Top 10 Foods For Thyroid Health

Top 10 Foods For Thyroid Health

Detoxifying vegetables and fruits

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland, located at the base of the neck. Thyroid hormones are essential for growth and metabolism. Every single cell in the human body has receptors for thyroid hormone, so the effects of poor thyroid function affect a wide range of body systems from the digestive system to the neurological system, and musculoskeletal system to reproductive systems. (1)

Common thyroid disorders can include hypothyroidism (low thyroid function), Grave’s disease (an autoimmune condition where the thyroid is overactive), Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (an autoimmune thyroid condition), thyroid nodules (growths on the thyroid gland), thyroid cancer and goiter (an enlarged thyroid).

Approximately 10% of Canadians have thyroid disease (2). Additionally, other thyroid disorders or dysfunction (that is, conditions and symptoms not severe enough to be labelled a “disease”, but that still impact health and quality of life) affect approximately 1 in 3 Canadians (3). Irregular thyroid function can have wide-ranging, seemingly unrelated symptoms, which is why thyroid issues go undiagnosed and/or untreated so frequently. (4)

Could you have an undiagnosed thyroid disorder?

There are actually over 300 symptoms of thyroid dysfunction.

  • Common symptoms include:
  • fatigue
  • loss of the outer third of the eyebrows
  • reproductive issues such as difficulty becoming pregnant and/or difficulty carrying a pregnancy to term
  • menstrual issues including painful periods, heavy bleeding or irregular cycles
  • depression/anxiety
  • constipation/diarrhea
  • joint and muscle pain
  • dry skin
  • weight gain/loss
  • difficulty sleeping
  • difficulty regulating body temperature including always feeling cold, or hot flashes
  • poor memory or concentration

This broad range of symptoms, in addition to difficulty accessing functional testing through one’s family doctor, can make it difficult to obtain a proper diagnosis.

Can dietary choices support thyroid health?

It can take many years, even decades, for a sluggish thyroid to become weak enough to become a diagnosable disease. Whether you want to support your thyroid or want food to help support or address a thyroid condition, then nutrition has a vital role in supporting thyroid hormone production and conversion. We are here to help you with some thyroid supportive foods that contain specific nutrients that play a key role in thyroid health. (5)

Top 10 Foods for Thyroid Health

#1. Brazil nuts

The thyroid gland is the organ with the highest selenium content, and selenium is known to play an important role in converting T4 (inactive thyroid hormone) into T3 (active thyroid hormone), decreasing Reverse T3 (which can block T3 hormone receptor sites), and decreasing anti-thyroid antibody levels (antibodies the body produces to attack itself). (6, 7)

For most people, eating just 1 – 3 Brazil nuts daily can easily meet their selenium needs.

#2. Liver

Grass-fed beef liver is the richest source of B12 and Vitamin A around. This is important because these nutrients are critical for thyroid hormone production and regulation. Adequate intake of Vitamin A improves cellular sensitivity to thyroid hormones. (8)

#3. Dark Leafy Greens

Dark leafy greens are high in detoxification-supportive fibre, sweeping waste out of the digestive tract. Supporting the body’s natural detoxification pathways (including the colon) assists in reducing the amount of harmful toxins circulating in the blood by carrying them out of the body through waste. Circulating toxins can increase systemic inflammation, trigger autoimmune flares, and can even potentially be damaging thyroid tissue. So, ensuring adequate intake of fibre is an effective way to support the body’s natural detoxification, which in turn supports thyroid health. Additionally, leafy greens are a great source of magnesium as well, aiding in the conversion of inactive T4 to the active thyroid hormone T3.

#4. Berries

Berries are high in antioxidants. Studies show those with thyroid dysfunction have higher levels of harmful free radicals, the antioxidants found in berries offer great protection to neutralize those free radicals. Berries’ are another food that is high in fibre content to help aids in detoxification as well.

Plus, berries are delicious! Check out our Berry Beet Smoothie Bowl for a twist on a classic smoothie.

