What is a Jicama?

Jicama (HEE-kah-ma) is becoming more common in grocery stores and restaurants, but is still unfamiliar in the kitchens of many. So what is it exactly? Jicama may also be referred to as a “Mexican yam” or a “yam bean.” That is because jicama is technically part of the bean family. From the outside, it can easily be mistaken for a brown, Idaho potato! The inside is white and crisp. The flavor is slightly starchy, but also sweet and tangy. It is similar to biting into a raw potato combined with a tart apple.

Jicama (HEE-kah-ma) is becoming more common in grocery stores and restaurants, but is still unfamiliar in the kitchens of many! So what is it exactly?

The peak season for jicama runs from fall into early spring. It is made up of 80-90% water, so it is a great hydration source. It’s an excellent source of fiber, and contains a type of prebiotic that is good for digestive health. It also contains potassium and vitamin C. It can be eaten in a variety of ways:

  • Raw! Once the outer skin is peeled, slice into strips and dip in ranch dressing or hummus. This may be a good way to try it if introducing to kids.
  • Sautéed. Jicama makes a great addition to stir-fry. It can be cut into strips or chunks and incorporated with the other vegetables. It can easily take the place of water chestnuts, as they have a similar texture.
  • Roasted. Peel the outside and cut into cubes. Drizzle with olive oil and favorite spices. Pop into the oven alone or with other root or hearty vegetables.
  • Toppings. Makes a great addition to any salad!
Jicama, Avocado and Radish Salad with Lime Vinaigrette
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For the vinaigrette
  1. ¼ cup lime juice, freshly squeezed
  2. 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  3. ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
For the salad
  1. 1 medium-size bunch radishes (5 ounces), trimmed and sliced very thin
  2. 1 large Hass avocado, diced
  3. 1 medium jicama (about 400g), peeled and sliced in matchsticks or julienned
  4. 4-5 Bird’s-eye chili or any dried red chili, roasted and ground for garnish
  5. ½ cup chopped cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)
  6. salt to taste (optional)
  1. Dry-roast dried chili peppers in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes until darkened, but not blackened. Keep stirring to get all sides toasted evenly. Remove from heat and let them cool before grinding. When cooled, remove the stems and grind them using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. This makes about 1 tablespoon or so. Keep the ground chili pepper in a jar in the pantry for up to a year.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice and salt. Add olive oil in a thin stream into a bowl while whisking, about 10 seconds.
  3. In a large bowl, combine radishes, avocado and jicama. Add vinaigrette to taste (all may not be needed), and toss gently. Add salt to taste (optional). Sprinkle with ground dried chili (used 2 teaspoons) and chopped cilantro leaves
  1. Advance preparation: The vinaigrette can be made a few hours ahead. The salad keeps well for day or two in the refrigerator. Keeping: Store the vinaigrette in a covered container and use within 3 days. Whisk before using. Note: For a spicier version, add 1½ tablespoons freshly ground dried chili instead.
Something to Chew http://somethingtochew.com/

Alana Scopel

New Dietary Approaches for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

digestivesystemToday, I am addressing a topic that can be very difficult for many to talk about…Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS. Individuals who suffer from IBS have symptoms of bloating, constipation, gas, abdominal pain and diarrhea on a chronic basis. Many of my patients that have IBS state that they have dealt with their symptoms for years even decades without any real symptom relief. What many don’t know is that the food you eat or even the supplements you take that are supposed to help with diarrhea/constipation may actually be making  problems much worse.

