Yacon Root Syrup: Are There Health Benefits?

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, RD, LD, MPH on November 10, 2022
3 min read

Yacon root looks like a sweet potato, but it has a completely different taste, texture, and nutrient profile. This tuber has a creamy white-yellow color and a uniquely refreshing taste that's similar to apple, watermelon, and celery combined. Unlike a sweet potato, yacon is often eaten raw and contains no starch.

Yacon root, or Smallanthus sonchifolius, comes from the Andean mountains of South America, growing as far north as Colombia and as far south as Argentina. Yacon is sometimes called strawberry jicama as the two root vegetables are similar. Other common names for yacon are Peruvian ground apple, poire de terre, yacon strawberry, and Bolivian sunroot.

Smallanthus sonchifolius has been cultivated in South America for centuries. This root crop is a traditional food for many cultures and has only seen expansion into other regions in recent decades. Yacon was first cultivated in New Zealand in the late 1970s, and it spread to Japan, the Czech Republic, South Korea, and Brazil in the 1980s and 1990s. Today, yacon root is beginning to appear in health food markets in the United States and elsewhere.

Yacon root syrup is made by reducing yacon juice. Once the majority of the water has evaporated, you’ll have a thick, dark, and sweet syrup. Yacon has been used for nutrition as well as folk medicine for diabetes, weight control, and inflammation. Although research is limited, there is some agreement on the potential health benefits of consuming yacon root. 

Fresh yacon root has a component breakdown of:

  • Water: 75 %
  • Carbohydrates: 20 %
  • Protein: 2 %
  • Fats: 1 %
  • Ash: 2 %

One kilogram of fresh yacon root contains:

  • Carbohydrates: 106 grams
  • Fructans: 62 grams
  • Sugars: 26 grams
  • Protein: 3.7 grams
  • Fiber: 3.6 grams
  • Fat: 0.244 grams

Yacon root is a good source of: 

Although research is limited, it does support some health benefits of consuming yacon root. Eating yacon root has been shown to:

Improved Gut Bacteria

Yacon root contains fructans, including fructooligosaccharides and inulin, which are prebiotics. Fructans aren't digested in the small intestine but travel to the large intestine, where they can improve your gut microflora by acting as a food source for good bacteria. The prebiotics found in yacon are especially favorable to healthy bacteria like Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, two species you can also find in yogurt.

Support Diabetes Management

The carbohydrate content in yacon is about 70 to 80 % fructooligosaccharides and inulin. These components have a low glycemic index and don't cause spikes in blood sugar. In fact, yacon root is shown to be hypoglycemic and may decrease insulin resistance and serum insulin. If you are living with diabetes, you might be able to use yacon syrup as a natural sweetener. Speak to your doctor about whether this dietary food source is right for you.

Support Mineral Absorption

Fermentation of fructooligosaccharides reduces pH levels in your large intestines. This change in pH levels helps your body absorb minerals like calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Early research shows that fructooligosaccharides have the most influence on calcium absorption, which could improve your bone density.

In some people, eating a lot of yacon root can lead to digestive upset. You might experience bloating, discomfort, nausea, and diarrhea.