#5. Turmeric

This simple spice has powerful anti-inflammatory effects that can calm down an active autoimmune response that is often the cause of damage to the thyroid gland. Curcumin is the active component of turmeric responsible for this action. Curcumin also has the benefit of offering pain relief. Many thyroid-disease sufferers struggle with pain in their thyroid, body pain, headaches, and more as a result of their condition. Curcumin may serve as a pain-management option while they work to correct the underlying imbalance(s) causing the thyroid condition.

We have loads of turmeric recipes, but one of our favourites is this anti-inflammatory Turmeric Latte!

#6. Seaweed

Seaweed such as kelp, nori and wakame, also known as sea vegetables, are a great food source of iodine which the body uses as a building-block for thyroid hormone production. These food sources of iodine also contain selenium, which is required to support iodine uptake. In essence, selenium improves how efficiently your body can absorb the iodine consumed from your diet. (9)

#7. Bone Broth

Bone broth is known as “liquid gold” for good reason. Most people recognize that bone broth is a source of easy to absorb essential minerals.

A cup of bone broth also contains many amino acids, which have gut healing benefits. Gut healing is an important consideration because most thyroid disorders are autoimmune in nature and often have roots in impaired digestive function. Bone broth is also a source of glutamine, used by the intestinal and immune cells for energy.

#8. Avocado

Avocados are a source of a wide variety of micronutrients, vitamins, and healthy fats. Avocados’ high fat content is made up of mostly health-promoting monounsaturated fats. Teaming these fats up with high fibre improves blood sugar balance and increases satiety. Blood sugar balance is critical for those with a thyroid dysfunction because the hormone insulin that is responsible for signalling our cells to take in sugars from our blood has an inversely proportional relationship to thyroid hormones. That is, as blood sugar goes up, insulin goes up as a result, and thyroid hormone production goes down.

#9. Oily Fish (Salmon, Sardines)

These oily fish are high in specific types of omega-3s. Some such omega-3s include EPA (eicosapentanoic acid), which is hailed for its anti-inflammatory effects, and DHA (docosahexanoic acid) which supports the nervous system, including the brain. Both fats can be utilised by every single cell membrane in the body to improve cell signalling and down-regulate systemic inflammatory responses. Systemic inflammation is a common contributing factor to most diseases, including thyroid conditions. As such, reducing systemic inflammation can help support thyroid function.

If you’re looking for some recipe inspiration, check out our Walnut Crusted Salmon.

#10. Fermented Foods

Coconut kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles and other fermented foods provide a wide variety of beneficial bacteria. These beneficial bacteria, also known as probiotics, are critical not only for gut health, but also for regulating immune function (which is responsible for autoimmunity). (10)

Plus, the fermentation process increases the bioavailability of existing nutrients by breaking down the anti-nutrients including phytates that can bind to essential nutrients and cause irritation within a compromised gut. As concluded in Knezevic et al. 2020, “Gut microbiota also influences the absorption of minerals that are important to the thyroid, including iodine, selenium, zinc, and iron.” (11)

Summary
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with a thyroid condition, suspect you may have a thyroid condition, or just want to maintain your thyroid health… we encourage you to consume these 10 healthy foods to support your thyroid health.

If you’d like to make implementing the recommendations above easier, get your copy of our 1-Week Thyroid-Supporting Meal Plan today.

Or, to take things a step further, if you’re interested in functional thyroid testing above what is offered at your family doctor’s office, please connect with one of our naturopathic doctors. You can also connect with our nutritionists to learn more about how nutrition strategies – ranging from micronutrient balancing to autoimmune protocols or specific therapeutic foods – can be applied to improve thyroid function.

 

https://thyroid.ca
https://thyroid.ca/thyroid-disease/
https://www.cbc.ca/news/science/thyroid-disorders-1.814623
https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2017/06/06/hypothyroidism-can-go-undetected-sometimes-for-years-before-proper-diagnosis/
http://www.whfoods.com
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5307254/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23046013/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23378454/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4049553/
https://www.thepaleomom.com/the-health-benefits-of-fermented-foods/
https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/6/1769/htm

 

 

Top 5 Health Benefits of Turmeric

Top 5 Health Benefits of Turmeric

Detoxifying vegetables and fruits

Turmeric is a plant native to Southeast Asia, grown primarily in India. Its an underground stem, which has an appearance similar to ginger. Turmeric has been used since ancient times as a culinary spice and in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. In fact, it’s use in treating various health issues such as respiratory diseases and skin conditions can be found back to as far as 500 B.C. It has a vibrant yellow-orange colour and earthy flavor, and is one of the main ingredients in curry powder.