In the past, diarrhea and constipation were treated with one dietary approach: fiber. Today, we are learning that some of these fiber sources can actually make symptoms more severe or prolong them. A more modern approach to treating IBS is following a low FODMAP diet. FODMAP is an acronym that stands for: Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polys. Basically this is a fancy way of saying “specific types of carbohydrates found in certain foods”. These types of carbs are often poorly absorbed, highly osmotic and rapidly fermented by bacteria in the gut that results in gas, bloating, abdominal pain and you got it-diarrhea and constipation. Eliminating these problematic foods has shown to have as high as an 86% success rate in decreasing symptoms in those with IBS.1

The list of foods that are high in FODMAPs is quite extensive and to be perfectly honest, it is also very overwhelming. FODMAPs can occur in almost all foods from fruits to vegetables, grains, dairy and beans. Even though this list encompasses practically all the food groups, there is still a wide variety of choices within these foods groups that are lower in FODMAPs and therefore, make suitable alternatives. For example, apples contain a high amount of fructose which can cause GI irritability in some individuals. However, blueberries and pineapple are two fruit choices that can be much easier on the digestive system.

For individuals with severe symptoms, following a full elimination trial of all the high FODMAP-containing foods can be very beneficial. Foods may be reintroduced one at a time back into the diet after about 6-8 weeks of the elimination phase to identify which specific foods are the ones that cause the onset of GI symptoms. Many find that there are only a few specific foods that cause their symptoms and thus, these foods should continue to be avoided. Individuals may also find that they can tolerate FODMAP-containing foods in small amounts but their symptoms can quickly develop if they consume quantities that surpass their threshold.

There are some more common FODMAP foods that typically affect most individuals with IBS. Engaging in a partial elimination of only the most common high FODMAP foods has also shown to provide relief for patients.These most common foods include:

  • Wheat, rye (bread, pasta, crackers, cookies, cakes, pizza crust, etc)
  • Garlic, onions, artichokes
  • Apples, pears, watermelon, mango and high fructose corn syrup
  • Milk
  • Sugar-free gum/mints, mushrooms

Nutrition facts.

There is no universal safe food or specific meal plan for individuals with functional bowel disorders. Some trigger foods or chemicals are considered more common allergens than others; however, our individual immune systems and gut flora will have the final say-so to what one’s personal inflammatory triggers are. For more information on following a low FODMAP diet, please schedule an appointment with your Springfield Clinic dietitian.

1. Staudacher HM, Whelan K, Irving PM, Lomer MC. (2011).Comparison of symptom response following advice for a diet low in fermentable carbohydrates (FODMAPs) versus standard dietary advice in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. J Hum Nutr Diet.;24(5);487-495.


Salt Substitution Solutions for the Kitchen

One of the best things we can do for heart-healthy living is reduce the amount of sodium we consume. Decreasing dietary sodium intake, in combination with exercise and consuming an abundance of fruits, vegetables, fiber and healthy fats are all the ingredients one needs to start living more heart-healthy. Unfortunately, the majority of one’s sodium intake comes from the intake of processed food items. Just remember that the fresher a product is, the more likely it is to be better for you and your heart. However, we can often take fresh ingredients and make them less healthy if we’re adding too much salt, sugar or butter to the items. Here are some healthier substitutes for increasing flavor in your dishes.

All-Purpose Spice Blend

• 5 teaspoons onion powder

• 2½ teaspoons garlic powder

• 2½ teaspoons paprika

• 2½ teaspoon dry mustard

• 1½ teaspoon crushed thyme leaves

• ½ teaspoon white pepper

• ¼ teaspoon celery seed


Healthy Recipe Monday

Potatoes are one of America’s favorite vegetables. They are a good source of potassium and you can get a little extra fiber by eating the skins. Remember to practice good portion control when consuming potatoes by sticking to ½ cup serving sizes. For a balanced meal, be sure to add a green vegetable such as asparagus, green beans, spinach or broccoli along with potatoes.

Garlic Potatoes with Fresh Herbs



  • 1 pound boiling or baking potatoes, with or without skins
  • 3 large garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper (white preferred)

1. Fill a large saucepan with enough water to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, cut the boiling potatoes in half or the baking potatoes in quarters. Add the potatoes and garlic to the boiling water and return to a boil. Boil for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft all the way through when tested with a knife. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to a medium bowl and the garlic to a small plate, reserving the potato water.

