Water yam is the tuber of Dioscorea alata also called wild yam is one of the oldest food crops so far. It originated in South-East Asia in Burm, from where it spreads to other parts of the globe. It was first introduced to West African countries by the Portuguese and Spanish in the 16th century. Today, water yam is the most widely distributed of all the yams, being grown in all parts of the tropics.
It is different from most other yams because it is mucilaginous and so, it is not as popular for cooking. It is used by Yoruba people to make delicacies like ikokore (water yam porridge) and ojojo (fried grated water yam balls). Water yam can be eaten boiled, mashed, fried, or mixed with palm oil or groundnut oil and steamed. Flour can also be made from it. Dishes such as ‘Isikolo’, Pounded yam, pottage, and fritters can also be made from it. It can also be cooked with beans. Dishes such as Queen Cakes, Biscuits and pastries can be prepared from water yam flour. It is the main staple food in Ijebu area – Western Nigeria.
Ikokore (water yam porridge) Photo Credit: Debby SignatureNutritional Value Of Water Yam: Moisture = 70%, Starch = 28%, Sugar = 0.5%, Fat = 0.1% – 0.3%, Crude protein = 1.1% – 2.8%, Crude fibre = 0.6 – 1.4%, Ash = 0.7% – 2.1%, Vitamin C (mg per 100g) = 5 – 8%, Vitamin B1 (mg per 100g) = 0.09%, Vitamin B2 (mg per 100g) = 0.03% and Vitamin A. Aside from eating Dioscorea alata because of its nutritional values, it has also been consumed for more than 2000 years medicinal purposes as it has been proven to treat different systemic diseases including hypertension a condition which may lead to stroke, heart failure, and heart palpitation.
Water yams are digested and absorbed slowly by the body and so do not cause blood sugar spikes. This makes them useful for adding to the diet of diabetics.
Ojojo (fried grated water yam balls). Photo Credit: Food and LensSome other benefits of consuming water yams are:
Lowering effect on blood cholesterol levels.
Decreases blood pressure levels.
It is a good source of the female hormone, progesterone, thus, it helps to balance female hormones and are good for hormonal imbalance disorders and regulation of menses.
They improve digestive health and help with constipation and irritable bowel syndrome.
The antioxidants in water yams help to reduce damage by free radicals in the body and slow down the effects of aging. They also have anti-inflammatory properties which help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
In folk medicine, water yam has been used as a laxative and worm expeller, and as a treatment for fever, gonorrhoea, leprosy, tumours, and inflamed haemorrhoids.
A lot of Nigerians do not know about water yams but it should be noted that including water yams in your diet can help to boost fiber and beneficial nutrients because they are eaten without processing methods which can remove most of these important nutrients. They are also useful to those who are looking for healthy food items to add to their diet.