The fact that cocoyam leaves (the leaves of the plant known as taro) are edible, often comes as a surprise for those who have only known this plant as a big root. Yet, these leaves are not only a good food product. They are also able to provide you with plenty of useful vitamins and minerals.
What is taro?
Taro is a plant that originally grew in tropical forests of the Himalayas, New Guinea, and the Philippines. People used to eat the big roots that can be cooked or fried just like potatoes. Now, taro is a popular vegetable in Asia, on Pacific islands, and in many countries in Africa. In Africa, the biggest world’s amounts of taro are raised. The very name originates from the Maori language.
READ ALSO: List of high protein foods in Nigeria
The ways to cook the vegetable are so numerous that it’s possible to compose a huge cookbook on this root alone. However, the big dark-green leaves of this plant called cocoyam leaves are often cooked as asparagus or prepared together with coconut milk, yam, and chili pepper.
What are cocoyam leaves nutrition facts?
Like any leafy green vegetables, these leaves are as healthy and useful for your body as can be. It’s easy to guess that they are especially useful for those who want to lose fat and improve their health condition. Well, in order to get a clear idea of the cocoyam nutrition benefits, let’s take 1 cup of steamed cocoyam leaves without salt or other spices.
(NOTE: cocoyam leaves cannot be eaten raw! They contain a toxin that causes irritation of threat of not properly cooked. This is why these leaves should be allowed in clean cold water for about 10 to 15 minutes before they are cooked!)
The amount of the leaves in the cup will be about 145g, and the nutrition value will be as follows:
- Calories – 35
- Protein – 4g
- Carbohydrates – 5.8g
- Fat – 0,6g (in it, fatty acids Omega 3 – 74mg, Omega 6 – 170mg)
- Food fibers – 2.9g
As you can see, these leaves are pretty poor in calories, so, if you are into losing weight, they are a perfect choice as a garnish to some meat or fish. However, you need to remember that even the most dietary food loses its positive qualities as soon as it’s cooked in plenty of oils or animal fats. If you want to keep your body healthy, use only a little oil and give preference to natural, non-refined oils.
Now, from the point of view of vitamins and minerals, 1 cup of steamed cocoyam leaves will provide your body with the following assortment:
- Vitamin A – 6145 IU (international units)
- Vitamin B1 (thiamin) – 0.2mg
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) – 0.6mg
- Vitamin B3 (niacin) – 1.8mg
- Vitamin B6 – 0.1mg
- Vitamin C – 51.5mg
- Calcium – 125mg
- Copper – 0.2mg
- Folate – 70mcg
- Iron – 1.7mg
- Magnesium – 29mg
- Manganese – 0,5mg
- Phosphorus – 39.2mg
- Sodium – 3mg
- Zinc – 0.3mg
Like all green leafy vegetables, cocoyam leaves contain plenty of calcium, which is useful for children when they grow fast and need their bones and teeth to be healthy and strong. This is why cocoyam meals are especially useful for children, pregnant and nursing women.
What are the benefits of cocoyam leaves for health?
- Immune boost. Just one cup of these leaves a day can provide you with enough vitamin C to improve your immune system significantly.
- Cancer prevention. The same vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. Due to this feature, it’s a great means against free radicals that cause cancer and many other diseases.
- Eye health. The vitamin C in a combination with vitamin A that’s also found in these leaves is excellent for strengthening your eyes. Vitamin A is one of the key components that strengthen your eyesight and prevent blindness, cataract, and myopia.
- Digestion improvement. These leaves are quite rich with fibers that prevent constipation and slow bowel movement. Eating these leaves, you will receive enough fiber to make your digestive system work perfectly well. If you have diarrhea, these leaves can make it stop immediately, due to the amount of zinc they have. Zinc helps bowels regain their healthy condition and prevent diarrhea.
- Reduction of cholesterol levels. The less fat and the more vegetables you consume, the lower your blood cholesterol level is. Again, the fibers the leaves contain in significant quantities help reduce the level of cholesterol in one's blood.
- Weight loss assistance. Cocoyam leaves contain a lot of protein, only a little carbohydrates, and completely no fat. This is why, they are an effective means for those who want to lose fat. It even helps to gain muscles for those who are doing active sports.
- Inflammation reduction. Omega 3 fatty acid is very effective to reduce inflammation, especially with diseases like arthritis or gastritis. It’s also effective as a meal during diseases like flu or similar ones.
- Nerve protection. The assortment of B-vitamins that can be found in the cocoyam leaves is very effective against nerve problems that show up as numbness, tingling, trembling in your skin and limbs. They can also improve the immune system and memory.
- Blood pressure normalization. The mutual efforts of Omega 3 and vitamins are able to relax blood vessels and control the blood pressure. This is one of the main cocoyam leaves benefits because it works quickly and effectively.
- Healthy development of a fetus. Plenty of folate that the leaves contain is an effective means that helps a fetus develop properly. Enough folate at certain pregnancy stages helps the baby’s brain develop normally and without drawbacks.
- Prevention of anemia. The iron that the leaves contain in galore helps prevent anemia effectively. If you eat enough of these leaves regularly together with other green vegetables, a lot of apples and other iron-rich food, you can be sure that you have enough hemoglobin and red blood cells to stay healthy.
- Preeclampsia prevention. Preeclampsia is a very serious health condition that happens to pregnant women and is extremely dangerous for both the women and their babies. In order to prevent it, pregnant women should consume enough magnesium. Cocoyam leaves have a lot of it.
- Skin refreshing. The proteins that can be found in these leaves contain one specific amino acid. It helps produce collagen and elastin, and enough of these elements means that your skin will be firm, smooth, and without wrinkles.
- Muscle improvement. As it was already said above, cocoyam leaves contain a lot of protein. This is the building material for muscles and a source of essential amino acids. Some of them, in particular, isoleucine, is a great means for those who build their bodies and love heavy workouts.
- Depression control. Being able to release significant amounts of dopamine (the hormone, which can improve your mood and give you the sense of satisfaction and pleasure), these leaves are effective as a mood controller and a means to fight nicotine and other harmful addictions.
Now you see what a wonderful thing cocoyam leaves are. With all their affordability, they can come in handy as a natural remedy and prevention for many conditions. Don't underestimate this gift of nature!
READ ALSO: How to prepare white soup with assorted meat