2. Mash the garlic cloves. Add to the potatoes, combining lightly with a potato masher or large fork until coarse-textured. (Do not sure a food processor.) Stir in the remaining ingredients, adding a little hot potato water if needed for the desired consistency. The texture should remain coarse.

Cook’s Tip – For a taste change, substitute other fresh herbs for the rosemary and/or oregano. Parsley and sage are just two possibilities. This recipe doubles well.

Nutrition Information: Calories: 106.Total Fat: 2 g. Saturated Fat: 0.5 g. Monounsaturated Fat: 1 g. Polyunsaturated Fat: 0 g. Trans Fat: 0 g. Cholesterol: 0 mg. Sodium: 80 mg. Carbohydrate: 21 g. Fiber: 3 g. Sugars: 1 g. Protein: 2 g.

-American Heart Association, Recipes for the Heart

Cholesterol Month – Part 2


  • Limit saturated and trans fats.
    • Saturated and trans fats are found in fatty or fried meats such as: bacon, sausage, hotdogs, bologna, pepperoni, salami, poultry skin, fried chicken, fried pork tenderloin and fried fish.salmonheart
    • They are also found in whole milk products, high-fat cheese, ice cream, butter, cream, margarine and lard.
    • Foods made with hydrogenated oils (pizza and other packaged food items), candy bars, crackers, chips, pastries, doughnuts and muffins are additional ways these bad fats can be found in our diets.
    • Take Away Message: Try to avoid/limit red meat, fried foods, processed pastry/bakery items and dairy products made with whole milk.
  • Limit total amount of fat that you eat (good and bad) to 25%-35% of the total calories you eat.
    • Even if you’re not a calorie-counting whiz, the simplest way to accomplish this is to stick to heart-healthy fat sources such as: fish, nuts, seeds, peanut butter, avocados and olive oil and limit/avoid the sources of unhealthy fats.
    • A small popcorn from the movie theater contains 42 grams of fat, which would be 25% of total calories for a person following a 1500 calorie diet. Here’s an example of a healthier way to incorporate fat into the diet: Try adding ½ medium avocado (15 g) with breakfast, 1 Tbsp of peanut butter (8.5 g) with a snack and 4 oz of salmon (12 g) with dinner to create nutritious, well-balanced meals.
    • Become more familiar with reading food labels  and utilizing online resources for finding fat content of foods. A great website is www.calorieking.com for finding nutritional information on foods and menu items. This is very useful when dining out or ordering in! Pizza is a very common source of unhealthy fats in our diet. Two slices of pepperoni pizza plus garlic dipping sauce contains 37 grams of fat.
  • Increase Omega-3 fatty acid intake.
    • This recommendation goes right along with choosing healthier sources of fats in one’s diet. The benefits of omega-3 fats go well beyond heart health. They can also help with reducing inflammation and supporting eye and brain health.
    • Omega-3 fats, specifically Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) are found in canola, soybean and flaxseed oil.
    • The most potent sources of omega-3 fats include salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel and sardines (EPA and DHA sources).
    • Ground flaxseed and walnuts (ALA) are two wonderful ways to incorporate omega-3 fats into your diet, especially if you are not a fan of fish.
    • The American Heart Association recommends that people with heart disease get 1 gm of omega-3 fatty acids from a combination of EPA and DHA per day. Consult with your physician before adding a fish oil supplement into your regimen as this may have possible interactions with other medications.
  • Increase dietary fiber intake to at least 20-30 grams per day.
    • Fiber is Mother Nature’s cholesterol lowering medication. While total fiber is very important, try to include sources of soluble fiber into your daily intake.
    • Soluble fiber is found in oats, oat bran, kidney beans, broccoli, ground flaxseed, apples, bananas and potatoes with the skin. It is also added in fortified fiber products such as Fiber One and Fiber Plus cereals and snack bars.
    • Fiber is only found in plant-based foods; fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds, beans/legumes and whole grains. When choosing a grain (pasta, bread, cereal), make sure it is made with 100% whole wheat or whole grain. Barley, quinoa and brown rice make great choices too. Focus on filling ½ your plate with fruits and/or vegetables. Add nuts/seeds to salads, cereals or simply enjoy them by themselves.

