Yacon root syrup has recently come to the forefront of Western nutrition as an ideal natural sweetener, providing a low glycemic index with few calories.
The syrup was made popular in 2013 on the Dr. Oz show for its potential benefits at reducing weight by increasing metabolism, regulating blood sugar and normalizing bowel movements.
Yacon, however, is not only good for helping to shed unwanted body fat, it has a number of other health supporting ingredients that make it a truly unique super sweetener.
We here at Superfoods for Superhealth have been actually using yacon syrup and powder for many, many years as an alternative sugar substitute that is delicious in hot drinks, dressings and desserts.
It is our personal favorite, next to stevia, as a longer chain sugar that is packed with polysaccharides that do not elevate blood sugar levels like other short chain sugars.
What Does it Taste Like?
It is a dark brown syrup with a rich flavor that is often described as a combination of caramel and molasses.
The syrup is extracted from the yacon root (Smallanthus sonchifolius), a long tuberous sweet-tasting root that is native to the Andes mountain regions of South American, primarily Peru, Argentina and Columbia.
Yacon root is adaptable to many climates and today is commercially grown in other parts of the world including Australia, New Zealand, Asia and the Philippines.
The edible tubers are actually quite large and on average can weigh between 100 grams to 2 pounds.
The root actually looks a lot like a yam or sweet potato and is said to have the crunchy texture like that of jicama. Yacon syrup or powder is pressed or extracted from the tuber, but is also eaten whole, like a fruit, in South America.
It has been used as a food by the Andean peoples for thousands of years. This includes the Incan civilizations, who consumed it during ceremonial feasts, as well as the Moche who used it as an offering at burials to "nourish" and give tribute to the dead. Archeological evidence shows the yacon plant displayed on Moche pottery dating back to 100 to 700 AD.
Yacon root syrup is created by juicing the yacon and then concentrating the juice through evaporation. Yacon is then heated into a sweet dark liquid after it is evaporated. Most syrups are heated below 120 degrees F, just enough to create the final product but still retain nutrient composition.
There are some lower quality brands, however, that use higher temperatures of about 140 degrees F, so it is important to purchase the best available. These higher temps destroy valuable FOS content and increase the glycemic index significantly.
Part of yacon root syrup’s benefits for weight loss can be attributed to its effects on digestion and the components that help to increase a healthy intestinal tract.
Yacón (pronounced "ya-cone") is also said to increase metabolism as well as control appetite and food cravings. Consuming the syrup naturally provides a "feeling of fullness" and tends to suppress the appetite due to its longer chain sugars that are higher in fiber content.
The Japanese were actually the first to recognize the health benefits of yacon root and its syrup back in the early part of 2001. It was claimed to be an ideal low glycemic sweetener for diabetics and those with obesity issues.
It was suggested in "The Dr. Oz Project" that out of forty women 73% were able to lose weight without changing diet or exercise. Although this is interesting, we personally believe that there are other benefits to using yacon syrup other than weight loss.
It seems that everyone these days wants a miracle sweetener or food that instantly helps you drop body fat. In reality, a slim natural figure is obtained through a health promoting diet and lifestyle. This involves eating plenty of nutrient rich fresh juices, blended drinks, cultured foods as well as other superfoods like yacon.
For many obese individuals, a periodic juice or water fast could certainly help one to not only loose weight, but encourage better food choices long term. Yes, yacon root syrup can be a part of that, but we think to endorse it as a weight loss "cure" is a bit ridiculous and not very helpful for those who have serious weight problems.
Yacon is one of the best, if not "the best" source of
fructooligosaccharide (FOS), which has prebiotic effects in the body and
serves as a substrate for microflora in the colon. In other words, "prebiotics" feed the good bacteria and create more "probiotics" in the gut.
This increases overall digestive health and acts as a supplement for preventing yeast infections or overgrowth.
Yacon increases the balance of friendly flora (especially the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus species) that is beneficial for a healthy colon.
The fibrous longer chain sugars move through us and clean out our
bowels helping with constipation and improving digestion of the foods
we eat. The sugars in yacon root syrup are just long enough to provide
for its medicinal properties without sacrificing the desirable sweet taste it is known for.
Yacon has the potential to help increase bone density by improving the uptake of calcium and magnesium. In recent studies it was also shown to be especially great at building bones when used with black maca root, which is a calcium-rich food.
The short chain sugars found in other sweeteners tend to cause blood sugar spikes. Yacon root is unique in that it contains longer chain sugars that are medicinal in value with no ups and downs associated with high glycemic sugars.
The polysaccharides in the root syrup still maintain a rich flavor and sweetness, but also help to regulate blood sugar levels. For this reason they are promoted as a great natural sweetener for diabetes.
Yacón contains inulin, in addition to FOS, which is a unique type of polysaccharide that can't be absorbed by the body.
This provides a sweet taste, but the sugars are not digestible and therefore low in calories with low glycemic effects.
In fact, less than 1% of its sugars elevate blood sugar in the body.
In a study done by the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos in Peru in July 2004, it was proven that yacon had absolutely no effect on glucose levels for the group of diabetics tested.
It is common to also find yacon available as a powder, which is easy and convenient to use in many recipes. The powder is actually the yellowish color of the root because it is not processed in the same way, making it less sweet in taste.
The syrup, as discussed above, is juiced and concentrated into a dark medium-thick liquid. It is the most popular way to consume yacon here in the West.
Of course, if you happen to live in the South American Andes or other parts of the world where you can grow yacon root, you can eat it fresh. It can be eaten raw, sliced or grated in salads and resembles a sweet version of a water chestnut or jicama root. It can also be lightly steamed into a stir fry dish with other vegetables.
It is also great blended with other
agave, stevia, lakanto, raw honey, coconut sugar or lucuma. This way you can create your own unique blend of sweetness that appropriately aligns with you and your personal health goals.
Recommend Use: 3t a day between meals or blended into shakes or hot drinks.
When you purchase yacon syrup make sure you buy high quality brands that do not adulterate or dilute their product.
We personally always buy organically grown yacon, which is especially important when consuming roots or root extracts.
Because of the high demand for this sweetener in recent months (2013),
there are many company's selling cheap brands with bogus advertising
gimmicks. In light of that, it is good to go with suppliers that hold to the integrity of 100% pure, high grade organic yacon.