Yams are tuber vegetables, often confused with sweet potatoes. Yams are more starchy and less sweet than sweet potatoes. They have white, yellow, purple or pink flesh like sweet potatoes. The colour depends on the maturity of the yam. White yams are high in potassium, while yellow, orange and purple flesh yams are full of antioxidants, complex carbohydrates and vitamins. They have a ton of health benefits. For example, they are a source of resistant fibre, which makes them an ideal food option for digestion and weight loss. Yams help prevent spikes in blood sugar after a hearty meal. In addition, they have several other qualities that make them nutritious.
Types of Yams
Japanese Mountain Yams
Japanese mountain yams are cylindrical and have pale hairy skin and white flesh. They are categorised as sticky yams and have a slimy texture. There is a traditional way to use uncooked yams. First, they have to be peeled and then thinly sliced. Then, you add them to salads. You can also use these yams to make a homemade dressing using rice wine and soy sauce.
These are globally famous vegetables, also known as Indian yams, cush-cush etc. These yams have thickened skins with textured skin and dry, firm white flesh. These vegetables have a bland taste, and people use them in mashed dishes.
Filipino Purple Yams (Ube)
Ube is a bright coloured yam category and has a thick brown skin and flesh colour ranging from purple to light lavender. People use them to make baked goods. In addition, people also use Ube powder to create purple food colouring.
Like Ube, these yams have purple flesh that people use in ice creams and desserts. These yams are very sweet and have an intense purple colour. People use Okinawan yams as candied yams. Additionally, you can use mashed purple yams for making roasted dishes.
People use Chinese yams for ornamental cinnamon-scented flowers. Therefore they are also commonly known as the “cinnamon vine”. These yams have a tube-like shape and bare skin like white flesh. This category of yams also has many medicinal uses.
White and Yellow Guinea Yams
These two yams are starchy vegetables with white flesh and light yellow skin. People use them as a substitute for mashed or roasted potatoes. In addition, you can also use them in stews and dumplings.
Nutritional Value of Yams
One hundred grams of yams contain:
- Calories: 116kCals
- Protein: 1.49g
- Fats: 0.14g
- Carbohydrates: 27.5g
- Fibre: 3.9g
Vitamin and Minerals
Yams also contain fair amounts of vitamins and minerals.
- Calcium: 14mg
- Iron: 0.52mg
- Magnesium: 18mg
- Phosphorus: 49mg
- Potassium: 670mg
- Vitamin C: 12.1mg
9 Surprising Health Benefits of Yams
1. Improves Hormonal Balance
The oestrogen levels reduce during menopause, and it affects hormone balance. As a result, it may lead to several conditions like osteoporosis. According to a study, yams regulate oestrogen hormone secretion. Therefore, it aids in preventing diseases in post-menopausal women. By the regulation of hormones, yams also help improve fertility.
2. Anticancer Properties
Cancer occurs due to the abnormal growth of cells. Oxidative damage by free radicals also causes cancer. Yams provide several antioxidants like phenols, flavonoids and vitamin C. These antioxidants have anti-cancerous properties. Antioxidant vitamins help prevent the growth of cancer cells by reducing the free radical damage to organs.
A study shows that antioxidants stop cancer cell growth. They may even destroy cancer cells.
3. Reduces Inflammation
The antioxidants present in yams help reduce chronic inflammation. Inflammation may lead to various conditions like diabetes and heart diseases. However, yams can help prevent such diseases because they are one of the best anti-inflammatory foods.
Several studies show that yams help reduce inflammation. As a result, they improve conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome. In addition, yams lessen the secretion of inflammatory components of the immune system. Therefore, they are beneficial in conditions such as ulcers and arthritis.
4. Improve Blood Sugar Levels
Studies show that yams help improve blood sugar levels. They contain resistant starch, which prevents blood sugar levels from rising, especially after a meal. As a result, they get digested slowly and slow down the release of glucose from food. Purple yams help improve blood sugar control, making them an excellent option for people with diabetes.
5. Improves Digestion
The resistant starch present in yams acts like soluble fibres. Therefore, it remains undigested and passes through the stomach and intestines. As a result, it helps feed the good gut bacteria and increases the digestive enzymes that promote healthy digestion. Therefore, yams are an excellent food for improving digestion.
6. Improves Gut Health
Yams contain reasonable amounts of dietary fibre. The fibre does not get digested in the stomach. Instead, it passes to the intestines, where it undergoes fermentation. The good bacteria in the gut help execute this process.
Fibre acts as food to the beneficial gut bacteria. It helps them grow and fight off harmful microbes. In addition, studies show that phenolic components of yams have antimicrobial properties. As a result, it helps improve gut health.
7. Helps in Weight Loss
Yams are rich in calories and dietary fibre. Studies have demonstrated that fibre aids weight loss. The roots of yam are edible, and they promote weight loss. Fibre passes through the digestive tract slowly. Therefore, they keep you feeling full for longer. As a result, they prevent cravings and overeating. Ultimately, they prevent unhealthy weight gain. In addition, fibre also helps in improving gut health. Yams act as food for good bacteria and prevent the growth of harmful microbes. As a result, they help strengthen the immune response.
8. Improves Brain Function
A decline in cognitive abilities can lead to many diseases. It may cause memory loss and confusion. Overall, it affects your mental health. It may ultimately result in conditions like Alzheimer’s.
According to a controlled study, yam extracts show enhanced cognitive function. Yams are highly nutritious as they are full of many vitamins and minerals. They also contain a compound called diosgenin that enhances brain functions. It Improves memory and learning ability.
