What to Know About Purple Yam

Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on June 22, 2021

Purple yams come from the Dioscoreaceae family. This type of yam is native to Africa and Asia. It grows best in tropical and subtropical regions. It is a staple in tropical countries. They are one of over 600 species of yam, but only 15 to 20 are edible. Purple yams contain high levels of antioxidants.‌

Purple yams or ube can be turned into a powder or paste, which is commonly used to color sweet pastries, cakes, and other baked goods. These types of yams are more common in Asian cuisine.   

What Is Purple Yam?

Purple yams are commonly confused with sweet potatoes. While they’re both flowering plants, they are not related botanically. Yams come in a variety of colors. Yams are drier and starchier than sweet potatoes. Hundreds of varieties of yam are found worldwide. Purple yams may be harder to find in the US because they are common and grown in tropical areas.

A yam's skin is more bark-like and doesn’t come in a range of colors like the sweet potato. The flesh inside can be white, red, or purple. When cooked or turned into a powder, they are a good source of vitamins and antioxidants.

Purple yam or ube is a great addition to your diet. Any blue, purple, or red foods are good to include in your next meal. The real power of the purple yam comes from its anthocyanin content. 

You can include purple yams in your regular meals in plenty of ways. You can prepare purple yam like you do other potatoes. Baking them, adding them into a soup, or including them in smoothies for color are all good ideas.

Health Benefits of Purple Yam

Eating purple yams has many health benefits. Purple yams range from bright purple to dark purple. They are a good source of protein, vitamin C, and beta carotene. Purple yams have a positive impact on your overall well-being. Purple yams are also rich in anthocyanins.

One of the biggest health benefits of purple yams is their high level of anthocyanins. They are purple-colored water-soluble pigments. Anthocyanins are also found in berries, grapes, and some tropical fruits. Red to purplish-blue foods such as leafy vegetables, grains, roots, and tubers are also rich in anthocyanins.

Anthocyanins have many healing and preventative properties. Studies have shown that anthocyanins prevent the following from affecting the human body: 

  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Inflammation
  • Microbial infection
  • Obesity
  • Cardiovascular disease

Purple yams are not a cure for these conditions. However, they're great for reducing your risk of developing these diseases and restoring your body in other ways. 

Purple yam skin is also high in beta carotene. This is a nutrient that’s turned into vitamin A by your body. It’s a naturally occurring phytochemical and gives fruits and vegetables their bright colors with the help of anthocyanins. These phytochemicals play a role in improving overall health and preventing diseases.

Effects of Purple Yam on Your Health

Including purple yams in your diet can have a big impact on your health. Purple yams have been shown to regulate metabolism and improve heart function. Eating a balanced diet with purple yams can help you control your body weight and increase your good cholesterol levels. 

Purple yam also has restorative effects. It has been shown to reduce fat in your liver and repair the cecum and colon after a high-fat diet. An unbalanced diet high in bad fats and processed food can damage your body. Adding more vegetables and fruits instead of chips and candy will not only make you feel better but help your body as well. 

The purple yam can improve your gut health by increasing good bacteria in your stomach. With a regulated metabolism and better gut health, you’ll feel better overall. This could be a natural way to repair your body without medication. 

However, if you are experiencing problems with your stomach or colon you should consult your doctor. They’ll be able to help you find the right treatment plan for your body. You can also talk to a dietician about your body and other concerns you might have. They can help you create a balanced diet that works for you. 

Show Sources


Bali Medical Journal: “Antihypertensive and Antioxidant Potential of Purple Sweet Potato Tuber Dry Extract in Hypertensive Rats.”

Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry: “New acylated anthocyanins from purple yam and their antioxidant activity.”

Food & Function: “The beneficial effects of purple yam (Dioscorea altala L.) resistant starch on hyperlipidemia in high-fat-fed hamsters.”

food and nutrition research: “Anthocyanidins and anthocyanins: colored pigments as food, pharmaceutical ingredients, and the potential health benefits.”

International Journal of Food Science: “Profiling Anthocyanins in Thai Purple Yams (Dioscorea alata L.),” “Roots and Tuber Crops as Functional Foods: A Review on Phytochemical Constituents and Their Potential Health Benefits.”

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS: “What is the difference between sweet potatoes and yams?"

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