Yacon-sweet, tasty and healthy

Yacon both sweet and healthy, study shows
Florante A. Cruz, UPLB and Philippine Agricultural Journalist, Inc. - CALABARZON

Yacon tubers on sale at the market. Photo from http://www.flickr.com/photos/santos/68253396/sizes/o/in/photostream/

Have you ever tasted yacon, a crunchy tuber with a sweet apple and watermelon-like taste? Despite its sweetness, yacon is known for its low-calorie content.

Yacon, however, is not just for weight-watchers. Research  by the group of Dr. Evelyn Rodriguez of UP Los BaƱos Institute of Chemistry shows that the tuber from yacon, a perennial crop closely related to the sunflower and grown in several areas in Northern Luzon and Mindanao, has more benefits than most people may know.

Through a grant given by the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), various phytochemicals in yacon were isolated, identified, characterized and quantified by Rodriguez’s research group.

Phytochemicals are compounds naturally occurring in plants and are considered as health promoters. According to the study’s results, yacon being grown in the Philippines is very rich in phytosterols, phenolics and fructo-oligosaccharides.

Fructo-oligosaccharides are a type of carbohydrates produced in plants. They are sweet but not metabolized by the human body. This makes yacon a good alternative snack or dessert even for diabetics.

Several bioassays were also conducted to determine the potential contribution of these phytochemicals to health and wellness.

According to the study, the phytosterols of yacon tuber and leaf oils reduced blood serum cholesterol levels, indicating a potential for helping reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

The study also shows that the phenolic compounds found in yacon leaves and tubers exhibit potent antioxidant, anti-angiogenic and anti-inflammatory activities.

These results suggest that, like quercetin, the phenolic compounds from yacon can help prevent carcinogenesis and other chronic diseases.

Rodriguez’s study solidifies yacon’s place in the map of “functional foods” which are highly considered for health and wellness not only because of their nutritive value but for their physiological benefits to the human body as well.

Yacon, according to the findings of Rodriguez’s research group, could form part of a person’s diet. In combination with other healthy and functional foods such as fruits and vegetables, it may also help reduce the risk, delay, or even prevent the occurrence of, chronic and degenerative diseases.   (from: http://www.up.edu.ph/upnewsletter.php)

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