Yacon syrup is a sugar substitute native to the Andean region of South America. It is glucose-free, and does not increase blood sugar levels. Because of this, yacon syrup is often recommended as a sweetener to those suffering from diabetes or at risk for becoming diabetic.
The syrup is derived from the roots of the yacon plant, and according to some studies is a good source of antioxidants. The yacon plant tastes similar to jicama, but is biologically closer to the sunflower family. The component that gives the roots a sweet taste is Fructooligosaccharide, or FOS. The tuberous roots may be made of nearly 50% FOS, and are believed to be the greatest producers of the saccharide in the natural world.
Because the body cannot process FOS, it passes through the system without leaving behind absorbable sugar compounds. It also is relatively low in calories, compared to most other sweeteners. The process to create it is vegan, and it can be used by vegans who are averse to regular sugar or honey.
Yacon syrup is often compared to molasses, caramel, or honey in taste, with a deep and rich flavor. It easily substitutes for maple sugar or molasses in recipes, and can be used to sweeten beverages. It is typically sold in jars like honey, and can be purchased online or at specialty food stores. A typical 8 oz (226 gram) bottle costs about $12 US Dollars (USD.)
If you are trying to cut down on harmful sugar intake, yacon syrup may be helpful in replacing sugar in your diet. Try swirling it into oatmeal or granola. It can be spread over fruit and complemented with chili pepper flakes for an unusual dessert. You can also easily stir a few drops into your morning coffee or tea. Remember that the sweetness is quite strong, and use sparingly in recipes.
Some studies have suggested that yacon syrup may be beneficial to the body in moderate amounts. It contains and promotes healthy bacteria that aid in cleaning the colon and regulating the digestive system. In some countries, such as Brazil and Bolivia, the leaves of the yacon plant are brewed into a tea said to fight diabetes. The health benefits of yacon syrup have not been extensively tested, but information from the published studies suggests a mildly beneficial effect on the body.
For diabetics, vegans and those cutting down on their sugar intake, yacon syrup makes a healthy alternative to synthesized sweeteners. For those looking to increase the amount of natural foods in their diet, it can also be a welcome addition. Many health food magazines and experts consider yacon syrup a newly discovered wonder food, but further studies must be conducted before truly determining the many claims of beneficial health effects.