Health Benefits of Yams

Shaun DMello
Shirley Johanna
Article Reviewed by Dietitian Shirley Johanna, M.Sc, M.Phil
Last Updated on Jul 26, 2019
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What are Yams?

When people talk about yams, they are essentially referring to the starchy, edible tubers from plant species that belong to the yam family. The health benefits of yams make them a good addition to one’s diet and there is no shortage of healthy recipes for yams.

Health Benefits of Yams

Yams are essentially flowering plants which are often mistaken for sweet potatoes although yams come from plants that have a single embryonic seed leaf (termed as a monocot) and are classified under the yam family, under the Dioscorea genus.

Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, come from plants that possess two embryonic seed leaves (known as a dicot). Further, they fall under a different family classification — the morning glory or Convolvulacea family. In terms of similarity, rather than sweet potatoes, yams are found to be related to grasses as well as lilies.

In appearance, they often resemble elongated potatoes but the size and appearance of yams could differ greatly with the different varieties, such as purple yams and white yams. The smaller ones could be compared in size to a small potato while the larger ones can grow to weigh over 100 pounds. Their origins can be traced to the continents of Africa and Asia but they are widely available in most parts of the world today, especially as more people come to appreciate the health benefits of yams.

Fun Facts about Yams

  • It may surprise you to know that in the Trobriands, near Papua New Guinea, they have ‘magicians’ who are specially needed to use their magic to make yams flourish in their neat and tidy gardens.
  • At one point in Japan’s history, it was only the nobility who were privileged to be allowed to eat the Japanese variety of yam, known as yamaimo root.
  • There is an annual Yam Festival which is popularly celebrated in Ghana, which is understandable given how popular the crop is throughout Africa.

Health Benefits of Yams

  • A standard serving of baked yam contains 20% of your daily requirement of vitamin C. There are many reasons why experts promote vitamin C as a nutrient that has such a huge positive impact on our health and wellbeing. This single vitamin promotes healing and can help with many health problems such as disease of the eye and many prenatal health issues. Studies have even linked this vitamin to protection against deficiencies of the immune system. Being an antioxidant, it is beneficial for a person’s overall health, skin and bones.
Yams Improve Bone Health
  • While vitamin B6 is found in larger quantities, yam also contains varying quantities of vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B9. The B vitamins are notably important in helping your body derive energy, which it processes from the intake of food. Another of the benefits is its links with a lower incidence of heart disease as well as high blood pressure. A deficiency in vitamin B6, on the other hand, can lead to anemia.
Yams Control Your Blood Pressure
  • Yam can benefit one’s digestion and does much to improve bowel movements. This is because not only does it have dietary fiber but also is a source of potassium. The presence of both helps in maintaining regularity and in keeping digestion healthy. Those concerned with weight loss should opt for such foods rich in fiber as they promote the feeling of fullness.
  • The carbohydrate contents, coupled with the other nutrients mean that a lot of energy can be obtained from the consumption of yams. More importantly, yams will not cause a sudden crash post-consumption, which can be a problem after elevated blood sugar levels, which is an issue with high glycemic index foods.
  • One should note that yams have many good properties and their use in medicine is a long-standing tradition in countries like China and Japan. They have been used for a wide range of treatments, from stomach disorders to diabetes.

Baked Yam Recipe

There are many healthy recipes for yams and the simplest of these is a side dish of oven-roasted yam. The ingredients needed to make two servings of this enjoyable fare are:

  • A large-sized yam
  • Olive oil (two tablespoons)
  • Salt and pepper to taste (about a teaspoon each).


  • Peel the yam and then slice it so that each cut is about a quarter-inch thick.
  • Place the same in a shallow pan lined with foil and add the seasoning.
  • Bake until tender in a 350-degree pre-heated oven.
  • This should take about 30 minutes to bake and the wrinkles around the edges are one way to tell when the dish is nearly ready.

The simplicity of the recipe means that you can choose from a variety of flavors to add, from garlic to your favorite dried herbs.

Yam, raw

The nutritional values of "Yam, raw" per 100 grams are:

Nutrition Summary
Total Calories 118
Protein 1.5 g
Fat 0.4 g
Carbohydrate 27.9 g
NutrientsAmount%Daily Value
Calcium, Ca 17 mg 1.7 %
Copper, Cu 0.18 mg 8.9 %
Iron, Fe 0.54  mg 3 %
Magnesium, Mg 21 mg 5.25 %
Manganese, Mn 0.4 mg 19.85 %
Phosphorus, P 55 mg 5.5 %
Potassium, K 816  mg 23.31 %
Selenium, Se 0.7 mcg 1 %
Sodium, Na 9 mg 0.38 %
Zinc, Zn 0.24 mg 1.6 %
Vitamin A 138  IU 2.76 %
Vitamin C 17.1 mg 28.5 %
Vitamin B6 0.29 mg 14.65 %
Vitamin E 0.35 mg 1.17 %
Vitamin K 2.3  mcg 2.88 %
Riboflavin 0.03  mg 1.88 %
Thiamin 0.11 mg 7.47 %
Folate, DFE 23  mcg 5.75 %
Niacin 0.55  mg 2.76 %
Sugars 0.5 g
Fiber 4.1  g 16.4 %
Cholesterol 0 mg 0 %
Water 69.6 g
Carotene, alpha 0 mcg
Carotene, beta 83  mcg
Choline 16.5 mg
Lycopene 0  mcg
View all +
Data source: USDA Nutrient Database, R25
*Percent Daily Values (%DV) are based on a 2,000 calorie reference diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower based on your individual needs.


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