Yacon Syrup: Sweetness From The Andes

Yacon syrup comes from the yacon plant, which is a member of the Asteraceae family. It is a relative of the carrot and the sunflower.

Yacon comes from the Andes, most likely the eastern part of Bolivia and the southern part of Peru. You can still find it growing wild in parts of Colombia and Ecuador. There is little difference between the wild plants and the cultivated ones.

The Incas are the most famous civilization associated with yacon use, but there is evidence that it was used even before them.

Yacon syrup is a sweetener extracted from the roots of the plant. To make it, the juice from the tuber is extracted and then reduced to concentrate the sweetness. This is similar to the method used to produce maple syrup.

In Peru, the roots are eaten as a tuber. In Bolivia, it is used for medicinal benefits, and the leaves are used as a tea herb in Brazil. Brazilians consider yacon tea to be a preventative for diabetes.

Yacon root contains a lot of water, and some historical reports claim that the Incas used it as a water source for travelers around the time of the Spanish invasion. After the arrival of the Spanish, Andean natives stopped cultivating yacon as widely, and it remained relatively rare throughout the 20th century.

Attempts were made to cultivate yacon outside of South America during the 19th century but with limited success. Until the late 20th century, the crop attracted little attention.

Yacon has recently become a popular crop in Japan and has spread to other parts of Asia as well. You can find it growing in China and Korea. The Japanese have breeding programs for the yacon plant and have created new varieties with high levels of fructooligosaccharides.

Yacon syrup flavor profile

Yacon syrup’s taste is primarily sweet though it is not as sweet as honey. Aside from its sweetness, its flavor is often likened to that of caramelized sugar.

Health benefits of yacon syrup

Yacon syrup is considered a healthy sweetener mainly because it contains compounds like:

  • Fructooligosaccharides: A type of sugar with lower calories than regular sugar, fructooligosaccharides are responsible for yacon syrup’s sweetness, and some of its health benefits. This kind of sugar is largely indigestible for humans, which means that it contributes less to weight gain than other sugars.
  • Inulin: Yacon syrup is a good source of inulin, which is a dietary fiber that provides several significant health benefits that relate to blood sugar control and digestion.

Having yacon syrup as a part of your diet may help you to treat or prevent certain health conditions like:

  • Obesity: Yacon syrup is a low-calorie alternative to sugar that can help to reduce weight gain.
  • Poor gut health: The fructooligosaccharides in yacon syrup, along with the inulin, can help to promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.

Health concerns

Reducing the liquid from yacon root into syrup has the effect of converting much of its sugars to fructose, which negates many of the health benefits and adds health risks. Fructose is processed in the liver, where it is converted to artery-clogging fat.

Common uses

You can use yacon syrup like any other liquid syrup. It works as an alternative to maple syrup and honey. Use it as a topping for pancakes, as a sweetener for oatmeal, or add it to your tea.