Is Yacon a Prebiotic?
Superfoods contain a plethora of amazing compounds which work wonders for your digestion, skin, hair, nails, immune system, and even stress levels. Yacon is definitely one of them, but amongst many different powerful health benefits it entails, is it also a prebiotic? Let’s find out!
What Are Prebiotics?
Before we delve deeper into all things yacon, it’s important to talk about prebiotics. Many people mistake them for probiotics, or good bacteria naturally occurring in certain fermented foods which help replenish your gut microbiome and promote healthy digestion. These little microorganisms are one of the most important allies in your long-term health and longevity as they determine how certain foods affect your system and help cleanse it from toxins.
Prebiotics, on the other hand, are food for probiotics which degrade into short chain fatty acids, improving the health of your intestinal tract and other organs. They consist of fructo-oligosaccharides and galacto-oligosaccharides, also known as fiber, whose role in the human body is to regulate blood pressure and blood sugar levels, prevent insulin resistance, promote healthy weight, boost immune system, and help keep hunger hormones in check.
Foods that naturally contain plenty of fiber can be found on your plate more often than you think. These include whole grains, fruit and vegetables, beans and legumes, as well as nuts and seeds. According to the Mayo Clinic, women should take 21-25 grams of fiber per day, while men should aim for 30-38 grams. Still, these are just general recommendations, and one should always take these with caution.
It would be preferred to test out your microbiome with one of many tests available today, such as Viome, and see specifically what type of fiber works for your gut bacteria and how to replenish it. Some people do well with just adding more fiber-rich foods into their diet, while others need a food supplement to support their digestion. Either way, having too much fiber can cause some digestion issues, so if you’re opting out of the microbiome testing, try to stay in between the general recommended lines.
The Powerful Yacon Root
Yacon, also known as Smallanthus Sonchifolius, is a tuber vegetable which grows natively in the warm areas of the Andes mountains in South America. It’s been cultivated and used for medicinal properties for hundreds of years by the local tribes as they believed in its powerful health benefits and healing properties.
Yacon seems to have been first introduced to Germany in 1861 and from there introduced in the USA in 1869, but, unfortunately, with a few exceptions, it didn’t attract much attention until the 1970s on either side of the Atlantic. Today, there’s a huge surge of interest for this incredible superfood as numerous studies show its incredible health benefits.
One of these studies showcases yacon’s healing potential in those struggling with diabetes. The study was done on normal and diabetic rats and it resulted in an impressive blood glucose reduction which shows great promise in future treatment of type 2 diabetes in humans.
The reason for this is yacon’s macro and micronutrient profile which comes with plenty of health benefits. Yacon root consists predominantly of water, with its energy being largely in the form of fructooligosaccharides, or fiber. These indigestible carbohydrates feed the microbiome and help maintain healthy blood sugar levels as well as prevent insulin resistance and other metabolic issues. Yacon also helps improve gut health and feeds your intestinal walls, upleveling food absorption and promoting a healthier and balanced body weight.
The extremely low sugar content in yacon root makes it perfect for creation of many sugar alternative sweeteners, and this is where yacon syrup was born.
The most famous yacon byproduct is yacon syrup which is made through a simple process. First the yacon juice gets extracted from the yacon root and then it’s filtered and evaporated in a chemical-free manufacturing process. Its flavor is sweet and pleasant and it shouldn’t include any other ingredient but pure, if possible organic, andean yacon root.
Due to its really low sugar content, it’s suitable for diabetics and anyone aiming to maintain a healthier lifestyle while still being able to enjoy desserts. Yacon syrup can be used in shakes, smoothies, smoothie bowls, on top of your pancakes and waffles, or even in cakes, banana bread, muffins, and any other sweet indulgences as an alternative to cane sugar.
Its viscosity is something between honey and molasses, so it’s easily stirred into all kinds of sauces, nut milks, and batters. It can even be heated up and used in your favorite hot chocolate or coffee.
Still, since it’s mostly fiber, eating too much of it can cause some unpleasant side effects. These most commonly show up as bloating and gas, diarrhea, nausea and some digestive discomfort. This is why it’s best to start out with a small amount and then work your way up after you’ve given your body some time to adjust.
Who Should Avoid Yacon Syrup
No food works for everyone and there are some people who should probably be better off without yacon in their diets. Yacon belongs to a group of foods known as FODMAPs, or Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. These are fermentable short chain fatty acids usually found in vegetables, fruit, beans, legumes, and whole grains, and can cause plenty of issues for those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS.
This is why those diagnosed with IBS should avoid yacon altogether as having even a little amount can cause unpleasant side effects. This also stands for those who have issues with diarrhea on the regular, even without a firm IBS diagnosis. As always, consult your doctor if you have these symptoms before attempting to add a new food into your diet, even if it’s labeled as extremely healthy for you.
Yacon is indeed a prebiotic. And a very powerful one to be exact. Its rich fiber content makes it an amazing addition to your diet, helping you feed your microbiome and promote better gut health (and overall health).
This amazing functional food coming from South America is also one of the best alternative sweeteners for everyone and anyone who is trying to keep a low-sugar diet, whether it’s due to preferences, an illness, or their weight-loss journey. Easy to find and even easier to use, yacon is definitely a superfood you’ll want to keep as your new staple.