It’s not just what’s above the ground that is rich in taste and health. There are few goodies found underground too that are far ahead in nutritional value.
Yam belongs to the family of tubers and is grown more in rural Africa in dry areas. Believed to have originated in Asia, yams were then carried to Africa around the first century.
There are 600+ varieties of yams. Popular varieties include Hawaiian yam, Korean yam, Chinese yam, sweet yam, white yam, yellow yam. 95% of these crops are grown in Africa. Yam is available all year round, unlike other seasonal crops.
Yam, commonly mistaken for sweet potato, contributes more than 200 calories per person on a single day (this applies to more than 150 million people in West Africa). Yam is an important source of income to Africans so you can well understand its significance.
In India, yam (also known as Suran and several other names) is prepared by slicing, seasoning with spices and deep frying. In Tamil Nadu, yam is served with rice dishes and fish curry.
Boiled, baked or fried with vegetables, there are so many interesting ways of having yam. You can also bake yam for breakfast.
Keeping the taste component aside, yam is packed with multiple benefits, which most of you might not be aware of. Have a look at what makes this veggie score many points over other vegetables. But before that let us know what separates yam from a sweet potato.
Yam and Sweet Potato – The Difference
How would you make out the difference between the two? Both are tuberous root vegetables that come from a flowering plant. They are not related to each other and don't have many things in common.
Yams are cylindrical-shaped. They have a bark-like skin, blackish or brown in colour, and their flesh is white, purple and sometimes reddish.
Sweet Potatoes belong to the morning glory family. Their colour varies from white, yellow, red, brown to purple. The flesh of a sweet potato varies between white, yellow, orange to orange-red.
Culinary-wise, yams are starchier and drier than sweet potatoes. As for availability, true yams are hard to find as compared to a sweet potato. Though you can locate them in local grocery stores, your chances of finding yam are higher in specialty and international markets.
Nutritional Value of Yam
Yam has sufficient quantities of potassium, manganese, thiamin and dietary fiber. It is also low in sodium and saturated fat. But the best part about yam is its protein content, which is the highest among all roots and tuber plants – higher than sweet potato too.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Benefits of Yam
Mineral and Vitamin rich
Yams are a terrific source of minerals and vitamins, particularly vitamin B6. This type of vitamin is extremely useful in breaking down a harmful amino acid that destroys the walls of blood vessels. If this amino acid called homocysteine stays in your blood, it weakens the blood vessels, exposing you to stroke.
Consuming B6 is extremely crucial in protecting your body against these diseases. And yams are there to provide you with adequate quantity of this beneficial vitamin.
Abundant in Potassium
Yams are rich in potassium that makes it ideal in controlling and managing blood pressure levels. Potassium deficiency can increase the chances of hypertension.
There is a certain protein known as dioscorin present in yams, which is beneficial for patients suffering from hypertension. In fact, dioscorin helps the kidneys receive a good amount of blood. This helps remove excess of water and reabsorbs essential mineral salts. This maintains the right fluid balance and helps manage blood pressure.
Good source of Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid)
Vitamin C is not only found in citrus fruits, but in yams too. This helps in building a healthy immune system and skin. It also prevents scurvy disease. Over and above that, vitamin C in yam is essential in managing high blood pressure. As you are know, better and improved circulatory system prevents severe ailments such as congestive heart failure, thrombosis, high cholesterol and atherosclerosis.
Yams fight cancer-inducing free radicals. The antioxidants present in yams prevent free radicals to evolve into cancerous cells, thereby protecting your body from various cancers including cancer of the prostate.
The vitamin C present in yams safeguards your body’s immunity. This helps prevents distortion in vision and the resulting ailments such as partial or even complete blindness.
Improves Bowel Habits
The dietary fibre found in Yam reduces constipation. It also contains potassium, which helps in boosting food digestion and stimulates muscle contraction in the stomach to bring about proper bowel habits.
Supports Female Endocrine System
Yam is of good use to menopausal women. It has an enzyme that acts as a natural alternative to hormonal replacement in females who have reached the stage of menopause.
Yam tubers are commonly used in traditional medicines in China, Korea and Japan. The tuber milk of yam has allantoin that speeds up the healing process when externally applied to ulcers and boils. Its decoction increases appetite and relieves cough and bronchial irritation etc.
Selection and Storage of Yam
Yams are available on a year-round basis. Now that we are in August, fresh tubers would be found plenty since it is the month when annual harvest season begins.
When you go to the supermarkets, you will find small cut sections of yam wrapped in transparent plastic covers. The flesh looks white to light pink depending upon the cultivar type.
Preparing and Serving of Yam
Sweet potatoes, as you know, can be eaten raw. Yams should never be eaten uncooked, as they have naturally built-in plant toxins. Yams should therefore be peeled and cooked in order to remove the bitter proteins in it.
Recipe for Yam Dahi Vada
(Recipe Source: Sulekha.com)
Start incorporating yam in your daily diet and reap all its health benefits.