Patients often ask me, “But Amanda, I don’t eat fried foods and I never eat red meat; why do I have high cholesterol?” In many cases, it’s not a matter of consuming too much of the bad stuff, it’s that you may not be consuming enough of the good stuff, specifically the omega-3 fatty acids and enough fiber.

Read part one of Cholesterol Month here!cholesterol colors

Dinner’s Ready

Dinner time is often the one chance for everyone to sit down together, share a meal and discuss life’s events that day. However, in today’s busy world, this Norman Rockwell scene often is replaced with everyone jammed into the car and going through a drive-thru window. Did you know that families who sit together at home for three or more meals per week are more likely to consume:Norman-Rockwell-Freedom-from-Want-1943

  • More fruits and vegetables
  • Less fried food and soda
  • Less saturated fat and trans fat
  • More fiber, calcium, iron and vitamins B6, B12, C and E

When you think about these facts, it makes perfect sense that a home-cooked meal is going to be more nutritious than one purchased from the fast-food, drive-thru window. Most fast-food purchases include fried foods (chicken nuggets or chicken tenders, fries, fish fillets, onion rings) and a sugary-sweetened beverage, resulting in meals that are loaded with saturated and trans fats, sodium and added sugars. When meals are prepared at home, they are more likely to include a fruit and/or vegetable, a lean protein that has been grilled or baked, a whole grain product and either water or low-fat milk to drink.

Two nutrients that most American kids do not consume enough of are dietary fiber and potassium. Additionally, we are not getting enough plant-based foods. Eating more plant-based foods can help easily increase both dietary fiber and potassium intake. Foods that are excellent sources of potassium include: acorn and butternut squash, avocados, baked beans, bananas, broccoli, cantaloupe, mushrooms, nectarines, kiwi, spinach, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, oranges, tomatoes. Dietary fiber can be found in whole wheat bread and whole wheat pasta, nuts and seeds, beans (all varieties), berries, apples, pears, oranges, oats and peas to name a few. Adding these foods to familiar recipes or serving them by themselves is a wonderful way of improving nutritional intake at the dinner table.

Eating together as a family not only sounds like a great idea, research is showing that there are both social and health benefits that can be experienced by all family members.1 Additionally, children and adolescents who share family meals three or more times per week are2:

  • More likely to be in a normal weight range
  • Have healthier eating patterns

Additional benefits of family meal times include:

  • Better academic performance
  • Better connectedness and communication at home
  • Better language and communication skills
  • Opportunities to model healthy eating habits
  • More family time

As our families grow and take on more extracurricular activities, it can be more difficult to have everyone sit down at the same time for dinner. Making time in everyone’s schedules for a family meal has benefits that go beyond nutritional health. In a report published by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, 2011, they found that teens who consumed dinners with their families 5-7 times per week compared to those who sat down with the family less than 3 times per week were3:

  • 4x less likely to use tobacco
  • 2x less likely to use alcohol
  • 2.5x less likely to use marijuana

To limit distractions, make mealtimes a no-phone zone and turn off the television. Remember to make family meal time fun! Discussing bad grades or negative events should not occur at the dinner table. Positive family talks can be stemmed from questions like:

  • What was the best thing that happened today?
  • What was the funniest thing you saw or heard today?
  • Did you learn anything new today?
  • If you could eat the same vegetable every single day, what would it be?
  • What has been your favorite memory so far this year?

1.Family Dinner and Diet Quality Among Children and Adolescents. Arch Fam Med. 2000;9:235-240.

2.Is Frequency of Shared Family Meals Relate to the Nutritional Health of Children and Adolescents? Pediatrics, Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. May 2011.

3.The Importance of Family Dinners VII. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. September 2011.