9 Potential Health And Nutrition Benefits Of Eating Yams

Reviewed By Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and certified Personal Trainer Alexandra Dusenberry, MS, RDN
by Sindhu Koganti

Yams are well-known for their health benefits. Wild yam extracts are also suitable for use in skincare products due to their anti-inflammatory properties (1).

A cup of yams (136 grams) has about 158 calories. It also contains about 5 g of fiber, 19 mg of calcium, and 17 mg of vitamin C (2).

Current research states that the intake of yams may aid in the prevention of obesity and boost immunity (3). In this post, we will delve into all the potential health benefits of eating yams. Keep scrolling!

What Are The Health Benefits Of Eating Yams?

Yams are among the most flavorsome vegetables you can eat. As root vegetables that have been around for ages, yams also have a long history of use in alternative medicine. The roots and rhizomes of yam particularly contribute to its benefits.

1. May Promote Skin Health

Yams are rich in diosgenin, a plant steroid that fights against skin aging in women at the time of menopause. An in vivo animal studies on mice has found that the administration of diosgenin improves the epidermal thickness in ovariectomized mice without altering the degree of fat accumulation (4).

However, more research is required to understand the skin benefits of yams on humans.

2. May Aid Weight Loss

Glucomannan, a fiber extracted from the roots of yam, may help with weight loss. At doses of 2-4 g per day, this fiber turns into a gel that ling1ers in the stomach, making you feel full (5). Thus, it can keep your cravings at bay and eventually lead to weight loss.

3.May Promote Fertility

A research study shows that yams have the potential to promote fertility (6).

Lately, natural hormones are becoming popular options for hormone replacement therapy. Creams containing wild yam extracts are emerging as the ideal choice for some women. “Natural” progesterone is commonly derived from an inedible, wild, Mexico-produced yam called Dioscorea uillosa.

4. May Relieve Menopause Symptoms

Diosgenin, a substance in wild yam, is used to treat sex hormone issues. It is also used to produce contraceptives and relieve the symptoms of menopause and premenstrual syndrome. A study conducted at the Baker Medical Research Institute (Australia) has found that this substance could relieve menopausal symptoms without any side effects (7).

Traditional medication acknowledges that yams contain important compounds that are significantly advantageous for issues like menopause and premenstrual syndrome. Additionally, a study conducted at the National Taiwan Normal University showed that the ingestion of yam can boost the status of sex hormones, lipids, and other antioxidants in postmenopausal women (8).

5. May Aid Diabetes Treatment

Diabetes is caused by a decrease or deficiency in insulin secretion (or from increased cellular resistance to insulin). A study conducted on rats found that yam can contribute to the improvement of glucose metabolism (9). However, more research is required to verify this benefit in humans.

Additionally, the sugar in yams adds a natural sweetness to your meals and reduces your craving for sugar.

Yam and its active constituent, allantoin, can modulate oxidative stress. They also boost liver function, thereby maintaining insulin and glucose levels (10).

6. May Fight Inflammation

The outer bark of the wild yam root is rich in a compound called saponin. Saponins may help fight inflammation. Thus, yams may combat inflammation and help relax (and even treat) your abdominal and pelvic muscles. The antioxidant property of saponins may also help reduce inflammation related to various diseases (11).

7. May Help Prevent Cancer

A study conducted on rats noted the ability of the diosgenin in yams to prevent carcinogenesis by acting as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. The study concludes by stating that yam can be useful as an anticancer agent (12).

The same study also found that a yam-enriched diet can significantly reduce colon tumor growth. However, more research is required in this area to understand this effect of yams on humans (12).

8. May Enhance Brain Function

Yams are rich in potassium. Potassium promotes the brain’s nerve activity and cognitive functioning (13). Yams are also abundant in diosgenin, a unique compound that is known for brain health and improving neuron growth. Additionally, it has been found to contribute to enhanced memory and learning skills in mice (14). However, more research is required in this area to understand this effect on humans.

9. May Improve Digestive Health

Yams are packed with resistant starches, soluble glycoprotein, and dietary fiber that are good for digestive health. Studies have also shown that yams may stimulate the proliferation of gastric epithelial cells and enhance digestive enzyme activities in the small intestine (15).

These are the major benefits of yams. You saw a few of the essential nutrients in the vegetable that contribute to its benefits. Well, there are more you must know.

What Is The Nutritional Profile Of Yams?

Yams are packed with fiber, minerals, and vitamins. They are rich in copper, manganese, and potassium.

