Although Mexican wild yam is not used for cooking, the plant is a member of the 600-species-strong Dioscorea yam family. While wild yam has a long history of medicinal use especially as a woman’s herb, many of the other yams are delicious when cooked and form an important part of diets around the world. And they are good for you too…

[custom_frame_right shadow=”on”]Purple yam[/custom_frame_right] Yams, which look like sweet potatoes but are not related to them, are composed of complex carbohydrates and soluble dietary fibre, which together raise blood sugar levels more slowly than simple sugars and are therefore recommended as a low glycaemic index healthy food. The dietary fibre in them also helps to reduce constipation, decrease bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and prevent the risk of colon cancer by preventing toxic compounds in food from adhering to the colon mucosa.

Yams are also:

  • An excellent source of B-complex group of vitamins. They provide adequate daily requirements of pyridoxine (vitamin B6), thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin, folic acid, pantothenic acid and niacin. These vitamins are essential for healthy metabolic functions in the body.
  • Rich in vitamin-C, which plays an important role in anti-aging, immune function, wound healing and bone growth.
  • Yams contain small amounts of vitamin A and beta-carotene, both of which are strong antioxidants. Vitamin A has many functions like maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin, night vision, growth and protection from lung and oral cavity cancers.
  • The tubers are rich sources of minerals including copper, calcium, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. Potassium is important in controlling heart rate and blood pressure by countering hypertensive effects of sodium. Copper helps in the production of red blood cells. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme Superoxide dismutase. Iron is required for red blood cell formation.

Yams are widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions as well as temperate climates all over the world. The tubers are an important staple in Asia, Africa, and South America. In Africa, Nigeria is the world’s largest producer and exporter of yams.