9. Improves Skin Health
Yams are rich in antioxidants which help to rebuild skin cells. These antioxidants may reduce oxidative damage caused by free radicals. In addition, yams contain vitamin C, promoting collagen production in our bodies. It is a protein that helps maintain skin elasticity. Unfortunately, as we age, the collagen production in the body decreases. Therefore, yams can help us maintain collagen levels and improve skin health.
Studies suggest that vitamin C helps improve skin health. It protects the skin from sun damage. Additionally, it also helps reduce wrinkles and skin ageing.
Healthy Recipes Using Yams
1. Baked Yam Fries with Dip
Preparation Time: 35 minutes
- Olive oil: 0.5tbsp
- Yams (peeled and cut into wedges): 0.5 cup
- Hung Curd: 1tbsp
- Mixed Herb Seasoning: 0.5tsp
- Paprika: 2g
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Spread olive oil on a baking sheet.
- Arrange the yams on the baking sheet and season with salt and pepper.
- Bake the yams for about 25 minutes until soft.
- Mix the hung curd with herb seasoning and paprika in a small bowl.
- Serve it with the yam wedges.
2. Candied Yams
Preparation Time: 40min
- Yams (cubed): 15g
- Jaggery: 1tbsp
- Cinnamon: 0.5tsp
- Nutmeg: 0.5tsp
- Orange (juice): 2tbsp
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Cut the yams into cubes. Add them to a pot of boiling water.
- Boil for 5-7 minutes until they are slightly crooked.
- Transfer the yams to a greased baking pan.
- Mix the orange juice, jaggery, cinnamon and nutmeg in a cup. Pour this mixture over the yams.
- Bake the seasoned yams in the oven for about 25 minutes.
- Take them out and serve hot.
Precautions and Side Effects
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Resistant starch has beneficial effects on health. However, you should take in adequate amounts and not more. That is because it contains high amounts of fibre. Excess fibre intake may cause stomach disturbances. It occurs due to increased gas production. Studies suggest that people with inflammatory bowel disease should be cautious of high fibre consumption. High fibre leads to symptoms such as:
- Stomach discomfort
- Abdominal pain
If you are allergic to yams, you should be very cautious. According to a study, people that are allergic to yams may experience the following symptoms:
- Difficulty in breathing
- Swelling of throat
- Watery eyes
- Runny nose
The Bottom Line
Yams are full of nutrients like vitamin A, E and C. They also contain fair amounts of other minerals like manganese, zinc, phosphorus, iron and calcium. These nutrients are highly beneficial for the human body as they promote good health. Yams are also a natural source of vitamin C and other antioxidants, which help improve skin health. In addition, they have several other benefits. For example, they have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Additionally, they also improve brain function, aid in weight loss etc. Although, if you have a history of allergies, it’s better to avoid them. It is preferable to consult your healthcare professional before consuming them.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Is yam good for health?
A. Yes, yams are incredibly nutritious. They provide a fair amount of vitamins and macronutrients. The body requires these for healthy functioning. In addition, they can help reduce inflammation and maintain a healthy digestive system.
Q. What are the side effects of eating yams?
A. If you are allergic to yams, they can cause severe allergy symptoms like hives, swollen lips, tongue and throat, difficulty breathing.
Q. Are yams superfood?
A. Yes, yams are a superfood because they are full of vitamins. They also contain calcium, selenium, iron, and many antioxidants. These nutrients encourage healthy body function. Yams are also beneficial in managing menopausal symptoms.
Q. Can you eat yams every day?
A. Yes, as long as you consume them in moderation. Excess consumption can cause stomach upset due to high fibre content. However, if you are trying to build muscle, eating yams helps. They are high in carbs and calories. Therefore, they provide you with the required energy to go about your day without adverse effects.
Q. Do yams increase weight?
A. Yes, having yams every day can lead to some weight gain. That is because they are high in carbohydrate content which can eventually lead to weight gain. It can occur when you consume them in excess. However, moderate consumption doesn’t do any harm.
Q. Can diabetics eat yams?
A. Yes, people with diabetes can eat yams as they are rich in fibre, predominantly yellow and purple. These fibres can help manage and lower blood sugar levels (glucose).
Q. Are yams high in oestrogen?
A. Yams have oestrogen-regulating properties. Therefore they help benefit post-menopausal women. In addition, you can use them as a food supplement in hormone replacement therapy to manage symptoms of menopause.
Q. Is yam carb or protein?
A. Yams are a carbohydrate source. For example, 100g of yams contain 27 grams of carbs and only 1.5 grams of protein.
Q. Does yam help with weight loss?
A. Yams can help with weight loss as they are rich in dietary fibre. It helps to feel full for longer and reduces the need to binge eat and snack on unhealthy foods between meals.
Q. Is yam high in carbs?
A. Yes, yams are high in carbohydrates. For example, a 100 gram serving of yam contains up to 27 grams of carbohydrates.
Q. Why do bodybuilders eat yams?
A. Yams are an excellent source of micronutrients and carbohydrates. Bodybuilders require carbohydrates to maintain a calorie surplus diet during the bulking period. A 100g serving of yams can provide you with 27 grams of carbs.
Q. Do yams have steroids in them?
A. Yams contain certain compounds which can act like steroids. However, these compounds are present in very little quantity. Instead, yams help with muscle growth by providing reasonable amounts of carbohydrates.
Q. Are yams good for pregnancy?
A. Yes, yams can be very good for pregnant women. They have oestrogen-regulated properties, which help maintain uterine health and ensure a healthy pregnancy. They are also rich in iron and zinc, essential nutrients for pregnant females.
Q. Does eating yams help menopause?
A. Yes, yams can help manage many symptoms related to menopause like hot flashes, mood swings, dryness etc. In addition, they provide the body with the required nutrients and help boost natural hormone levels.