Naturopathic Kitchen: Yams

Hands holding a variety of whole yams.

Yams are root vegetables native to Asia, the Caribbean, and Africa. 1  Many people confuse yams with sweet potatoes. Although the two vegetables have many similarities, yams can be distinguished by their thicker, dark brown skin and less sweet, more earthy flavor. Yams come in a number of varieties and may have flesh that is orange, yellow, white, purple, or pink in color.

The Health Benefits of Yams

Good Source of Fiber

Yams are a great source of fiber. One cup of cooked yams contains 5 grams of fiber. 2 Fiber is important for digestive health because it feeds good gut bacteria and helps promote microbiome health. 3 Adequate fiber consumption is also associated with weight management and blood sugar regulation. 4 5 

Rich in Vitamins & Minerals

Yams are rich in vitamins and minerals and are a good source of healthy carbohydrates. They contain vitamin C, vitamin B5, manganese, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, and folate. 6 These vitamins and minerals have been shown to improve heart health, and immunity. 7 8 9 10 If you are looking to up your vitamin and mineral intake, adding yams to your diet is an easy way to do so.

Boosts Brain Function

Yams contain diosgenin, a unique compound that has been found to aid neuron development. One study found that participants who were given yam extract over 12 weeks scored higher on a brain-function test than those in the control group. 11 

May Ease Menopause Symptoms

While further research is needed, initial studies suggest that yams can help to ease discomfort caused by menopause. 12 During menopause, the estrogen-derived hormones, estradiol and estrone, decrease. Maintaining higher levels of estrogen hormones can help to alleviate menopause symptoms. 13 14 In one study, 24 postmenopausal women added yams to two meals per day for 30 days and saw a 26% increase in estrone and a 27% increase in estradiol. 15 

Spiced Red Yam Soup with Chickpea Croutons

This spiced red yam soup with chickpea croutons is rich in antioxidants (especially vitamin A), vitamins (especially B6), minerals (especially zinc and magnesium), fiber, and plant-based protein. It can easily be made vegetarian by swapping out the bone broth for a vegetable broth. Try serving this delicious soup with a side salad or a piece of whole grain toast topped with avocado, sea salt, and sprouts. 

Recipe courtesy of Bastyr University

Ingredients

  • 2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed (15-ounces each)
  • 2 tbsp avocado oil
  • 1⁄2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1⁄2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1⁄2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1⁄4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1⁄4 tsp turmeric
  • 1⁄4 tsp cayenne (divided)
  • 1⁄4 tsp finely ground black pepper (plus more to taste)
  • 2 tsp sea salt (divided)
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 small shallot, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1⁄2 tsp coriander seeds, ground in a clean coffee grinder
  • 3 medium red garnet yams, peeled and cubed
  • 1 cup cashews*, soaked for 4 hours in warm water
  • 4 cup chicken bone broth (substitute vegetable broth if desired)
  • 2 cup fresh water
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1⁄4 cup freshly chopped cilantro

Instructions

To make the chickpea croutons: preheat the oven to 400° F. Mix the avocado oil, paprika, garlic powder, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, 1/8 teaspoon cayenne, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. After rinsing and draining the chickpeas, place them onto a clean kitchen towel and rub dry. Pick out the chickpeas, leaving behind any of the skins that have come off and transfer them into the bowl with the spices. Mix well with a spoon until they are evenly coated. Spread the chickpeas on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (optional) and bake for about 50 minutes, until crispy and crunchy. Shake the baking sheet halfway through to ensure even cooking. Take them out of the oven and set aside to cool.

To make the soup: heat the oil in a large soup pot. Add the onion and shallot. Saute over medium heat, stirring occasionally until translucent, about 7 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic, ground coriander (use a coffee grinder to grind whole seeds), 1-1/2 teaspoons salt and pepper to taste, and mix until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the yams and sauté another 2 to 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, strain the soaked cashews and place into a high speed blender. Add 2 cups of broth, and blend on high until completely smooth. Pour the mixture into the soup stock, add the remaining broth and fresh water. Stir and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn down the heat to low and let it simmer for 20 minutes, or until the yams are soft.

Purée the soup with an immersion blender. Add the honey, lemon juice, a generous pinch of cayenne, and additional salt and pepper to taste. Return it back to the pot and heat until warm. When ready to serve, garnish the soup with a handful of chickpea croutons, fresh cilantro, and a drizzle of olive or avocado oil.

Notes

*The cashews can be substituted for an even amount of coconut milk if desired. Also, reheating the chickpea croutons at 425 degrees for 5-10 minutes can add extra crunch if they absorb moisture after the first roasting.

**When substituting the broth with vegetable stock use ½ teaspoon less of sea salt as the vegetable broth generally contains more sodium. Use additional sea salt to taste at the end.

 

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