Tasty, versatile and nutritious, yam, popular name for several tubers of the Dioscorea genus , is a very common food in some regions of Brazil and countries in Asia and Africa, where it originates.
However, it is not just for the taste that it is so popular, but for the numerous benefits that its consumption brings to health, such as improving the immune system, promoting strong bones and giving satiety, ideal for those who want to lose weight.
However, it is necessary to be careful with some myths that surround the internet, such as that the yam elixir can cure anemia, for example, which is not true.
Check out below some of the main benefits of this tuber and tips on how to consume it.
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8 Incredible Health Benefits of Yam
Yam is a food source of carbohydrates, dietary fiber and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and copper. In addition, it is possible to find vitamins A, several of the B, C and E complex in each serving.
1. Strengthens the immune system
Nutritionist Karla Maciel explained that one of the main benefits of adding yams to the menu is for the immune system, which is the body’s front defense against diseases.
According to her, this happens because it is “rich in zinc, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C and vitamins of the B complex”. All these nutrients work together to increase the production of cells that make up this immune system and fight infectious agents .
A curiosity is that the phyto-components of this tubercle also make these defense cells act faster when faced with an invader to the body. The result is that the body has a stronger defense and the chances of you and your family getting sick are reduced.
2. Regulates bowel function
Karla informed that this food also “helps in the intestinal functioning because it contains a good concentration of fiber ”, which is a type of non-digestible nutrient, therefore it is great for those who suffer from constipation.
To give you an idea, each 100 gram serving of cooked has 1.60 grams of these fibers, which serve to carry water to the intestine, preventing dryness and increasing the size of the stool, stimulating peristaltic movements, expelling them from the body .
3. Improves PMS symptoms
Do you suffer from symptoms of premenstrual tension (PMS) ? So know that yam is the right food for you to add to your menu in the days before menstruation .
What happens is that it “is a tuber that contains diosgenin, a phytohormone that helps in female hormonal modulation”, explains the professional. “This compound has a structure similar to human estrogens , normally used as raw material for the manufacture of contraceptive pills”, he adds.
The result of eating it is a control of the hormonal change that takes place during this period and that is the cause of all the dreaded symptoms, such as swelling, pain and irritation.
Do you know the best? Diosgenin also helps alleviate common menopause symptoms and problems as it aids in the natural replacement of female hormones.
4. Increases the chances of getting pregnant
Thanks to the presence of diosgenin, this tuber should be on the menu of those planning to get pregnant.
That’s because by stimulating the balance of female sex hormones, this compound can improve the quality of eggs and therefore increases fertility , explains Karla.
5. Aids in pressure control
Remember we said that yams are a source of potassium? Well, each serving has 231 mg of the mineral and this makes the tubercle a natural help to regulate blood pressure , as the professional guarantees.
To better understand:
Potassium works as a kind of fluid regulator , increasing the excretion of excess fluid , along with mineral salts such as sodium, through the urine.
What’s more, the nutrient is known to improve the functioning of the heart muscles, which is good not only to keep the pressure at good levels, but also to prevent this problem from causing damage to the heart.
6. Gives more energy and disposition
The yam is perfect for those who need a strong breakfast, whether to endure a busy day or before exercising.
That’s because it, like any tuber, is a source of carbohydrates , a type of nutrient that is transformed into sugar, which in turn is the main source of energy for the cells.
According to the nutrition specialist, thanks to this characteristic, it is a “great food option to improve energy and disposition, mainly due to the content of complex carbohydrates”, which are more difficult to be digested and, for this reason, are released more slowly in the body.
7. Strengthens bones
Another reason for you to come to appreciate yam is that it helps make bones strong, as it is a source of calcium, a mineral found mainly in bones.
When the intake of it is less than what the body needs, there is a reduction in the amount available, a condition known as hypoglycemia, which can mainly cause bone weakening , thus increasing the risk of fractures and diseases such as osteoporosis.
8. Acts to protect against cancer
Eating the tuber is another natural way to protect yourself against cancer. It is a source of compounds that are capable of preventing the growth of different types of tumor cells.
On top of that these are antioxidant substances . This means that they prevent the action of free radicals, unstable molecules that cause cell degeneration (oxidation) and consequently permanent tissue damage, which increases the risk of developing cancer.
“Does this mean that yam prevents or treats the disease?” No, not at all. Especially since cancer is a common name for many diseases, which are caused by many different factors. That said, what the tuber does is reduce the risks of its emergence through food.
How to make yam juice?
Yam is a very versatile food and can be consumed in the form of purees, soups or roasts. A very simple and tasty way to add it to the menu is in the form of a juice. The nutritionist Karla taught a super easy recipe, learn!
The first step is to peel, wash and cook the yam well. After that remove and discard the cooking water, place the pieces in a blender together with 200 ml of ice cold coconut water and 1 banana. Beat well and serve immediately.
This juice, in addition to being great for boosting immunity, is super refreshing and doesn’t need to be sweetened. Cool, huh?
Yam tea: how to make it?
Another option, which is used by folk medicine to treat hormonal problems, is tea made with tuber husks . To prepare it you must wash it well and remove the husk of a small yam.
Then bring them to the fire with a cup of filtered water and boil for 5 minutes, with the pan closed to extract all the medicinal properties of the food. Allow it to cool, strain and drink a cup a day.
If you are on any hormonal treatment or have a history of any illness, always consult your doctor before using any medicine, even if it is of natural origin.
Does yam make you fat or thin?
Karla Maciel clarifies that “yams are low in fat and, despite being rich in carbohydrates, have a low glycemic index.” This characteristic, as already mentioned, causes these nutrients to be metabolized more slowly .
In addition, “its fiber content takes a longer time for carbohydrates to be digested, not raising blood sugar levels and, therefore, achieving better control of insulin release,” he explains.
As a result, the tubercle ends up promoting an increase in satiety . That is, you eat less and feel full faster, which reduces your caloric intake during the day.
All of this makes yams help in healthy weight loss, however “as long as the person follows a healthy diet and practices regular physical activity”, concludes the professional.
Can you eat raw yam?
“The consumption of raw yam is not recommended, as it has a compound called oxalic acid, which can cause, in some people, itching and tingling in the lips, throats and hands, in addition to a burning sensation in the esophagus and mucosal irritation intestinal,” warns Karla.
The professional also highlighted that the tuber has antinutritional factors, which prevent the absorption of some important nutrients.
Among the main ones are phytates and tannins, which reduce the absorption of calcium and iron, for example, and they, as well as oxalic acid, are eliminated through the cooking process.
How to choose and save
You’ve seen some incredible benefits of yam here, but be aware that you also need to choose and store your food well to maintain all of its healthy characteristics.
The tuber, which can weigh between 500 grams and three kilos, must be without sprouts and with a very firm skin at the time of purchase. Those with moldy, soft or “wounded” parts deteriorate quickly.
The good news is that when carefully chosen, the yam is quite durable , and can stay for more than 15 days without having to go to the fridge. However, they should be kept in a dry, cool and dark place to prevent them from sprouting.
If you want to freeze it, the tip is to cook and prepare a puree. Defrosting can be done directly in the fire or in the microwave.
My name is Ellie Lauderdale, MD and I am USA based professional Nutritionist .
I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and board certified specialist in sports dietetics who is trained in integrative medicine. I have worked with hundreds of clients, from those suffering with chronic disease to professional and olympian athletes. My goal is to help optimize you from the inside so that you can feel, perform, and look your best on the outside.