Yams (Genus: Dioscorea), are edible tuber vegetables native to West Africa and Asia. There are about 200 different varieties and they all differ in shape, size and colour. Among all the varieties, the White yam (D. rotundata), Yellow yam (D. cayenensis), Chinese yam (D. polystachya), Southeast Asian yam (D. esculenta) and Cush-Cush yam,(D. trifoliate) species are the only commercially important ones.
Yam can be prepared in different forms depending upon tribe and cultural beliefs. It can be boiled, pounded, smoked, fried, baked, roasted, grilled and barbecued.
Here are the health benefits of yams:
1. Cures Skin Diseases & Respiratory Problems
Yam contains allantoin, a cell proliferant that is used to heal wounds (boils, ulcers and other skin diseases) and to speed up cell regeneration. It can also be used as remedy for bronchial irritation, cough and other respiratory problems.
2. Excellent Source of Manganese
Yams are a good source of manganese, a mineral that is needed for the enzymes superoxide dismutase that regulates thyroid function, blood sugar, and energy metabolism. Deficiency of manganese could lead to birth defects, general weakness, retarded growth and impaired fertility.
3. Source of Antioxidants
Yam contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. The beta carotene and Vitamin C in yam help to keep free radicals away. Free radicals causes damage to cells, DNA and protein and are associated with diseases like cancer, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, among others. The antioxidants prevents damage caused by these free radicals.
Yam is also good for those suffering from arthritis and asthma.
4. Good Source of Energy
Yam is a good source of energy, a 3 ½ -oz (100 g) serving provides 116 calories. It contains complex carbohydrates and soluble dietary fiber which gradually slow the rate at which sugars are released and absorbed in the blood. Dietary fiber helps prevent constipation and decrease bad (LDL) cholesterol level.
5. Good Source of Vitamins
Yam is an excellent source of B complex vitamins like Vitamin B6, Vitamin B1, riboflavin, folic acid, pantothenic acid and niacin. It also contains a good amount of Vitamin C, A and Beta carotene.
6. Prevents Cancer
The soluble dietary fiber in yams helps to ward off colon cancer by preventing toxic compounds in the food from clinging to the colon mucosa. Vitamin C in yam also provides protection from lung cancer, stomach cancer, mouth cancer and throat cancer.
7. Improve Heart Health
Yams are loaded with vitamin B6, which helps to break down homocysteine- an amino acid that may be associated with heart disease.
According to a study published in the America Journal of Clinical Nutrition, low levels of vitamin B6 may increase the risk of inflammation and metabolic conditions, and subsequently cardiovascular disease risk.
8. Helps in RBC Production & Blood Flow
Yam contains Copper which is needed for the production of red blood cells and increased circulation of blood in the body. Yam also contains Iron which further perks up blood flow in the body.
9. Improves Digestion & Bowel Movements
Yams are a great source of dietary fiber which does help prevent constipation and as well contain a considerable amount of potassium which aids in healthy digestion and promotes good bowel movement.
10. Improves Brain Function
Yams are very rich in potassium- a mineral which supports the brain memory function. Your brain cannot perform optimally if starved of potassium for a long time.
According to a study, potassium has been found to increase in blood flow to the brain and optimal concentration, increased cognition and neural activity. Yam also contains folate which has been found to reduce the occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease.
11. Good Vision
Yams are rich in vitamin C, which can strengthen your immune system and lower your risk of macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of permanent blindness and at present, it has no cure.
12. Weight Control
Yams are the best food to eat if you are watching your weight. This is because they are rich in dietary fiber which helps you to feel fuller and satisfied for a long time.
Next time you you are served a plate of yam, enjoy it with all your heart!