What is Yacon?
Hands up if you’ve heard of Yacon before? The likelihood is no but you shouldn’t be missing out on this nutritious wholefood. Yacon is a vegetable that looks very similar to a sweet orange kumara with flesh that tastes like an apple. Sounds too good to be true right?
Originally from the Andes, this superfood was introduced to New Zealand relevantly recently in 1995 and due to our lovely sunshine and fertile free-draining soils, it grows spectacularly well. The real magic of Yacon starts with the health-promoting compounds it contains. While the root and leaves of the Yacon plant contain phenolic compounds that serve to support optimal health, the roots store high levels of gut-loving Fructooligosaccharide (FOS). FOS is a prebiotic that travels through the upper-digestive tract undigested until it reaches the colon. Then in the colon the FOS is broken down by bacteria to produce Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFA). Both FOS and SCFA encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria, all of which supports our gut microbiome (the balance of good and bad bacteria that live in our gut) and ultimately our gut health.
But of course we now know that the health of our gut has far reaching effects via the gut-brain axis. This is a two-way communication pathway that allows the brain and gut to talk to each other. The gut-brain axis gives new meaning to the age old notion of ‘gut feelings’! For example, the food that we eat is digested by bacteria in the gut and what they excrete is then used to make neurotransmitters such as dopamine, our feel-good hormone and serotonin, also known as our happy hormone. While having a positive effect on supporting our gut health and brain health, Yacon is also thought to support our immunity via the production of SCFA has mentioned earlier.
Yacon NZ has recognised that the Yacon grown here in New Zealand is very unique. It contains the highest levels of FOS in the world. As a result, they set out with leading scientists to create a delicious and nutritious functional food, for not only our population but those around the world, to enjoy the health benefits of Yacon. Once grown by farmers, it is harvested and the juice extracted to make a thick Yacon syrup or concentrate that contains an incredible 38% FOS. It makes a delicious addition to smoothies, raw desserts, breakfast bowls, stirred through yogurt or simply enjoyed straight off the spoon!