Yummy yams: What are the health benefits?

Yams, locally known as ‘amateche’, are nutrient-dense tubers that can be cooked in various ways.  

For instance, nutritionists say yams can be boiled, steamed, roasted or even fried, depending on one’s preference. They can also be eaten alongside other dishes, such as beans or other legumes.


Nutritional benefits


Nutritionists urge that yams are a great source of fibre, potassium, manganese, copper, and antioxidants, which are all helpful to our bodies.


Emmy Ntamanga, a Kigali-based nutrition consultant, says yams contain vitamin A and C which give the body the ability to fight some common diseases.

“Vitamin C also helps smoothen the skin and improves hair texture, due to the collagen it contains,” he says.

He says the vitamin B-complex found in yams helps strengthen the body.  

The nutritionist points out that the presence of vitamin A in yams improves vision as well.

He says yams can help improve the functions of the brain and reduce inflammation.

Other benefits

Joseph Uwiragiye, the head of the nutrition department at University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK), says yams are linked to various health benefits including boosting brain health, reducing inflammation, and blood sugar control, among other benefits.

He says that yams have a high percentage of carbohydrates which makes it a good source of energy.

“The presence of dietary fibre in yam aids in digestion and prevents any form of constipation, as well as suppressing the side effect of weight gain and diabetes in general,” he says.

Uwiragiye notes that eating anti-inflammatory foods, such as yams, can help manage chronic inflammation.

He says that several studies have observed that yam powder reduces inflammation related to several illnesses, including colon cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, and stomach ulcers.

Yams also contain a unique compound called diosgenin, which has been found to promote neuron growth and enhance brain function, Uwiragiye says.

Diosgenin has been linked to improve memory and learning abilities.

“Yams are not only an excellent source of fibre, they are also high in potassium and manganese, which are important for bone health, growth, metabolism, and heart function,” he says.

These tubers, he says, also provide decent amounts of other micronutrients, such as copper and vitamin C.

He explains that copper is vital for red blood cell production and iron absorption,  while vitamin C is a strong antioxidant that can boost one’s immune system.

Ntamanga says that yams may also help alleviate some symptoms of menopause.

He notes that blood levels of oestrone and estradiol, two oestrogen hormones, typically decrease during menopause.

“Improving oestrogen levels through consuming yams may ease menopause symptoms,” he says.

They contain high percentages of one’s daily value of fibre, potassium, and manganese. These nutrients and minerals are key to maintaining bone health, heart health, growth, and metabolism, Ntamanga says. 

He adds that yams may also help control appetite and boost weight loss, because of the presence of the fibre.

Ntamanga says yams should be added to one’s diet as they boost the meal without adding a significant amount of calories.

“This is great for dishes that may be high in fat or low in fibre, allowing one to eat the same amount but with additional fibre to fill them up faster, making one eat less,” he explains.


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