Fresh or powdered turmeric is often used in cooking. Because of its growing popularity it can often be found in smoothies and hot drinks. Although nowadays, turmeric and its extract, curcumin, are also available in supplement form.

The main active component of turmeric is curcumin, which has been found to have a wide range of health benefits (1). It is this compound and its health benefits that are making turmeric and curcumin supplements very popular. Turmeric and curcumin have also been well researched with many positive results. They have been found to be anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-microbial and is high in fiber, vitamin C and iron.

What are the advantages of consuming of turmeric, you ask?

Below, we have a look at 5 health benefits of turmeric:

  1. Powerful Antioxidant 

    Free radicals are formed by toxins in our environment, air, food that we eat and even through exercise. If there are too many free radicals in the body, then this can cause cellular and tissue damage and contribute to the onset of illness and disease. Antioxidants help prevent cellular damage by protecting your body from free radicals. Not only does curcumin itself act as an antioxidant by neutralizing free radicals in the body, it can support the functioning of glutathione, a potent antioxidant produced by the body. (2)

  2. Anti-Inflammatory

    Turmeric and curcumin can help protect the body against chronic inflammation that contributes to diseases such as arthritis, cancer, and heart disease. In one study of people with rheumatoid arthritis, curcumin was found to be more effective than an anti-inflammatory drug. (3) In a review of the effects curcumin has on osteoarthritis, participants reported improvement in pain, physical function, and quality of life after taking curcumin, with decreased use of pain medication. (4)

  3. Supports Brain and Neurological Health

    Research has supported curcumin’s use with concussion and various other neurological and brain conditions. The reason being is that curcumin can cross the blood brain barrier and works as an antioxidant by protecting the loss of neurons, one of the main processes that occur in the development of Parkinson’s disease. (11). Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) is a growth hormone found in the brain that plays an important role in learning and memory. Curcumin has been found to increase brain levels of BDNF, helping to protect against brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s (5). It may even help reverse some of these effects, with research suggesting it can help enhance cognitive functioning, such as with memory and attention (6). Curcumin has also been found to have an antidepressant-like effect, providing a natural alternative to medication in some cases (7).  

  4. Cancer Prevention

    Due to its high antioxidant content and anti-inflammatory effects, curcumin has the potential to help prevent against many forms of cancer. Evidence suggests curcumin can prevent or slow the growth of tumours, destroying cancer cells and reducing its overall spread. (8)

  5. Protects Against Cardiovascular Disease

    Curcumin has also been shown to lower your risk of heart disease. Due to its anti-inflammatory effects, it can help decrease cholesterol levels to protect against atherosclerosis, and it can also prevent cardiovascular complications related to diabetes. Research showed that supplementation of curcumin before and after a coronary bypass surgery reduced the incidence of myocardial infarction post surgery. A 2017 of over 600 patients demonstrated a significant reduction in LDL (“bad” cholesterol”) and triglyceride levels with turmeric supplementation. (11) Animal studies have also found it can prevent heart failure. (9)

You are what you absorb!

Despite all these benefits, curcumin on its own is not easily absorbed by the body. But the good news is, by taking turmeric with a bit of black pepper, you can enhance how well the body absorbs the active component of turmeric by up to 2000%! So, when cooking with turmeric, make sure to sprinkle some pepper onto your dish as well. Turmeric and curcumin supplements should also contain black pepper or it’s active component, piperine, for optimal results. (10) Since curcumin is also fat-soluble, it is best to have with a meal that contains fat or oil.

How To Use Turmeric

Turmeric is a very versatile spice. Try:

  • Incorporating it in soups and curries
  • Sprinkling on roasted vegetables with a dash of black pepper
  • Add it to scrambled eggs or fritatas
  • Use it to flavour rice or other whole grains
  • Use in a marinade for chicken or fish
  • Try a turmeric latte or “golden milk.” 

