Yams are starchy tuber vegetables that originated from Africa. Since 50,000 BC, yams have been grown in Africa and Asia, and they are one of the most consumed foods globally. They are the staple food in South America, West Indies, Africa, and Pacific Islands.
Although yams are constantly confused with sweet potatoes, the two are not even related. There are 200 different yam varieties, and they come in various colors. Nigeria is the largest yams producer, exporting 70% of the world market supply. In this article, you will learn all the health benefits associated with yams and their nutritional value.
Yams Health Benefits
1. Heals Skin Diseases & Cures Respiratory Problems
In countries like Japan, Korea, and China, yams have always been used for medicinal purposes. The tuber has medicinal components that accelerate the whole process of healing. It can be used topically on boils and other dermal conditions or ingested to treat ulcers. Its extract is also used to arrest respiratory problems.
2. Supports Female Endocrine System
Yams are very helpful during the menopause stage in women. This is when the hormones go haywire, and yams can help balance them. The tuber also supports the endocrine system in women. Traditionally, women have used yam roots for lactation. The vitamin B6 that is found in them also helps relieve premenstrual syndrome, which is known to bring about depression. Yam is also very beneficial in getting rid of nausea in pregnant women. Taking a daily dose of it can help a woman balance her hormones.
3. Source of Antioxidants
Yam is a great source of useful antioxidants that help reduce swelling. It also has beta-carotene, which protects the body against the harmful free radicals. These free radicals are known to cause cancer and damage your body. If you suffer from asthma, yam is a great food for you.
4. Helps with Digestion and Improves Bowel Movements
Yam is rich in dietary fiber, which helps reduce signs of constipation. This fiber will also help you minimize bad cholesterol in your body. The potassium found in yams helps with better digestion and promotes better muscle contractions in the belly, which are essential for good bowel movements.
5. Improves Cognitive Ability
Yams have been said to help with your cognitive ability. They do this by improving your memory and increasing your level of understanding. The reason yam helps with memory and learning is due to its antioxidant properties. Yam can also heal Alzheimer’s disease.
6. Low Glycemic Index
The good thing about yams is that diabetics can indulge in them without worrying about raised sugar levels. Although yam is a starch, it raises your sugar levels slowly as compared to other alternatives. This is why yam is good for diabetics.
Nutritional Value of Yams
Apart from the yams health benefits, there are numerous other nutritional values that can be obtained from the tuber. They include:
Yam is one of the best sources of energy with 100 grams giving you 118 calories. The good thing is that it is a fiber-rich food, which makes it a great carbohydrate choice for weight watchers.
Yam is also known to be a great source of vitamin B complexes like B1, B6, and folic acid, among other essential vitamins. It provides up to 20% of your required dose of vitamin C when you consume 100 grams of the tuber. Yams are great sources of minerals like potassium, magnesium, copper, iron, and phosphorous.
In every 100 grams of the tuber you consume, you get 816 mg of potassium, 0.937 grams of manganese, 0.54 grams of iron, 0.178 grams of copper, 21 mg of magnesium. It also has small amounts of vitamin A and beta-carotene in every serving. The above nutritional value is evidence of the known yams health benefits.
Unlike sweet potatoes that can be consumed raw, you should never eat raw yams as they have naturally-occurring plant toxins like dioscorine and triterpenes. This is the reason why they should always be washed, peeled, and cooked to remove the bitter proteins. It is only the Japanese yam that can be eaten raw after the tuber has been soaked in vinegar-water to counter the irritant oxalate crystals found under their skin.
The Japanese then use the gel-like milk that comes from raw yams in their recipes. There are definitely many yams health benefits that you can get from eating either boiled, steamed, or roasted yams as seen above.
In Africa, the most common cooking method is pounded yam. This dish is also known as “fufu,” which is a special dish cooked during the famous yam festival. Below is a recipe of fufu:
- Get yam powder or pounded yam
- Add this powder or the pounded yam to boiling water and make a clump/round cake-like dough
- When the dough is ready, remove from fire and serve with your favorite stew, soup, or sauce
The Japanese yam is also known as yamaimo and is usually eaten raw in salads while the gel-like milk is added to noodles.
Yam leaves can either be eaten raw or can be mixed and cooked with other vegetables. While cooking, they go well with spinach or other green vegetables. You can also choose to add them to stews, curries, or sautés. They, especially go well in soups and stir-fries. In Korea, yam leaves are popular ingredients in their traditional dish of sautéed vegetables called “Namul.” The leaves flavor goes well with soy sauce, ginger, curry, onion, and tomatoes.
As this article has shown, there are numerous yams health benefits that should not be overlooked. Whether you choose to consume the tuber or the leaves, you can be sure that you will get the full yams health benefits at the end of the day. Since the tuber is rich in dietary fiber, yam should not be on your list of bad carbs as it has numerous health benefits even on its own; the best part is that you can consume the leaves too. Feel free to share your experience, thoughts, or questions regarding yams.