raising blood sugar levels. In the study, obese volunteers with insulin resistance, which is the inappropriate response of cells to the presence of insulin, were given two daily doses of yacon syrup containing 0.29 grams and 0.14 grams of fructooligosaccharides per kilogram of body weight. At the end of the 120-day study, the participants had achieved significantly lower fasting insulin levels. However, fasting blood sugar levels were not affected. The study also showed that yacon syrup promoted weight loss and suppressed appetite.
2. Cancer Prevention
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.” Yacon compounds inhibited the growth and reproduction of cancer cells and promoted early cell death. In a tissue culture study published in the December 2010 issue of the journal “Chemistry and Biodiversity,” a fungus that grows on the roots and leaves of yacon demonstrated anticancer benefits against skin, colon, nerve and blood cancers.
3. Liver Health
A combination of yacon and silymarin, which is the active component in milk thistle, improved cholesterol and blood sugar levels in patients with metabolic syndrome in a study published in the March 2008 issue of “Food and Chemical Toxicology.” Metabolic syndrome is a combination of conditions that increases risk for heart disease and diabetes. In the study, participants consumed 2.4 grams of yacon and 0.8 grams of silymarin a day for 90 days. Results showed the combination supplement improved cholesterol levels and prevented fat accumulation in the liver, leading researchers to conclude that yacon and silymarin may promote healthy heart and liver function.
4. Dietary Uses
Fresh yacon has a slightly sweet taste and a crunchy texture similar to that of an apple, while its flavor is close to that of watermelon. South Americans eat the tubers, which can range from yellow to purple, as a fruit, with lemon juice and honey, or they add it to fruit salad. You can also stir-fry, roast or bake yacon as a vegetable. Use yacon leaves, also high in inulin, to wrap other foods as you would cabbage or grape leaves, or brew them to make an herbal tea. Yacon syrup and powdered yacon supplements are also available.