Water yam is the tuber of Dioscorea alata also called wild yam and is one of the oldest food crops so far. It originated in South-East Asia in Burma, 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.
Although It is different from most other yams because it is mucilaginous and so not that popular for cooking, it is still consumed by many who knows not just its nutritional benefits but also its medicinal benefits.
Nutritional 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 for 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.
According to experts, it is rich in fibre, contains a substantial amount of antioxidants and Vitamin C and helps to suppress blood sugar, Thus, this makes it perfect for diabetic patients.
Dioscorea Alata also contains a small amount of vitamin E and beta-carotene level(beta-carotene is good for vision, immunity and overall health).
The tubers are indeed one of the vegetable-rich sources that have a lot of minerals, like copper, calcium, potassium, iron and also phosphorus. It is also a good source of vitamin B6.
Some 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 ageing. They also have anti-inflammatory properties which help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
- Water yam can slow down the ageing process and boost the immune system.
- The vitamin C in water yam also helps in wound healing and bone growth.
- It is low in calories so perfect for weight reduction and management.
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.
In many states, regions, and tribes, it has formed part of their delicacies. For instance, water yam 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.
Here is a quick recipe on how to make fritters (Ojojo) with water yam
- Water yam
- Chopped onions
- Chopped chilli pepper
- seasoning cubes
- Peel off the skin of the water yam using a knife.
- Cut the water yam into chunks and grate
- Season the grated water yam with salt, cubes, crayfish.
- Add the chopped onions and chopped chilli pepper
- Heat up oil in a frying pan. When it gets hot, use your hands to scoop out some grated water yam in balls
- Drop into the hot oil and let it fry till it gets brown on all sides. Take it out of the oil, drain on kitchen paper towel and serve hot.
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 fibre 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.