Yacon- New Zealand's Natural Prebiotic Superfood

Updated: Aug 21, 2019

Yacon is a vegetable that is becoming more and more popular in New Zealand. Yacon resembles similar characteristics to a kumara or sweet potato. It originates from South America and has been traditionally grown for thousands of years. Yacon is a close relation of the Jerusalem artichoke and sunflower.


Dr Douglas and his team have spent the last ten years experimenting on three yacon cultivars in ten districts all over New Zealand.

At present New Zealand’s yacon cultivar contents the highest percentage of healthy fructooligosaccharides (FOS) in the world thanks to the scientists’ diligent work, New Zealand’s climate, fertile soil and the clean and pure environment. FOS are one of the best-known prebiotics. Prebiotics are very important in regulating good gut health as they feed our good gut bacteria. FOS are a kind of complex carbohydrates that pass through the digestive system without being metabolized, as the human system doesn’t have an enzyme to hydrolyze FOS.


Yacon are becoming a popular sugar substitute due to the high amounts of FOS which can exhibit sweetness levels between 30-50% of sugar in prepared syrups but without the added calories. NZFOS+ have created this natural prebiotic syrup from the yacon concentrate grown in NZ. You can purchase them in small squeezable packs or in large jars (just like honey). It is refreshing to know that you are getting something completely natural as oppose to being synthetically made in the lab!


Health Benefits of Yacon


Improves digestive health. Yacon contains prebiotics which feed and help grow the microbiota in our guts. When our gut microbiota are taken care of and are healthy, then we can optimally absorb the nutrients our body needs. If we have gut issues with nutrients malabsorption, leaky gut or a bad imbalance of gut flora this takes a toll on a health. It affects our metabolism, hormone production, energy levels, sleep, immune system, etc.


Diabetic Friendly Food. Yacon root FOS has been shown to have a hypoglycaemic effect. Yacon syrup is not digested in your body the way sugar is (even though it is super sweet like honey). It has been shown in research to dramatically decrease serum glucose levels and improve insulin sensitivity via SCFA production. People who suffer from diabetes are safe to use this as a natural sweetener.


Weight loss. Yacon has been shown to reduce the hunger hormone ghrelin which reduces appetite. As previously mentioned, the syrup is only 1/3 caloric value of normal sugar so is a great alternative. As yacon is digested, our gut bacteria release short chain fatty acids which may contribute to changes in liver lipid metabolism. This can increase our fat burning capacity and glucose metabolism.


Reduces bad cholesterol. Yacon has been shown in research to lower levels of tryglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol. This study conducted on diabetic rats who supplemented daily with yacon syrup showed lower levels of fasting plasma triacylglycerol, a triglyceride, and LDL cholesterol.


Where can I get it from?

NZFOS+ (yacon syrup) is available from a few stockists around Auckland.


How do I use it?

  • You can consume it by itself like a sweet snack or first thing in the morning to feed your gut bacteria.

  • You can add it into a smoothie as an alternative sweetener to honey.

  • You can add into baking as a great sweetener to replace sugar or other artificial sweeteners.

  • Turn it into a hot drink on a cold day. Add 6g of NZFOS+ into a cup of hot water with some slices of ginger.

  • You can drizzle on your toast or onto your granola/ oats/ chia seeds for breakfast.


References

  1. Caetano, B. F., de Moura, N. A., Almeida, A. P., Dias, M. C., Sivieri, K., & Barbisan, L. F. (2016). Yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius) as a food supplement: health-promoting benefits of fructooligosaccharides. Nutrients, 8(7), 436.

  2. Habib, N. C., Honoré, S. M., Genta, S. B., & Sánchez, S. S. (2011). Hypolipidemic effect of Smallanthus sonchifolius (yacon) roots on diabetic rats: biochemical approach. Chemico-biological interactions194(1), 31-39.

  3. Yacon tuber extract Rats (Sprague-Dawley) Decrease in serum glucose levels Park, J. S., Yang, J. S., Hwang, B. Y., Yoo, B. K., & Han, K. (2009). Hypoglycemic effect of yacon tuber extract and its constituent, chlorogenic acid, in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Biomolecules & Therapeutics, 17(3), 256-262.

  4. Caetano, B. F., de Moura, N. A., Almeida, A. P., Dias, M. C., Sivieri, K., & Barbisan, L. F. (2016). Yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius) as a food supplement: health-promoting benefits of fructooligosaccharides. Nutrients, 8(7), 436.

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