Yam and its nutritional benefits
Yam belongs botanically to the Dioscorea family; and it is a root vegetable which bears close resemblance to sweet potato. They are grown in Oceania, Caribbean, Latin America, Asia and Africa. Nigeria in West Africa is known to be the largest producer and exporter of Yam. Nigeria provides around 70% of the world’s total Yam production, and yam production has been one of her source of revenue.
The yam vegetable has a lot of ritualism and religious belief associated with itself, especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In Nigeria, certain annual festival are dedicated to the yam, such as the ‘Iwa Ji’ that is held by the Igbo people, which translates to new-yam eating and other new yam festival celebrated in places like Edo, Ondo, Delta and Ogun State. In India, it is associated with the goddess of wealth. As it is a sturdy tuber food that can grow almost anywhere and hardly ever dies.
Besides its mystical nature Yams are highly nutritional food. They are consumed differently in various parts of the world and have numerous varieties. You can eat them in so many different ways and make them a part of your daily diet. You can use them instead of white potatoes when you make mixed vegetable soup. Or eat them with roast beef or even casseroles. You can even fry them and make fritters.
It has been established that yams are related to sweet potatoes and yams can substitute sweet potatoes in certain food recipe, but are different in taste and nutritional values. Well, the major differences between the two tubers are: yams are larger in size; they have thick, brown to pink skin, depending on the cultivar type, while sweet potatoes are relatively smaller in size and have a very thin peel.
Nutritional content of Yam
The table below shows the various nutritional components found in yams.
|Polyunsaturated Fat||Fat 1g
|Monounsaturated||Fat 0 g
|Total Carbohydrate||28 g
|Vitamin B- 6||15%|
Some of these nutrients such as vitamin B complex and protein are contained on the skin of the yam, which means that peeling it off reduces these nutrients and so it is better to cook it first before peeling but it still depends on what you are preparing.
Health benefits of eating yams
- Good for eye sight
Yams are rich in minerals needed to sustain a healthy life. These include vitamin A, C, B, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin and folic acid. Minerals such as calcium, copper, potassium, manganese, iron and phosphorus can also be found in yams.
The vitamin A contained in the yam is converted into beta-carotene which helps in the maintaining of healthy mucous membranes in the eyes which improves night vision and treats age related vision loss. It also supports healthy bone development, and provides protection from lung and mouth cancers.
- Good source of antioxidants
Yam contains healthy antioxidants which also have anti inflammatory properties. The beta carotene and Vitamin C in this tuber work well to get rid of cancer-friendly free radicals. Free radicals can damage the body in reaction with DNA, so the antioxidants work to reduce the damage caused by these free radicals. It is also an excellent food for those suffering from arthritis and asthma.
3. Good source of Energy
Yam has a high percentage of carbohydrates which makes it a good source of energy, the presence of dietary fiber in yam aids in digestion and prevents any form of constipation as well as suppressing the side effect of weight gain and diabetes.
Yams are also a good source of manganese, a mineral that aids carbohydrates metabolism and is very important for energy production and antioxidant defenses.
4. A good source of Vitamin B6
Yam is a good source of Vitamin B6 which is needed by the body to break down a substance called homocysteine, which can damage blood vessels walls. High levels of homocysteine can also lead to heart attack despite having low levels of cholesterol. Thus, having a good supply of Vitamin B6 in the body is believed to reduce the risk of developing heart diseases.
Potassium is also found in the yam. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids and controls heart rate and blood pressure by countering the hypertensive effects of sodium. Low intake of potassium-rich food can also lead to hypertension. Dioscorin, a storage protein found in yam is known to benefit people suffering from hypertension. Dioscorin inhabits aniotensin converting enzyme which therefore leads to increased kidney flow and reduced blood pressure.
- Improves Cognitive Ability
Yams also have the ability to increase learning and memory capacity in the human brain. According to a study, people who consumed yam for 6 weeks regularly noticed a significant increase in the cognitive abilities of the subject. This is mainly due to the antioxidant compound present in yams. It can also help to cure Alzheimer’s disease.
- Help to build up body minerals
The intake of yam also helps to provide the body with minerals such as iron which aid blood formation and prevent clotting, potassium which maintains normal blood pressure, and other numerous minerals that are good for the body. It is therefore advisable to always eat yam as a good source of carbohydrate and body building minerals.
7. Supports and protects the female endocrine system
Yam contains an enzyme which is beneficial for menopausal women. This enzyme provides a natural alternative to hormonal replacement in menopausal women. It supports the endocrine system in females as its root is full of beneficial enzymes. It contains vitamin B6 which acts as a substitute to fight symptoms related to Premenstrual Syndrome triggered by depression.
Yam is a good tonic for the female system as it helps to balance the hormones. It is an herb which can help to heal the bodily conditions from a holistic standpoint. It supports the body and stimulates it to heal.
8. Promotes Hair Growth
Yam is considered as an excellent source of natural health promoting compounds like antocyanins and beta carotene. It also contains Vitamin A which is highly beneficial for cell growth, including growth of hair. A deficiency in beta carotene can lead to dry, dull and lifeless hair which flakes off into dandruff.
Yam also helps prevent premature greying as it contains a good amount of Vitamin B6 which creates melanin and gives the hair its required colour.
- Helps to lower blood pressure
Yam contains the highest amount of potassium nutrient alongside with folate among other foods which helps to lower hypertension and modifies the blood vessel for proper blood flow. Therefore it is advisable to always eat yam to help regulate and control the blood pressure.
10. Good for Pregnant Women
Yams are particularly good for pregnant women as they are packed with numerous nutrients that are good for both the baby and the mom. They are especially great for the fetus in the early stage. Yams contain Folate with is essential for the brain and the Central Nervous System. Yams contain minerals that can help relieve morning sickness and keep bones strong during the pregnancy, which is essential for fetus development. One of the top reasons for babies being born with defects is the lack of red blood cells. Yams can prevent that because of the iron found in it. Also, the calcium content found in yam is essentially good for pregnant women as it helps in developing the fetus. It is therefore advisable for pregnant women to always eat yam.
11. Good for the Skin
Yam contains collagen, and collagen is the main structural protein in the extracellular space in the various connective tissues in the body. It therefore helps to keep the skin firm, elastic and healthy. Yam helps with the production of this chemical in our bodies. Yams are also rich in antioxidants that help with cell regeneration. Collagen along with the vitamin C that yams provide is a great combination that can help heal wounds and maintains good skin.