Nutrition and Health Benefits of Yams

Yams are more than just a delicious holiday tradition. Thanksgiving and Christmas were the only times that our family ever ate Yams, until I was on a low-carbohydrate diet.  Yams are not only lower in carbohydrates and starch than white potatoes, but full of wonderful nutrients.  While there are many good recipes using yams out there, I love them baked with just a little butter, and sometimes a touch of raw honey, though they can be quite sweet naturally.  Read on for more information about the nutrients in yams.

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Yams are actually a variety of sweet potato which we grow in the US.  A true yam is imported, and isn't as attractive as what we call yams and buy in our super markets. The true yam isn't as orange as what we purchase in the US.  That orange color is Beta Carotene, which can be converted into Vitamin A.



Yams are a good source of both potassium and vitamin B6, two nutrients that your body needs every day.  Vitamin B6 helps your body break down a substance called homocysteine, which can cause damage to blood vessel walls. High intakes of vitamin B6 have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.
 
Potassium is a mineral that helps to control blood pressure. In the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) study, one study group ate servings of fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy food in place of snacks and sweets. This approach offered more potassium, magnesium and calcium.  After eight weeks, this group lowered their blood pressure by an average of 5.5 points (systolic) over 3.0 points (diastolic).  Yams also contain a storage protein called Dioscorin.  Preliminary research suggests that Dioscorin can help your body to achieve increased kidney blood blow thereby reducing blood pressure.

In addition, Yams' complex carbohydrates and fiber deliver the goods gradually, slowing the rate at which their sugars are released and absorbed into the bloodstream. Because they're rich in fiber, yams fill you up without filling out your hips and waistline. Yams are also a good source of manganese, a trace mineral that helps with carbohydrate metabolism and is a co-factor in a number of enzymes important in energy production and antioxidant defenses.

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Updated 5/6/13

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