Yacon, a perennial tuber plant related to the sunflower and described as a cross between a fresh apple and watermelon, originated from Peru. It is gaining popularity outside of South America and has reached the Philippines because of its sugar component, fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which humans do not metabolize. FOS is somewhat an indigestible sugar, it does not increase blood sugar levels and thus can be used to sweeten foods for diabetic people.
Because of this, the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST) investigated the potential health benefits of yacon. This will help contribute to the database for yacon which will then be the basis for the development of value-added products and thus promote production and utilization.
In the said study, samples of yacon leaves and tubers were collected from two farm sites in Barangay Oyao, Dupax del Norte, Nueva Vizcaya and Barangay Aposkahoy, Claveria, Misamis Oriental. Chemical composition were determined using the Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC) methods while total solids, color and water activity of freeze-dried and air-dried leaves were analyzed using the Atagorefractometer, Minolta chromameter and Novasinathermoconstanter, respectively.
The total phenols and antioxidant properties of yacon leaves were analyzed at the Institute of Plant Breeding, University of the Philippines Los Baños while the FOS content of freeze-dried yacon leaves and tubers were analyzed at he Japan Food Research Laboratory.
Results revealed that yacon tubers grown in the country have high FOS content and balanced potassium to sodium ratio while the leaves have significant amounts of antioxidant and phenols. This means that yacon tubers and leaves are potential raw materials for the development of functional food and beverage products.
With yacon’s niche as a functional food, it is expected that research-based food products from yacon will soon be available in the country.#