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Some say it’s a cross of an apple and a potato.

Part of the bean family, this delicious brown tuberous root is a low carb alternative. It has a sweet, crunchy taste and has made its appearance in many vital Malaysian cuisines from fillings in spring rolls and in “rojak”.

The name jicama may be relatively foreign to most in Malaysia, since over here it’s mostly commonly called as “sengkuang”. They are also called as “Mexican turnip” in the south of USA. This little known tuber a very popular root vegetable in South East Asia, especially among the Malaysians, Thais, Indonesians and Vietnamese. However, there is more to this rooted vegetable than meets the eye. This delicious, crunchy, sweet tasting round, bulbous root vegetable is jammed packed with numerous health benefits.

Fun Facts! Despite its deceiving sweet taste, it has a very low glycemic index making it the perfect food for runners with diabetes. Jicama chips is an extremely tasty healthy alternative to potato chips (half the calories and twice as addictive!) Only the root portion is edible! The leaves, flowers and vines contain rotenone, a natural insecticide designed to protect the plant from predators.

Potassium! For every runner, a post-race recovery must consist of 2 things, hydration and potassium. Potassium is basically a mineral that works with sodium to balance the fluids and electrolytes in your body. These are of particular importance since this helps regulate the heartbeat and prevents muscles from cramping. The usual potassium sustenance would be a banana. A banana has 422mg of potassium. While one root of this turnip consists of a whopping 989 mg of potassium, double the amount in a banana. So stop peeling and start munching Bugs Bunny style!

Iron! Every runner should be informed of their unique iron needs. Why iron? Basically red blood cells act as oxygen carriers. These red blood cells possess an iron containing protein called haemoglobin. When the iron levels in your body is low, lesser oxygen carriers will be generated and the haemoglobin levels will decline. Less oxygen will be carried to the runner’s muscle hence reducing performance. This root itself contains 4mg of iron compared to pasta which has only 0.6mg of iron.

Vitamin C! Antioxidant. Sure we hear this word a lot, but how does it actually affect athletes everywhere? Basically when exercising in a polluted environment, this causes stress to our body and this results in inflammation causing compounds. The big C supplies us with antioxidants to hunt down those compounds. A basic orange has 51.1mg of vitamin C and most of us think that’s the mothership of vitamin C. Well, think again! The Mexican Turnip has a substantial 133.1mg of Vitamin C. That’s an army of antioxidants!

Hydration 101! Dehydration is something that every runner should take seriously. What actually happens in your body when you suffer from dehydration? Firstly volume of blood drops, followed by a drop in blood pressure causing an increase in heart rate. This causes the runner to be lethargic easily. Fret not, once again the jicama once again rushes to every runner’s rescue. The jicama root constitutes of a whopping 90% water.

Beneficial Bacteria! Unknown to many, this plain, brown coloured vegetable is infused with a dietary fibre by the name of oligofructose inulin. For those who are unfamiliar to this term, it is actually a soluble fibre that sources as a food for the beneficial bacteria that are housed in your intestines. A hidden bonus to this fascinating vegetable is that because the fibre is infused with oligofructose inulin, which is zero in calories. This would be perfect for those runners watching their weight.

How do I pick a fresh jicama?  Choose the ones that are firm, with smooth skin and are not very shriveled looking.

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