Side Effects of Turmeric

Although turmeric has wonderful health properties it may have some side effects that you need to be aware of. It can lower blood pressure, which may not necessarily be a bad thing if you struggle with high blood pressure, but could be a challenge for individuals with already low blood pressure, or certain thyroid conditions. For a small percentage of individuals, turmeric may irritate the digestive tract which can potentially cause diarrhea or an increase in acid production, which in turn could lead to annoying heartburn.

Turmeric does contain oxalates, so it may contribute to kidney stone formation and should be avoided if you are at risk of kidney stones or are on a low-oxalate diet. People that have allergies to yellow food colouring or ginger are also likely to be allergic to turmeric. 

Summary

This spice packs a mighty health punch! It is a great option to incorporate into your meals with the help of some black pepper to increase absorption or get the concentrated benefits of taking it in supplement form. So, whether you’re new to consuming turmeric or not, we hope this article provided some insight into the powerful disease-fighting benefits that turmeric offers! 

 

References

1. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/turmeric  
2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15650394/  
3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22407780/  
4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27703331/ 
5. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006899306027144  
6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3281036/ 
7. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0166432812006997  
8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12680238/  
9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19233493/  
10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9619120/  
11. https://10faq.com/health/turmeric-benefits/6/ 

 

Top 4 Health Benefits of Acai Berries

Top 4 Health Benefits of Acai Berries

Detoxifying vegetables and fruits

A popular superfood in recent years, the acai berry is a round fruit with dark purple skin, yellow flesh, and a large seed inside. Technically, it’s not even a berry! Since it has a central pit rather than multiple small seeds inside, it is considered as a “drupe,” similar to an olive or a plum.  

Acai berries are native to Central and South America, grown largely in the Amazon region of Brazil. Since their shelf-life is very short as a fresh fruit, they are often found sold in stores as a fruit puree, dried powder, or fresh juice. The taste can be described as a cross between a blackberry and unsweetened chocolate.

Acai Berries Are Packed With Nutrients

A 1.5 tbsp (10g) serving of acai berry powder contains:

  • 70 calories
  • 1g protein
  • 5g fat
  • 4g carbohydrates
  • 3g fibre (1)

Most of the fats are unsaturated, including omega 3, 6, and 9. It is also rich in calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, and manganese (2). 

Acai Berries Are Antioxidant Powerhouses

Many of acai berries’ benefits are likely related to the high levels of polyphenols. Polyphenols are micronutrients found in plant-based foods that are loaded with antioxidants and can lead to an array of health benefits.

The main polyphenol in acai berries is anthocyanin, which is what gives the berry its deep purple colour (3). Anthocyanin has potent antioxidant properties, protecting cells against certain types of damage, as antioxidants play a key role in neutralizing free radicals in the body. This helps protect the body against diseases such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, and cancer. (4)

What Are The Top 4 Health Benefits Of Acai Berries?

Acai Berries May Help Protect Against Cancer

Antioxidants in general have cancer fighting properties, since they neutralize free radicals in the body that may otherwise cause harm to your cells. It is recommended to get antioxidants from whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables (5).

Acai berries have also specifically been found to kill cancer cells. One study found that extracts from acai triggered a response in leukemia cells to self-destruct (6). This was a cell-culture model, so more research is needed on humans, but these results are encouraging. 

Acai Berries May Help Manage Cholesterol

Acai may also have heart health benefits. Animal studies have shown that supplementation with acai pulp can reduce levels of LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol), since they contain plant sterols that prevent the absorption of dietary cholesterol in the body. (7)

Acai Berries May Help Balance Blood Sugar Levels

Another small study found that after eating acai twice a day for one month, participants had lower insulin and fasting blood sugar levels than when they started (8). There are multiple studies noting that sufficient intake of antioxidants can exert beneficial effects in diabetes patients (9), so it is plausible that a high antioxidant food such as acai berries could exhibit a blood sugar balancing effect as well.

Acia Berries Can Help Support Brain Health

Acai may also be good for your brain as well. The polyphenols found in acai berries can protect brain cells from oxidative stress and inflammation, which can have a positive impact on brain function and cognition. Acai also supports a process used by the body called “autophagy,” which is how the body removes damaged and toxic cells in order to stimulate the growth of new, healthy cells in the brain (10). Think of it as “cellular pruning”. This process can protect against diseases like dementia and cancer.

