Yams are a popular type of tuber that originated in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean, and they are often confused with sweet potatoes although they are less sweet and are richer in starch.

The flesh of yams is very nutritious, and could benefit your health in several ways.

1. Nutrition

Yams are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and one cup contains 158 calories, 37 grams of carbs, 2 grams of protein, 0 grams of fat, and 5 grams of fiber.

Yams are rich in potassium and manganese, which are essential for good bone health, growth, metabolic function, and heart health.

They also contain copper, which is vital for producing red blood cells and for absorbing iron, and the vitamin C is an antioxidant that plays a role in keeping a healthy immune system.

2. Possible Enhanced Brain Function

Yams could help your brain. They contain a compound called diosgenin, which is linked with neuron growth and enhanced brain function, as well as possibly improving memory and learning abilities.

A 12-week study showed that those who took a yam extract supplement scored higher on a brain function test than those in the placebo group.

3. Could Help Ease Menopause Symptoms

Yams could help ease some symptoms of menopause by increasing the blood levels of estrone and estradiol, which are two estrogen hormones.

These hormones typically decrease during menopause, and increasing estrogen levels could ease some of the symptoms.

However, one six month study showed that topically applied wild yam cream had little effect on symptoms of menopause, like night sweats and hot flushes.

4. May Have Anti-Cancer Properties

Yams contain several antioxidants that may help fight against cancer.

An animal study found that a diet rich in yams significantly reduced colon tumor growth, and these effects were linked with the antioxidants present in yams.

A test-tube study found that Chinese yam peel extracts slowed liver tumor growth and had antioxidant properties.

5. Could be Anti-Inflammatory

As yams are so rich in antioxidants, they may help reduce inflammation, which is linked to an increased risk of conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

Eating anti-inflammatory foods like yams can help reduce chronic inflammation.

Some rat studies have shown that yam powder reduced inflammation related to illnesses, including colon cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, and stomach ulcers.

6. Could Help Control Blood Sugar

Yams may possibly help improve blood sugar levels.

A rodent study of rats given yam powder or yam water extract showed that the rats experienced decreased fasting blood sugar and hemoglobin A1c levels, compared with the control group.

Another rat study found that giving supplements of yam flour reduced the rate of blood sugar absorption, which made for improved blood sugar control.

These effects are linked with the resistant starch and fiber in yams. Resistant starch goes through your gut undigested, and is linked to decreased appetite, improved blood sugar levels, and insulin sensitivity.

7. Improved Digestive Health

Studies show that the resistant starch in yams could increase the digestive enzymes that assist with breaking down food and increase the amount of beneficial bacteria in your gut.

8. Possible Weight Loss

An animal study found that yam extract reduced food consumption, and this suggests that yams can help to reduce appetite and improve weight loss.

9. May Have Antimicrobial Effects

Yam extract could help protect against some types of drug-resistant bacteria, although the mechanism is as yet unknown.

10. Could Improve Cholesterol Levels

One study found that women who consumed 390 grams of yams each day for 30 days showed a 6% decrease in blood cholesterol levels.

11. Versatile and Easy to Add to Your Diet

Yams can be bought whole, or as a flour, powder, or supplement. Whole yams can be baked, boiled, steamed, roasted, fried, and pan cooked.

Try some of these ideas for cooking yams:

Yam fries – chop yams into wedges, season, and bake or fry. Puree – boil yams until soft, then put in a blender. Mashed yams – peel, boil and mash the yams, then add seasonings and a splash of milk. Baked yams – cut yams into cubes, then bake until tender. Yam gratin – peel yams, and thinly slice them. Bake them in the oven with cheese and seasonings. Add to baked goods – yam puree can be added to breads and muffins to provide extra moisture.

Try seasoning yams with cinnamon, nutmeg, oregano, or thyme.