Cocoyam used to be an ordinary stable in Nigerian homes in the past. Then we went to school and became ‘educated’. The result is that we lost interest in our local food and developed a taste for processed foods. When you buy, and eat such processed food, you are regarded as ‘educated’ and ‘high class’.
If you eat cocoyam, or tell people that you love eating cocoyam, be ready to be labelled as a ‘bushman’, ‘ajepako’, ‘village man or woman’ and all sorts of names. As a result, farmers hardly cultivate cocoyam, and now it has become a scarce food, even in the village. On the contrary, cocoyam possesses high nutritional values when compared with others like cassava and yam, with substantial vitamins, minerals and proteins contents. For me, the leaves of cocoyam are the most useful part of the plant. The fact that cocoyam leaves are edible often comes as a surprise for those who have only known this plant as a tuber.
The leaves are not just a good food product, they are also able to provide you with plenty of useful vitamins and minerals. Like any leafy green vegetables, cocoyam leaves are as healthy and helpful for your body, especially for those who want to lose fat and improve their health condition. Please be warned: cocoyam leaves cannot be eaten raw. They contain a toxin that irri-tates the throat if not properly cooked. This is why the leaves should be soaked in cold water for about 10 to 15 minutes before they are cooked. Cocoyam has more calories than potatoes. 100g provides 112 calories. Its calories mainly come from complex carbohydrates known as amylose and amylopectin. However, the roots are very low in fats and protein than cereals and pulses.
Their protein levels can be comparable to that of other tropical food sources like yam, cassava, potato, banana, etc. Cocoyam, however, is free from gluten. They feature highquality Phyto-nutrition profile comprising of dietary fibre, and antioxidants in addition to moderate proportions of minerals, and vitamins. They are one of the best sources of dietary fibres.
Together with slow digesting complex carbohydrates, moderate amounts of fibre in the food help gradual rise in blood sugar levels. Cocoyam contains high levels of vitamin A, vitamin C, and various other phenolic antioxidants which help to boost the immune system and help eliminate dangerous free radicals from our system. Free radicals are the dangerous by-products of cellular metabolism that may result in healthy cells to mutate and turn into cancerous cells.
By eliminating these free radicals, our general health is imis found in cocoyam, is said to protect against both lung and oral cancers. Cocoyam is very beneficial for overcoming rheumatoid arthritis because low levels of vitamin B6 are related to increased signs of rheumatoid arthritis. Several researchers conclude that people with rheumatoid arthritis comparatively need more vitamin B6 than healthy people because they experience constant muscle aches and joint pain due to chronic inflammation.
Vitamin B6 benefits include curbing pain and can be useful in controlling aches in the muscles and joints due to arthritis. Cocoyam consists of a considerable amount of potassium, which is considered an essential mineral to remain healthy and efficient. Potassium not only enables good fluid transfers between membranes and tissues throughout the body but also helps to relieve stress and pressure on blood vessels and arteries. By relaxing the veins and blood vessels, blood pressure can be reduced, and stress on the overall cardiovascular system is reduced.