How to Eat Acai Berries

Acai berries are most commonly found in health food stores as a fruit puree, dried powder, fresh juice or as an acai berry supplement. These can be easily added to smoothies, smoothie bowls or mixed into your oatmeal or yoghurt for an antioxidant boost. 

You might be interested to know that acai is pronounced ah-sigh-EE, so now you can go forth and order your acai bowl with confidence!

 

References:

1. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1064123/nutrients 
2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24555649/  
3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15030208/ 
4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7619452/ 
5. https://www.cancer.ca/en/prevention-and-screening/reduce-cancer-risk/make-healthy-choices/eat-well/antioxidants-and-phytochemicals/?region=on 
6. https://news.ufl.edu/archive/2006/01/brazilian-berry-destroys-cancer-cells-in-lab-uf-study-shows.html 
7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20022468/  
8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21569436/ 
9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10580429/  
10. https://faseb.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1096/fasebj.25.1_supplement.213.8  

 

Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushroom

Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushroom

Detoxifying vegetables and fruits

Lion’s Mane mushroom is known by many names, including the Latin Hericium Erinaceus, along with Bearded Hedgehog mushroom, and Monkey’s Head mushroom. Lion’s Mane mushroom has long been a staple for culinary and medical uses in Asian countries like China, India, Japan and Korea.

Human and animal studies alike have proven Lion’s Mane mushroom boasts countless medicinal and health promoting properties including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and immune modulating components. Extracts from Lion’s Mane mushroom have been shown to have antibiotic, neuroprotective, glucose-lowering, and even anti-cancer effects.

Below, we review our Top 4 Health Benefits of Lion’s Mane Mushroom in more detail:

#1. Lions Mane Mushroom is Neuroprotective

Studies have shown that Lion’s Mane mushroom helps to combat Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and cognitive decline.

Two specific compounds have been identified in Lion’s Mane mushrooms that can stimulate the growth of brain cells these are hericenones and erinacines (1).

In fact, Lion’s Mane mushroom and its extracts have been found to reduce symptoms of memory loss in mice, as well as prevent neuronal damage caused by amyloid-beta plaques, which accumulate in the brain during Alzheimer’s disease (2,3,4). Additional animal studies have confirmed that Lion’s Mane mushroom may help protect against Alzheimer’s disease, a degenerative brain disease that causes progressive memory loss.

Older adults with mild cognitive impairment were studied and found that consuming 3 grams of powdered Lion’s Mane mushroom every day for four months improved their mental functioning significantly. It’s important to note that these benefits were transient, and disappeared when supplementation stopped (5).

#2 Lion’s Mane Mushroom May Help Prevent Cancer Growth

In 2012, a study evaluating the medicinal potential of 14 types of mushroom found that Lion’s Mane mushroom had the fourth highest antioxidant activity, which researchers described as “moderate to high.” (6) Antioxidant activity protects the body on a microscopic and cellular level from toxins, those we naturally produce during metabolism, and those we intake as a result of 21st century life.

Various studies have also shown Lion’s Mane mushroom’s ability to support various immune responses in the body. Specifically, it has been shown to increase levels of T cells (the part of our immune system that attacks foreign pathogens ) and macrophages (a type of white blood cell that destroys bacteria and other harmful organisms), and appeared to promote anti-tumor activity of the immune system in mice (16).

#3 Lion’s Mane Mushroom May Reduce Anxiety and Depression

There have been numerous studies showing that consuming Lion’s Mane mushroom can help with reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. A daily dose of Lion’s Mane mushroom is a good way to help support the health and growth of nerves within the hippocampus, which is the part of our brain that controls emotions.

In a Japanese study, women with a variety of health complaints, including menopausal symptoms and poor sleep quality, ate cookies containing Lion’s Mane extract or placebo cookies for 4 weeks. The participants who ate the extract reported lower levels of irritation and anxiety than those in the placebo group (7).

