While they are often consumed around the world, the health benefits of yams aren’t often discussed. If you’ve never had yams before, or don’t consume them as often as you would like, after reading this article to the end, you will have discovered a new found joy and appreciation for them.
Ready to learn more about yams? Then let’s go.
What Are Yams?
First and foremost, it is important to state that yams and sweet potatoes are not the same thing. Even though they are both regarded as root vegetables, there are different. That is about as much similarities as they possess.
Yams are believed to have originated in South Asia or Africa, while sweet potatoes are native to South and Central America.
Yams are also quite diverse; their size can range from a few inches to several feet, color can vary from white, to brown and even gray, and can possess a taste that is bitter, neutral or sweet. There’re over 600 varieties of yams available, with over 95% of these still grown in Africa. Nigeria currently accounts for about 70% of the world’s total yam production, with the other top four nations all found in Africa.
Not surprisingly, this is a huge point for its source of origin, but enough about that. Yams are an extremely important source of nutrition for many countries around the world, and are a part of native cuisine in many nations
Yam Nutrition (Per cup, cooked)
Dietary Fiber-5g 21% RDI
Protein-2g 4% RDI
Vitamin A-166IU 3% RDI
Vitamin C-16.5mg 27% RDI
Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol) 0.5mg 2% RDI
Vitamin K-3.1mcg 4% RDI
Thiamin-0.1mg 9% RDI
Vitamin B6-0.3mg 16% RDI
Folate-22mcg 5% RDI
Pantothenic Acid-0.4mg 4% RDI
Calcium-19mg 2% RDI
Iron-0.7mg 4% RDI
Magnesium-24.5mg 6% RDI
Phosphorus-66.6mg 7% RDI
Potassium-911mg 26% RDI
Copper-0.2mg 10% RDI
Manganese-0.5mg 25% RDI
12 Amazing Health Benefits of Yam
1. May Promote Fertility
Surprisingly, consuming more yams can actually boost a woman’s fertility. Yams have been found to possess phytohormones that are structurally related to the natural hormones produced by women, primarily progesterone.
Many of the world’s commercially available topical progesterone products are actually sourced from wild yam, being used natively in parts of the world where they are grown to help increase fertility.
2. May Help Alleviate Menopause Symptoms
Menopause is characterized by a sharp and rapid decline in the natural production of female hormones, which bring about a series of physical and endocrinological problems that many women find difficult to deal with. Hormone replacement therapy is a common option to alleviate the symptoms women experience, with yams actually being one of the primary sources for an ingredient known as diosgenin, used as a starting point for some hormone replacement pills.
Consuming yams as-is can also help, though you may need a greater amount of the vegetable for therapeutic benefit.
3. Can Support Healthy Glucose Metabolism
You would not expect yams to be much help in the management of diabetes, since they appear starch heavy, but turns out that they are extremely useful. Yams can actually improve glucose metabolism, by enhancing insulin sensitivity, and contains compounds which can directly reduce oxidative stress on the pancreas.
Chronic oxidation causes inflammatory damage to this organ and can result in reduced insulin production, worsening your prognosis of diabetes.
4. Supports Skin Health
Yams are an excellent source of vitamin C, a nutrient very important to the overall health of your skin. Vitamin C supports the synthesis of collagen, a structural protein that helps to keep the integrity of the skin intact. Vitamin C will also reduce the effect of sun damage on the skin by neutralizing many of the free radicals it helps generate.
Collagen also helps support the health of your joints, which positively benefits from the consumption of yams.
5. Supports Heart Health
Yams are capable of helping the heart in numerous ways. For instance, they contain abundant amounts of fiber, which can help to reduce cholesterol levels and decrease the likelihood of atherosclerotic plaques developing.
In addition to this, however, is the presence of vitamin B6. This vitamin helps to breakdown home homocysteine, a compound produced from the metabolism of the amino acid cysteine.
This compound can damage cell walls and increase your risk of heart attacks or stroke significantly.
Many people diagnosed with heart disease have higher than normal homocysteine levels and need to always keep an eye on levels of this compound in order to minimize their cardiac risk.
6. Maintains Blood Pressure And Fluid Balance
Blood pressure and fluid balance is intricately linked. One seemingly regulates the other. Amongst them, one key mineral that plays an extremely important role is potassium. In contrast to sodium, which causes the retention of water and subsequently increases fluid and blood volume, potassium exerts a balancing effect, by promoting the excretion of sodium and excess water. This function is important to maintaining normal blood volume, which translates to optimal blood pressure.
This is why many people with hypertension are prescribed medications such as diuretics which help to remove sodium from the body. Consuming more yams can help you meet your potassium requirements quite easily.
7. Promotes Healing Of Scars And Wounds
Yams have been used natively as a component of poultices for generations, although many people do not appreciate the reason why. As it turns out, a compound known as allantoin is the reason. This compound helps to speed up the recovery of wounds, and can help to heal abscesses. It is useful for extremely painful abscesses that may make movement difficult.
8. Promotes Bowel Regularity
Without question yams are extremely fiber dense, making them excellent for regularity. Fiber helps speed the movement of waste material along the intestinal tract, where they are stored for a short in the colon before being evacuated. Rapid movement of feces out of the body is important for minimizing the exposure time these toxins are in contact with healthy cells that line the colon, for example, helping to reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancers.
9. Supports Red Blood Cell Synthesis
Even though iron is frequently regarded as the only thing important for the production of red blood cells, way more goes into this. Yams are not at the top of the list when it comes to iron content, but they do exceedingly well when it comes to copper. Copper is also an important requirement for the synthesis of red blood cells, making yams one of the top tier foods for treating anemia and increasing your blood count.
If you feel frequently tired, lethargic or otherwise out of energy, try eating some yams – over a period of a few weeks you should start to see an improvement thanks to the production of new red blood cells.
10. May Support Weight Loss
Yams can help increase your weight loss potential by a couple different mechanisms. For one, their ability to help balance glucose levels mean that your cravings for sugar, and the likelihood of calories being stored as fat are reduced. In addition to this, a compound extracted from the roots known as glucomannan, possesses appetite suppressant properties, by forming a gel like substance in the stomach that slows the absorption of carbohydrates even more. When the body notices that foods, or calories are still in the blood, in response hormones that trigger hunger are not released.
11. Supports Brain Health
Yams are an excellent source of the B vitamin thiamine, which plays a role in supporting normal cognition. A deficiency of this B vitamin is often associated with conditions such as memory loss, depression or neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
It is believed that by ensuring you consume enough of this vitamin, you enhance neurological function, and reduce the likelihood or number of neurons being lost due to age.
This is why it is extremely promising in the management of diseases that cause subsequent loss of cognitive function, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
12. May Support Hair Growth
Consumption of more yam can help improve the health of your tresses, or improve greatly the growth of your hair if you notice tinning. The presence of multiple B vitamins can help to keep to hear in active anagen, or growth phase. In addition to this, its ability to help stimulate blood synthesis means that the enhanced circulation is fed to the follicles. The presence of trace minerals, such as manganese and copper also lend themselves to rapid growth of hair, and can minimize the appearance of dull, lifeless hair.
Short Note About Warnings
Yams must not be consumed prior to being cooked. This is because they contain potentially toxic compounds which are subsequently destroyed once exposed to the cooking process.
Yams are the real deal as their varied range of health benefits keep your body functioning well for years to come.
The relative ease of access, since they are available in virtually all continents across the globe, and affordability make this food a no-brainer if you are serious about improving your health and well-being.