Yams Benefits

Health Benefits of Yams

I welcome all of you to the wonderful journey on the "benefits of yams."

Yams are members of the Dioscoreae family and they are one of the oldest food plants known. They have been cultivated since 50,000 BC in Africa and Asia.  They are underground tuber.

Yams are one of the most popular and widely consumed foods all over the world. They play a staple role in the diets.

They are long and cylindrical in shape, with rough, scaly exteriors. There are around 200 varieties of yams all around the world, which are usually available throughout the year, even though the best season for the cultivation of this vegetable is from the month of October to December.

Some varieties of commercially important yams are Dioscorea esculenta (sweet yam), Dioscorea alata (Hawaiian yam) and Dioscorea batatas (Korean yam)

The main edible species in India (especially South India) is the elephant foot yam.  It is called elephant yam not because it is made from actual elephants, but because the plant looks like the foot of an elephant and it is actually very large.

Yams are a good source of dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin C, manganese, calcium, iron, phosphorous and vitamin B6, as well as with trace minerals like selenium, zinc and copper.

Some of the health benefits of yam are given below:

1. Yams are rich in vitamin C.  Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and can help to slow down the aging process and prevent many diseases like cancer.  It is also important in promoting the absorption of iron, maintaining healthy skin, and protecting against infections.

2. The tuber is excellent source of B-complex group of vitamins, like pyridoxine (viamin B6), thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin, folic acid, pantothenic acid and niacin. The B6 vitamin is required by the liver, helps our digestive system with processing proteins and fats.  High intakes of vitamin B6 have also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.

3. They also contain folic acid and other B vitamins which help to detoxify excess estrogen and is beneficial with symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.

4. Yams contain complex carbohydrates and fiber, which deliver the goods gradually, slowing the rate at which their sugars are released and absorbed into the bloodstream. So they are very much useful for diabetic patients and is recommended as low glycemic index food.

5. In addition, because they are rich in soluble dietary fiber, it provides satiety and so helpful in reducing weight.  Moreover we all know that dietary fiber helps to reduce constipation, decrease bad or "LDL" cholesterol levels.  They are also roughage provider because of its richness in fiber content.  So by making yams a part of our diet, we can ripe plenty of goodness for our intestinal health.

6. One cup of yams (cubed and cooked) has 158 calories with less than 2 calories being from fat. It provides about 21% of the daily value of fiber, 27% of vitamin C, and 26% of potassium.

7. Yams are rich in manganese, an essential factor for the metabolism of carbohydrate and antioxidant defenses.  It is also a co-factor in a number of enzymes that are related to the production of energy.  Without manganese, we would not be able to process these nutrients in our system, which are so essential to our body health.

8. It is a rich source of essential fatty acids (Omega-3 fatty acids), which are known to increase the good cholesterol (HDL) levels in the blood.

9. Yams are a good source of potassium, a mineral that helps to control blood pressure and can reduce risk of stroke.  Potassium also increases muscular strength and helps to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, helps fluid balances, and heartbeat regulation.

10. Copper present in yam is required in the production of red blood cells.

11. Iron present in yam is required for red blood cell formation.  Folate helps us to process homo-cysteine, a type of an amino acid in our body. This water-soluble vitamin also helps to control anemic problems.

12. Yams also contain a unique phytoestrogen called diosgenin, a hormonal molecule that is currently being experimented for its potential anticancer effects and for the synthesis of the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

13. Extensive research is also going on Dioscorin, a storage protein contained in yam for its benefit on increased kidney blood flow and reduced blood pressure.

14. Eating cooked yam everyday can help relieve diarrhea in cold weather and nourish lungs and relieve chronic coughing and asthma.

15. Yam congee(type of porridge) nourishes skin and hair in dry weather.

16. Yams are also a recommended dietary ingredient for people with anemia, chronic intestine inflammation, poor appetite and indigestion, although they are not recommended for those with constipation.

17. Yams also aid the process of digestion, by dilating vessels and stimulating bile flow.

18. Wild yam helps to decrease water retention.

19. Mexican wild yam is a very effective antispasmodic and is used in conditions like menstrual cramps, pain, improper circulation, neuralgia, nerve tension and muscle tension.

20. The elephant yam is widely used in the treatment of patients suffering from piles.

21. Yam is considered to be a healthy low-fat food and hence can be consumed without any fear of weight gain.

22. It also act as anticoagulant (prevents blood from clotting).

23. Yam also contains good amount of vitamin-A and beta carotene levels.  Vitamin A has many functions like maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin, night vision, growth and protection from lung and oral cavity cancers.

24. Recent research also shows that rich mucoprotein present in yams can promote protein absorption and improve immunity. It can also help prevent hardening of arteries and relieve high blood sugar.

25. Its rich dioscin helps improve cell metabolism and adjust internal secretion, thus helping perfect skin and lengthen one's life.

26. Its decoction is also used to stimulate appetite and to relieve bronchial irritation, cough etc.

Yams can be used in variety of cuisines either boiled, baked, or fried, sometimes roasted.  It is also used like sweet potatoes in the preparation of cake, casseroles, breads etc.  Yam soup provides us with all essential nutrients.

1. While buying yams, we have to choose yams that are firm and do not have any cracks, bruises or soft spots.

2. Also it is better to avoid refrigerated yams, as cold temperature negatively alters their taste.  They should be stored loose and not kept in a plastic bag.

3. Yams should not be eaten raw, since they contain many naturally occurring plant toxins including dioscorin, diosgenin and tri-terpenes.  They must be peeled and cooked in order to remove these bitter proteins.

4. Intake of wild yam can cause certain side effects, like vomiting, diarrhea, and headache.

5. People with certain conditions like liver diseases, ovarian cancer and prostate cancer, should be careful while using products made of wild yam.

6. Pregnant women must avoid Yam.

7. Many of us can have an allergic reaction to peeling yams, so soak your hands in vinegar water beforehand.

So after going through the above article hope all of us would have come to the conclusion of enriching our body with yam to gain better health through a great tasting vegetable.

About the author:  Bhavani Raman, a successful ex-student of Enoma, is working as a family and Juvenile counsellor.  She was also working as a medical transcriptionist and is also a pursuing a diploma on food and nutrition.  She enjoys reading books, meditation, meeting people, spending time with her family and friends and also a Reiki practitioner.

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