#4 Lion’s Mane Mushroom Supports Nerve Health

Lion’s Mane mushroom has been shown to be of use in the regeneration of peripheral nerves (that is, those outside of the spinal cord), suggesting it could have a benefit to help the physical recovery of those who have experienced trauma. (11)

Research determined that Lion’s Mane mushrooms extracts may promote the growth of nerve cells and therefore, more rapid repair after injury. (9) One study found that rats with nerve damage receiving a daily extract of Lion’s Mane mushrooms had quicker nerve regeneration than control animals (10).

One of the complications of diabetes is nerve damage resulting from prolonged periods of high blood sugar. In a 2015 study on rats, in which they ingested Lion’s Mane mushroom extract for 6 weeks, showed positive results, including lower blood sugar levels, reduced feelings of nerve pain, and improved antioxidant activity (8).

In fact, Lion’s Mane mushroom extract has been shown to reduce recovery time by 23–41% when given to rats with nervous system injuries (12). Lion’s Mane mushroom extract may also help reduce the severity of brain damage after a stroke. In one study, high doses of Lion’s Mane mushroom extract given to rats immediately after a stroke helped decrease inflammation and reduce the size of stroke-related brain injury by 44% (13).

How Do I Take Lion’s Mane Mushroom?

Lion’s Mane mushrooms can be enjoyed as a food for culinary uses such as being used raw in a salad or smoothie, cooked in stir-fries or soups, dried and used as an herb, or steeped as a tea.

Lion’s Mane mushroom can be prepared and cooked like any other meaty mushroom. It tends to be in season in the late summer through fall. When cooked, it has a flavour and texture has been described as similar to crab or lobster.

Alternatively, Lion’s Mane extracts are often used in natural health products and supplements such as these Host Defence Lion’s Mane capsules.

Many local health food stores also stock Lion’s Many mushroom beverages. Lion’s Mane (and other medicinal mushrooms) can be powdered and used in a tea or as an instant coffee substitute. Because of the brain-boosting properties of Lion’s Mane mushroom, using it as a coffee substitute that can elevate your focus, memory, and creativity is an ideal option for many individuals!

References 

1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24266378/
2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21383512/
3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27350344/
4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27350344/
5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18844328/
6. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2012/464238/
7. https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/biomedres/31/4/31_4_231/_pdf/-char/en
8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4415746/
9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26853959/
10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3176599/
11. Lai P,L., Naidu M., Sabaratnam V., Wong K,H., David R,P., Kuppusamy U,R., Abdullah N., Malek S,N. (2013). Neurotrophic properties of the Lion’s mane medicinal mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Higher Basidiomycetes) from Malaysia. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms. 15(6):539-54. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24266378
12. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21941586/
13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25167134/
14. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26244378/
15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28087447/
16. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11842649/

 

The SuperPowers of the Superfood Jicama

The SuperPowers of the Superfood Jicama

Mental Health Gut Article

What is Jicama?

The Jicama looks similar to a potato. It is a bulbous root vegetable with golden-brown skin and starchy white flesh. Jicama is much healthier and has far fewer carbohydrates than your average potato, however.

The jicama plant grows mainly in Mexico and Central America, but can also be grown in the Philippines and many other regions of Asia. 

The white interior flesh of a jicama is juicy and crunchy, with a slightly sweet and nutty flavor. Some say it tastes like an apple, but not as sweet. Others think of the flavour as a cross between a potato and a pear.

Nutritional Value of Jicama

One cup (130 grams) of jicama contains the following nutrients:

  • Calories: 49
  • Carbs: 12 grams
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Fat: 0.1 gram
  • Fiber: 6.4 grams
  • Vitamin C: 44% of the RDI
  • Folate: 4% of the RDI
  • Iron: 4% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 4% of the RDI
  • Potassium: 6% of the RDI
  • Manganese: 4% of the RDI

Jicama is gaining popularity within western cultures, and there’s good reason for that! 

Below we share  8 health and nutrition benefits of jicama:

1. Jicama Promotes Good Digestion

One cup (130 grams) of jicama contains 6.4 grams of fiber, which can help you meet your daily fiber needs (1). This is the equivalent of 17% of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for fiber for men and 23% of the RDI for women. Dietary fiber helps increase the bulk of stool, allowing food and waste to move more efficiently through your digestive tract (2).