Vitamins
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Vitamin A207IU4%
Vitamin C25.6mg43%
Vitamin D
Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol)0.5mg3%
Vitamin K3.4mcg4%
Thiamin0.2mg11%
Riboflavin0.0mg3%
Niacin0.8mg4%
Vitamin B60.4mg22%
Folate34.5mcg9%
Vitamin B120.0mcg0%
Pantothenic Acid0.5mg5%
Choline24.8mg
Betaine
Minerals
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Calcium25.5mg3%
Iron0.8mg4%
Magnesium31.5mg8%
Phosphorus82.5mg8%
Potassium1224mg35%
Sodium13.5mg1%
Zinc0.4mg2%
Copper0.3mg13%
Manganese0.6mg30%
Selenium1.1mcg2%
Fluoride
Carbohydrates
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Total Carbohydrate41.8g14%
Dietary Fiber6.1g25%
Starch
Sugars0.7g
Protein & Amino Acids
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Protein2.3g5%
Calorie Information
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Calories177(741 kJ)9%
From Carbohydrate169(708 kJ)
From Fat2.1(8.8 kJ)
From Protein6.4(26.8 kJ)
From Alcohol0.0(0.0 kJ)

This is an impressive nutritional profile, isn’t it? Does this mean anybody can have as many yams as they please? Probably not.

What Are The Side Effects Of Eating Too Many Yams?

Yams are a great source of nutrition. However, wild forms of yams contain some toxins that taste bitter and are, hence, referred to as bitter yams. These should not be consumed.

Bitter yams contain compounds that act as water-soluble alkaloids, which can cause serious symptoms upon ingestion. Severe cases of alkaloid intoxication may even prove fatal (16).

Conclusion

Yams are easy to prepare, versatile, and a great vegetable to include in your diet. These powerhouses of nutrition will make a wonderful addition to your diet.

They also are much sweeter and more nutritious than white potatoes. They are easy to mash, making them an ideal food for babies.

Do tell us if you like them. How do you eat them? Share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment in the box below.

Expert’s Answers for Readers Questions

Can you eat raw yams? How can you cook yams?

Raw yams are not edible and cannot be digested. These must be sprouted or cooked to be edible.
You can cook yams by boiling, roasting, and frying. You can also use them in preparing desserts.

What is the difference between yams and sweet potatoes?

Yams are starchy, edible tubers with a taste drier than a sweet potato. These tubers are rough and scaly to touch.
Sweet potatoes have a tender skin and are sweet-tasting with a moist texture.

How long do yams last?

When properly stored, raw yams will last for about 5 to 7 days at normal room temperature. To maximize their shelf life, store them in cool temperatures in a dark area. Under such conducive storage conditions, yams will last about a month.

Are yams fattening?

Yams are excellent sources of vitamin B6, iron, potassium, vitamin C, and fiber. With just 157 calories in a cup, yams can be an excellent option if you’re trying to lose weight.
The natural fiber in yams helps slow down the rate at which your body processes sugar, keeping you from feeling hungry between meals.
So, yams are not fattening if consumed in the ideal dosage.

How to store yams?

Among the widely available roots and tubers, yams are considered the least perishable. They are generally stored fresh. Successful storage of yams requires proper curing, ideally combined with some fungicide treatment. Exposure to enough sunlight to rid the moisture that is generated by the respiration of the tubers. Regular scrutiny during storage and elimination of rotten tubers. Protection from direct sunlight and rain. Apart from all these, the predominant factor that determines the shelf life of the tuber is the length of its natural dormancy period (17).

Can you freeze yams?

Storing yams at a lower temperature decreases their respiration rate. Temperatures below 12°C can cause damage by chilling. This leads to a breakdown of internal tissues, resulting in increased water loss and making them more susceptible to decay.

Can I eat yams every day?

You can eat yams every day if you like. They are good sources of vitamin C – meeting 27% of the daily recommended value of the nutrient. Yams help fight infections, such as cold and flu and accelerate wound healing. They also boost immunity and help delay premature aging.

How do you tell the difference between a sweet potato and a yam?

The skin of yam looks like tree bark, while the sweet potato is more reddish-brown.

Are yams sweeter than sweet potatoes?

No, sweet potatoes are sweeter than yams.

Does purple yam make you fat?

Yes, the complex carbohydrates in purple yam can make you gain weight.

17 sources

Stylecraze has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

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Sindhu Koganti

Sindhu Koganti is a Biotechnology graduate and has been in the writing field for over 4 years now. She specializes in writing on Health and Wellness. She has hands-on experience in writing articles and press releases on Life Sciences and Healthcare, Food and Beverages, and Chemicals and Materials. When she’s not writing, she loves watching movies and listening to music. She also enjoys traveling.
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