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white african yam

What You Need To Know About Yams

african yam

What are Yams?

Yams are edible tubers belonging to the Dioscorea family of flowering plants, which mostly grow in temperate and tropic climates, including Africa, Asia, and Central America.

They’re cultivated as a staple food crop in West Africa, Central Africa, and New Guinea. Also, they’re the primary agricultural commodity and focal point of elaborate rituals in the mentioned regions.

This tuber is mostly mistaken for sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas), but yams are less sweet and starchier.

The tubers can be curved or lobed, cylindrical, with brown, pink, or black skin, and a yellow, orange or purplish flesh depending on the maturity of the tuber.

Most Yams are annual crops, meaning they’re harvested after one season, but some are perennial- the tubers continue to increase in size each year, with the vines dying back at the end of the season and re-growing again on the return of favorable environment.

How are Yams Cooked and Eaten            

 Yams are delicious in both savoury and sweet dishes. For dishes, they can be boiled or baked (unpeeled or peeled). After being boiled, you can mash them into sticky, paste, or dough.

Often consumed as vegetables, yams can be roasted and fried, just like potatoes and sweet potatoes.  You can use mashed yams as an accompaniment for stews, braises, and soups.  Sometimes they’re dried and grounded to produce flour or starch used in pies and quick bread.

The green part of the plant is also cooked and consumed as vegetables.

What are The Health Benefits of Yams?

Yams are very nutritious, versatile, and may improve your overall health. Let dive deeper and learn the nutritional benefits of yams.

1.   Filled with nutrition

Yams are rich in several nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and fibre. They’re an excellent source of manganese and potassium and manganese, which play an important role in supporting bone health, improving heart function, promoting growth, and increasing body metabolism.

Furthermore, they have a decent amount of micronutrients like vitamin C and copper. Copper is essential for red blood cell production and iron absorption.

On the other hand, vitamin C acts as a strong antioxidant that can improve your immune system and help you fight infections and illnesses.

2.   Improve overall digestive health

Yams come with resistant starches, which play the same role as soluble fat. After consuming yams, the resistant starch will not pass your stomach and small intestine undigested. It will be held to the colon, where it will feed your healthy gut bacteria—as a result, increasing the number of your digestive enzymes.

The resistant starch can reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of getting colon cancer.  They can also address several digestive problems like constipation, Crohn’s disease, diarrhoea, and ulcerative colitis.

3.   May improve brain function and relieve arthritis symptoms.

Consuming yams can increase your brain function. According to studies, individuals who eat yams and its supplements tend to have a higher brain function.

Most yams contain diosgenin, which possesses the ability to promote neuron growth and boost brain function.  This compound has shown great promise in improving the memory and learning abilities of mice placed in various maze tests. 

 It also can prevent the progression of osteoporosis arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

4.   Could help alleviate menopause symptoms

Yams might help to alleviate menopause symptoms by boosting the production of estrogen hormones- estrone and estradiol.

These two hormones usually decrease during menopause, therefore increasing their levels will ease the menopause symptoms.  Women are sometimes advised to consume yams to balance their hormones.

However, one study found that the usage of yam cream had very little to no effect on menopause symptoms, such as night sweats and flushing.

5.   Has the potential of fighting cancer

Besides being rich in vitamins and minerals, Yams also come with antioxidants that can help to prevent cancer. Research carried out on animals showed that food rich in yam could reduce colon tumours.

Another study found that extracts from Chinese yams, specifically the bark, prevented the growth of liver tumours and suppled antioxidants.

However, there’s limited research, and scientists are not sure if yams will have the same effect on humans.

6.   May aid weight loss

This tuber contains Glucomannan, a fibre that can help with weight loss.  At the doses of 2-4grams per day, this fibre converts into a gel that lingers in the stomach, making you feel full all day.  As a result, it prevents you from getting hungry and keeps cravings at bay, eventually resulting in weight loss.

7.   May aid diabetes treatment

Diabetes occurs because of a decrease in insulin secretion or increased cellular resistance to insulin.

A study on rats showed that yam could help to improve glucose metabolism. But we still need more research to confirm this benefit in people. Furthermore, yams can add natural sweetness to your food, thus reducing your sugar cravings.

Allantoin an active constituent in yams can help to modulate oxidative stress. Also, it can boost liver function, therefore maintaining blood sugar and insulin levels.


Yams are versatile and nutritious, tuber vegetables available in many shades of colours. They’re rich in minerals, vitamins, proteins, and antioxidants.

Furthermore, it’s linked to numerous health benefits and prevent cancer, inflammations and improve hormones and blood sugar levels.

Cooking this tuber is easy, and you can serve it with a variety of dishes.

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