Superfood. Yacon, the sweet carrot grown organically in Italy


The empyrean of superfoods unveils a new host. It is yacon, a sweet carrot also grown in Italy by organic methods. Root and leaves have beneficial properties established in the scientific literature. Consumed raw, in powder, syrup, or herbal tea, they are useful in reducing the risk of several chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, and obesity.

Yacon, the superfood carrot

Smallanthus sonchifolius-or yacon-is native to South America, where it has always been used both as a food and in traditional medicine. And it has therefore also spread in recent decades to the Far East (Japan, South Korea and China).

Yacon’s health properties are mainly related to its high content of bioactive compounds, in the leaves and root, the concentration of which varies with soil and climate factors and harvesting period.

Antioxidants and prebiotics

Yacon roots contain antioxidants, fructose, glucose, sucrose, and inulin-type fructooligosaccharides (FOS) (with prebiotic action), as well as high amounts of phenolic compounds. They are consumed fresh and dried, in powder and syrup.

The leaves in turn contain polyphenolsand flavonoids, to which antioxidant and antidiabetic effects are attributed. In Japan they are commonly used in herbal teas.

The Italian organic yacon

Italy boasts a European record in yacon cultivation and processing. Credit is due to the Romagna-based agricultural cooperative Yacon Farm, Italy’s first company dedicated to exclusively growing the ‘sweet carrot’ organically. As well as the only one in Europe, as far as is known, to dry and process it.

Dried fruit, syrup, flour and sugar are obtained from Yacon Farm by drying the plant ‘using an innovative system that strips it of water but preserves its cell membrane intact and with it its active ingredients, aroma and fragrance.’ Products that are 100% Made in Italy and especially organic. A health boost, as shown in a recent study by the University of Gratz (Austria) on the microbiota of organic apples

Yacon, scientific review of virtues for health

The beneficial properties of yacon are described in dozens of research papers, the subject of a recent scientific review by a group of university researchers from New Zealand and China. The study-funded by a New Zealand manufacturer of yacon products-considers scientific literature published over the past 10 years, through June 2019. (1)

The breadth of benefits associated with the consumption of this sweet carrot is surprising. Studies-conducted mostly in animals-highlight positive effects, in particular, on glycemic control and reduction of so-called ‘bad cholesterol’ (LDL, low-density lipoprotein).

42 noteworthy scientific studies

The 42 studies analyzed by the Sino-New Zealand team, summarized in the attached table, illustrate the great potential of yacon. Following experimental studies, in humans and animals, since 2004. Human studies are still few, but in turn encouraging.

The plant’s phenolic compounds produce anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and even anticancer effects. FOS fructo-oligosaccharides and inulins also are associated with improved immunity in preschool children, diabetes management in the elderly, weight control, and obesity prevention in overweight adults.


(1) Mary R. Yan, Robert Welch, Elaine C. Rush, Xuesong Xiang, Xin Wang. (2019). A Sustainable Wholesome Foodstuff; Health Effects and Potential Dietotherapy Applications of Yacon. Nutrients 2019,

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Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".