The Health Benefits of Yam and all you need to know.
Renowned Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe once described yam as the “king of crops,” and it is indeed a staple in many African countries alongside cassava and sweet potatoes. This tropical tuber, available in white, yellow, or pink flesh, is not only a delightful addition to various dishes but also a powerhouse of essential nutrients with several health benefits.
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Yam, with its diverse varieties, is a rich source of vitamins and minerals, making it a valuable component of a balanced diet. According to dietician-nutritionist Marion Ezzedine, who runs a dietetic practice in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, yam is an excellent source of fibre (with 4% compared to 2% in potatoes and 1% in rice), along with vitamins B1, B6, and C. It also contains essential minerals such as copper, manganese, phosphorus, and potassium, as well as antioxidants.
One notable advantage of yam is its gluten-free nature, making it an ideal alternative for individuals with gluten sensitivity or intolerance. The tuber is a popular and nutritious food in Benin, Togo, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Ivory Coast, where it is prepared in various ways, from boiling to frying or pounding with sauce.
Thanks to its high carbohydrate content (24%), yam provides a substantial source of energy, offering an average of 115 kcal per 100 g. Compared to rice and boiled potatoes, yam’s nutritional profile stands out.
Beyond its nutritional richness, yam has several health benefits, including aiding digestion and improving intestinal transit due to its high fibre content. Its lower glycemic index, when regularly consumed, can contribute to long-term blood sugar regulation, making it a suitable option for individuals with diabetes, children, and pregnant women.
The vitamin C content in yam provides antioxidant properties, strengthening the immune system and helping prevent diseases and infections. Additionally, yam’s anti-inflammatory effects can alleviate conditions such as arthritis and contribute to preventing liver and kidney diseases.
Here are some key nutritional Health Benefits of Yam:
- Carbohydrates and Energy Source: Yams stand out as an excellent source of carbohydrates, providing essential energy for the body to function optimally. With a high carbohydrate content of 24%, yams offer a substantial energy boost, providing an average of 115 kcal per 100 g.
- Dietary Fiber and Vitamins: Rich in dietary fiber, yams contribute to digestive health. Comparatively, yams contain 4% fiber, outshining potatoes (2%) and rice (1%). Additionally, yams boast essential vitamins, including B1, B6, and C.
- Minerals and Antioxidants: The tuber is a treasure trove of essential minerals such as copper, manganese, phosphorus, and potassium. These minerals play crucial roles in maintaining various bodily functions. Furthermore, yams contain antioxidants, providing additional health benefits.
- Gluten-Free Alternative: For individuals with gluten sensitivity or intolerance, yams offer a gluten-free alternative, adding to their appeal as a versatile and inclusive food option.
Across Africa, yam enjoys popularity as a nutritious and traditional staple, embraced in countries like Benin, Togo, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Ivory Coast. Its preparation methods vary, with boiling, frying, or pounding with sauce being common practices.
“I enjoy yam thoroughly in my village. It has a unique taste, and people have different preferences—some find it sweet, while others perceive it as bitter. I personally like to boil or fry it. On the other hand, I’m not a big fan of foutu; I don’t enjoy it as much. I prefer yam boiled and fried, and that’s how I truly love it,” shares Maxime, a passionate yam enthusiast.
René adds, “I love yams, especially kponan yams. I consume them once or twice a week, and they pair well with gouagouassou sauce, which adds an extra layer of sweetness. Imagining cooking yam and serving it with gouagouassou sauce feels symbolic; it feels like it contributes to growth,” he muses.
In essence, beyond its culinary appeal, yam emerges as a wholesome and culturally cherished food, delivering a myriad of health benefits that contribute to a well-rounded and nourishing diet.
Yam’s Impact on Blood Sugar Regulation: A Diabetes-Friendly Option
Yam stands out as a favourable choice for individuals seeking to regulate blood sugar levels, especially for those with diabetes, children, and pregnant women. The key lies in yam’s lower glycemic index compared to other carbohydrate sources, signifying a positive impact on long-term blood sugar control.
With over 70% starch content, yam contributes to lowering the glycemic index, aiding in the reduction of diabetes risk and promoting slow digestion. This nutritional profile has led experts, including dietitian-nutritionist Marion Ezzedine, to recommend yam as a part of the diet for certain groups of people.
Marion Ezzedine emphasises that the glycemic load of yam is moderate, making it a suitable occasional food for individuals with diabetes. Pregnant women and children can also enjoy yam without concerns. However, for those facing kidney failure, a cautious approach is advised due to the tuber’s high mineral content. It is recommended to monitor yam consumption, and the method of cooking can influence its nutritional value, with boiling being considered a preferable option over frying.
In summary, yam’s impact on blood sugar regulation positions it as a diabetes-friendly food, offering a palatable and nutritious alternative for those looking to manage their blood sugar levels effectively.
Yam’s Multifaceted Health Benefits: Immune Support and Anti-Inflammatory Effects
Yams, beyond being a culinary delight, emerge as a robust contributor to overall health, notably in fortifying the immune system and offering anti-inflammatory effects. The vitamin C content within yams is endowed with antioxidant properties, playing a pivotal role in enhancing the immune system and serving as a preventive measure against diseases and infections.
Furthermore, yams exhibit anti-inflammatory properties that actively work to reduce inflammation within the body. This quality becomes particularly valuable in relieving pain associated with conditions such as arthritis, providing a natural and holistic approach to managing discomfort.
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In addition to its immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory capabilities, yams contribute to preventing liver and kidney diseases. The nutrients inherent in yams act as defenders against memory disorders, diabetes, and high blood pressure, showcasing the diverse range of health benefits packed into this humble tuber.
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The potassium content in yams adds another layer of utility, aiding in maintaining a healthy nervous system, promoting optimal muscle function, and contributing to the regulation of blood pressure. This comprehensive spectrum of health advantages positions yams not just as a staple in various cuisines but as a valuable ally in promoting overall well-being.
Health Benefits of Yam: A Natural Aid for Menopausal Relief
Yams, known for their versatility and nutritional richness, emerge as a natural remedy for menopausal symptoms. The high content of diosgenin in yams, found in their roots, plays a crucial role in alleviating the signs associated with menopause.
Diosgenin, a natural plant compound, acts as a stimulant for progesterone and estrogen, two hormones that undergo reduction during menopause. The drop in progesterone levels, in particular, can contribute to various challenges such as sleep disorders, frequent sugar cravings, and water retention problems.
While some individuals may resort to chemical progesterone as advised by experts to address these hormonal imbalances, it comes with potential side effects like acne and weight gain. Yam presents itself as a natural and alternative solution to combat these issues, providing relief from menopause-related disorders and enabling women to rediscover a great sense of well-being.
Conclusion on Health Benefits of Yam.
It’s important to note that the therapeutic and nutritional values of yams may vary slightly depending on the yam variety and the cooking method employed. As we have explored, yams stand as a prime example of a balanced and healthy diet, offering not only a unique flavour but also a wide range of health benefits.