Yams are perennial herbaceous vines that are native to countries like Asia, Africa, and Tropical America. They belong to the plant family Dioscoreaceae and are long and cylindrical in shape, with rough, scaly exteriors. There are around 200 varieties of yams all around the world, which are usually available throughout the year. However, the best season for the cultivation of the vegetable is from the month of October to December. Due to its abundance in countries like West Africa and New Guinea, the vegetable have become an important part in the cultural web of these regions and is even worshipped in certain areas. Some varieties of commercially important yams are Dioscorea esculenta (sweet yam), Dioscorea alata (Hawaiian yam) and Dioscorea batatas (Korean yam). Through this article, explore all about the diverse nutritional and medicinal benefits of the different varieties of yams.
Health Benefits Of Eating Yams
- Wild yam has been used as a form of traditional herbal Chinese medicine for a long time. It is mainly used for the proper functioning of the renal and the female endocrine system. For instance, its root has been traditionally given to lactating women. However, there is no clear evidence to support this theory and studies are still going on to establish a connection between diosgenins (a chemical substance found in yam) and the female endocrine function.
- Wild yam also helps decrease water retention and alleviates nausea during pregnancy.
- Yams have high levels of Vitamin B6, which is a popular supplement for women suffering from depression due to premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Regular intake of Vitamin B6 is also beneficial against a number heart conditions and stroke, as they help in the breakdown of a chemical substance called homocysteine. High levels of this substance cause direct damage to the walls of the blood vessels, leading to a number of health problems.
- The rate of conversion of the complex carbohydrates and fiber, present in yam, into sugar is very slow and their absorption rate into the blood stream is also very slow. Thus, they help maintain the blood sugar level. In addition, due to their high fiber content, yams help control the body weight, by the uniform distribution of weight without transferring extra weight to the hip area or the waistline.
- Yams are rich in manganese, which is an essential factor for the metabolism of carbohydrate and antioxidant defenses. It is also a co-factor in a number of enzymes that are related to the production of energy.
- Mexican wild yam is a very effective antispasmodic and is used in conditions like menstrual cramps, pain, improper circulation, neuralgia, nerve tension, muscle tension, abdominal and intestinal cramps and even in inflammatory stages of RA.
- Yam supplies elements that are important for optimal glandular function and benefits the respiratory, urinary and nervous systems.
- Another positive trait of yam is that it helps control high blood pressure or hypertension. This is because of the fact that yams are a good source of potassium, which helps maintain the blood pressure level.
- Yams also aid the process of digestion, by dilating vessels and stimulating bile flow.
- Intake of wild yam can cause certain side effects, like vomiting, diarrhea, and headache.
- People with certain conditions, like liver diseases, ovarian cancer and prostate cancer, should be careful while using products made of wild yam.
- Certain wild varieties of yam must be cooked properly before eating, as certain materials in the raw yam can causes illness, if taken without cooking.
- Yams can be prepared in a number of ways: fried, boiled, and even pounded into dough-like form.
- Contrary to the cooking rule, Japanese take their yams raw and grated. To neutralize the irritant oxalate crystals found in their skin, they soak the tubers in a vinegar-water solution and have it as a side dish or mixed with noodles.