Moreover, icama contains a specific type of fiber called inulin. Studies show that inulin can increase the frequency of bowel movements by up to 31% in those with constipation (3).

2. Jicama Supports Healthy Gut Bacteria

As noted above, jicama is a dense source of a soluble fiber. When this soluble fiber is consumed, it results in something known as a “stagnant carbohydrate”. In the case of jicama, this “stagnant carbohydrate” is the oligofructose inulin that was mentioned above. What’s unique about “stagnant carbohydrates” is that they are not broken down to  sugar while passing through the human digestive system.. These carbohydrates are then able to ferment in the lower digestive system, feeding good bacteria such as bifidobacteria, and aiding in the growth of their probiotic colonies. Over 75 percent of our immune system in the gut. So, by helping  promote healthy gut bacteria growth, and balancing the flora in the digestive system, jicama can support overall health and immunity function.

3. Jicama Can Help Balance Blood Pressure

Jicama contains potassium, a mineral known as a vasodilator, which lowers the pressure in the circulatory system. The high potassium levels in jicama act as an electrolyte promoting hydration and fluid/sodium balance, which in turn may help keep blood pressure at a healthy level.

4. Jicama Is Loaded With Antioxidants

Antioxidants are vital to combat free radical damage within the body. In short, free radicals are molecules with unpaired electrons that bounce around the body and can “steal” electrons from cells, resulting in molecular damage. Free radical damage is implicated in a variety of diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cognitive decline. 

One cup of jicama provides 40%  of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of the antioxidant vitamin C. It also contains the antioxidants vitamin E, selenium and beta-carotene (2). 

5. Jicama Is Rich In Water

Jicama is 85% water. Foods with a high water content can help you meet your daily fluid needs (4). Because jicama is also dense in minerals, which act as electrolytes, it further promotes hydration and fluid balance in the body. Similar to watermelon or cucumber, you can use it to help you stay hydrated, especially when it’s hot outside. 

6. Jicama May Promote Blood Sugar Balance

Jicama is an ideal food for people with diabetes because it does not break down into simple sugars during digestion. If you have diabetes or blood sugar problems, jicama is a safe snack or side dish. So although jicama may have all of the comforting starchy flavour and feel of a potato, and it does contain carbohydrates; unlike potatoes the carbohydrates in jicama have a low glycemic load, which means the carbohydrates don’t affect your blood sugar very much. (5,6)

7. Jicama and Weight Loss

As explained above, this root vegetable is low in calories and high in fiber and water, making it a weight loss-friendly food. Jicama has been found to help regulate metabolic processes, and promote the balance  of hormones.

Unlike many other root veggies, jicama is also keto-friendly! It’s also a natural source of nitrates, which have been shown to amp up your body’s natural ability to burn fat faster. (7) 

8. Jicama Can Strengthen Bones

The inulin produced during the digestion of jicama allows the body to absorb minerals more efficiently. Oligofructose inulin keeps bones healthy by slowing the rate at which you lose bone density while enabling the absorption of calcium and other minerals. Calcium is one of the more difficult-to-absorb minerals, so help boost your absorption by including jicama in your meals or snacks a couple times during the week! 

Jicama Risks

Jicama is a delicious, inexpensive, low calorie, and low-fat food that is high in fiber, water, and minerals.  BUT only the white flesh of the root vegetable is safe to eat. Jicama’s skin, stem, leaves, and seeds are poisonous.

How To Eat Jicama

Traditionally, jicama is eaten raw in slices with salt, lemon or lime juice, and chilli powder sprinkled on top. 

You can also:

  • Pickle jicama
  • Grate it into a slaw with cabbage, carrots, apple and/or onion
  • Use it in place of (or along with) carrots as a crunchy salad topping 
  • Serve it on veggie platters slices like cucumber or celery
  • Add it to stews, soups, or stir-fries
  • Boil and mash it like potatoes
  • Cut into thin strips, coat with oil, and bake or fry it

 

References:

1 https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2727/2#ixzz377hOonGG

2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3544045/

3 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25208775/

4 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21737769/

5 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26175995/

6 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26798198/

7 https://www.firstforwomen.com/posts/diet/how-to-increase-nitric-oxide-weight-loss-165737