Yams are a bit of a misnomer as most people in the western world think of a yam as being the same thing as a sweet potato. Technically, they are not the same thing, though we use the name interchangeably. It is actually quite rare for true yams to be commonly available outside of places where they are a staple food like in Africa. What most of us call a yam or sweet potato, is an orange fleshed, potato-like tuber that has a unique sweetness very unlike its much blander potato counterpart. While they are not technically the same thing, most of us do not really known the subtle differences, so for the purposes of this article, when we refer to a yam, we are talking about the sweet, orange fleshed tuber.
The yam or sweet potato is a delicious nutritional powerhouse. It is packed with a wide range of vitamins and nutrients. It is low in fat and high in fiber. Most people only think of them as used in holiday dessert dishes, but they are far more versatile than this. Yams can be cooked in a whole host of different ways and used in a range of different types of cuisines and have utility far beyond the cloying mashed yams and marshmallow dishes.
What follows is a brief introduction to the myriad of health benefits associated with yams, and then we will touch on just a few of the different ways to cook yams that will allow you to easily add this tasty and nutritious tuber to your diet.
As with all brightly orange fruits and vegetables, yams are a great source of the all important nutrient, beta carotene. Consumption of yams has been shown to help promote higher levels of Vitamin A in the body, and this benefit is especially pronounced in children who eat yams regularly. A single sweet potato has enough Vitamin A to provide nearly 35% of your daily recommended amount, making it an excellent source of the vitamin and a great way to ensure that you maintain adequate levels.
When added with healthy fats, eating yams has also been shown to help you absorb and actually utilize more Vitamin C than if you just eat yams alone. This is why many people like to saute their yams in a healthy cooking oil, as you get the full benefit of Vitamin A absorption that way. Yams are a low glycemic index food. What this means is that, unlike a lot of other carbohydrate sources, yams don't cause dramatic spikes in blood sugar.
Not only are regular, dramatic spikes in blood sugar associated with weight gain or a difficulty in losing weight, long-term wild fluctuations in blood sugar is also responsible for the development of Type II diabetes, an increasingly common health issue in the western world. This is great for people who have a sweet tooth that they want to quench with something that isn't going to cause their blood sugar to spike all over the place. You can easily accent the sweetness of yams with a tiny sprinkling of brown sugar or honey.
Yams are truly almost just as versatile as your traditional potato. They can be baked, fried, mashed, cubed, you name it. In recent years, we have seen a proliferation of different sweet potato based snacks that start to give you an idea of the many different ways that you can use this delicious tuber. Sweet potato chips and fries have dramatically grown in popularity in recent years, showing foodies that this unsung tuber has far more uses that just a Thanksgiving afterthought. They can be fried, baked, steamed, sauteed, mashed, made into soups, and more.
The fastest way to cook a sweet potato is to steam it. You can fully cook a sweet potato by steaming it in about seven minutes, which isn't much longer than it takes to steam regular potatoes. The thinner you slice or cube the yams, the faster they will cook. If you are trying to steam or bake an entire full sweet potato, you should expect this to take about a half hour or more.
Sauteing sweet potatoes for addition to burrito filling, stir fries, and pasta dishes is another great way to integrate more yams into your diet. It should be noted that yams take quite a bit longer to cook than do regular potatoes, so you will need to take that into consideration when you think about cooking time and how to plan out your meal preparation.
Yams, or sweet potatoes, are an unsung tuber that really deserves to have a far more widespread use. They are incredibly versatile and have a natural sweetness that makes them unlike any other tuber you can find. There is a whole range of health benefits associated with yams, including their high fiber and low fat content, as well as their very high levels of beta carotene. When paired with a healthy fat, eating yams will provide your body with even higher levels of absorbent beta carotene. The combination of the fat paired with the yam allows for a higher rate of absorption of a wide range of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, than just the yam on its own.
While many people think of yams as that signature Thanksgiving dish covered with marshmallows, they are far more versatile than that. They make tasty chips and fries. They are delicious baked, mashed, or even steamed. They can be cubed and sauteed for a tasty hint of sweetness added to your favorite burrito filling or stir fry. It is also a great soup base for a very cold season appropriate creamy sweet soup. They are easy to prepare and you can literally cook them in every way imaginable. It should be noted that yams do take quite a bit longer to cook than do regular potatoes, so if you are substituting yams for regular potatoes, you will need to keep this in mind.