– Dr. Panchali Moitra
When it comes to healthy vegetables, yam often falls behind its much admired friends such as carrots and spinach. These humble starchy tubers are in fact very rich in nutritional value and a staple crop in many countries. Widely cultivated across continents, yams are available in as many as 600 different varieties and are usually consumed steamed, roasted, baked or stir fried. Depending on the variety, the long, cylindrical yams may have white, yellow or purple colored flesh. They work as excellent meat substitutes and add a delicious twist to vegetable dishes.
Learn the diverse health benefits of yams and get ready to enjoy their firm, earthy taste as a part of a healthy diet.
Source of Energy
Yams are often considered to be common man’s energy provider. 100 gm of yam or a medium sized yam provides approx 120 calories, which comes primarily from complex carbohydrates. The presence of dietary fiber ensures a slower rate of digestion, steadier release of glucose into blood stream and a longer lasting energy. Yams assist in weight loss by keeping the stomach full and reducing cravings. Yams are also richest protein sources among root vegetables, including potatoes and beetroots.
The healthy combination of fiber and antioxidant in yams helps to cut cholesterol build up in arteries by lowering fat absorption. They are a good source of vitamin B 6 (needed to reduce blood homocysteine levels, a known trigger for heart diseases and hypertension) and potassium, a mineral required to maintain optimum blood pressure. Studies link ‘dioscorin’, a protein present in yams to reduced risk to heart attacks and strokes.
Reduces menopausal symptoms
Traditional medicine establishes a strong connection between eating yams and proper functioning of female endocrine system, especially post menopause. Though more scientific evidence is needed on the estrogenic effect of yams, studies show improvement in menopausal symptoms such as night sweats, dryness and hot flashes after yam ingestion. Yam has been suggested as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy owing to its estrogen like activity. The chemical ‘diosgenin’ imparts anti inflammatory, anti spasmodic and anti oxidant attributes to yams. Yams are recommended for reducing menstrual cramps, arthritic pain, and muscular fatigue and for better nerve transmission. They are also known to alleviate water retention and morning sickness in pregnant women.
Eating yam promotes better digestive health. The dietary fiber in yams relieves constipation, prevents toxin accumulation and reduces risk to colon cancer, diverticulitis and irritable bowel syndrome.
Yams are abundant in vitamin C, B complex and minerals such as manganese, calcium, iron and phosphorus.
Large amounts of yam or wild yam containing supplements may cause nausea, abdominal discomfort and diarrhea. While you may include yams in moderation without worrying about its side effects, consulting your physician is a must for pregnant and lactating women and people on hypertension medications.