Yams, a Versatile, Health-Promoting Root-Vegetable
Eating yams or sweet potatoes every day is believed to be one of the reasons the people of Okinawa, Japan, have the longest average life expectancy in the world.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the yam is “neutral” in nature–somewhere between yin and yang. Its properties can help to tranquilise the mind, preserve youthful skin, nourish the spleen, stomach, kidneys, aid in digestion, and contribute to a feeling of fullness, something that can aid both dieters and poor people.
Yams contain vitamin B6, which can soothe the mind as well as boost immunity. Rich in linoleic acid and fibre, yams not only help to alleviate constipation, but can also reduce cholesterol build-up blood vessels, a process which helps prevent arteriosclerosis and thrombosis.
The yam is rich in protein, vitamins A , E and C, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, magnesium, and potassium. Although its vitamin B1 and B2 content is six and three times higher than that of rice respectively, 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of yams produce only 99 calories, a one-third the amount that rice contains. Because yams are alkaline foods, they can help decrease body fat. Acid foods lead to fat-storage in the human body. Yams and sweet potatoes also contain lycopene, which is believed to help prevent prostate cancer. A hormone-like, anti-inflammatory compound called dioscin exists in both yams and sweet potatoes, as well as vitamin C and carotenoids.
Sweet potatoes and yams have the same qualities, even though they are from different families, so substituting the root-vegetable known as sweet potato for yams is perfectly acceptable and will yield the same health-results when eaten. If the yam or sweet potato is too sweet for your liking, there are several ways to incorporate them into your diet that will make them seem less so. For example, a well-scrubbed yam may be chopped into matchsticks or slivers, fibrous skin and all, and added to a stir-fry. Adding soy sauce to sweet potatoes and yams will give them a more balanced taste. Soaking them in Himalayan salt solution will also do wonders for the flavour of sweet potatoes and yams.
The shirataki noodle, which contains soya and yam flour, is considered an excellent weight-loss food because it is low in carbohydrates while being high in glucomannan, a high-quality fibre (fiber).
A stir-fried dish of shirataki noodles, yams, onions, ginger, pineapple and peanuts is pictured here.
©M-J de Mesterton, January 2nd 2010