By Olamiotan Afolabi
Root and tuber crops are among the most important agricultural plants with roots, swollen underground stems, tubers and corms. They are essential sources of energy used mainly for human food, animal feed and for manufacturing starch, alcohol and fermented beverages like beer. They store carbohydrates in their tubers and serve as major source of energy giving food. Among the different types of roots and tubers crops available in the world; cocoyam possess essential nutritional values when compared to others like yam, potato and cassava.
Cocoyam is one of the oldest tuber crops in the world which originated from southeast Asia before it spread to other part of the world like Caribbean, South America and Africa. It is found in African countries like Kenya, South Africa, Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal, Macabo but commonly grown and found in Nigeria.
Cocoyam is also known as Taro root with the botanical name “colocasia esculenta.” In Nigeria, It is known by different names across the region, the southwest (Yoruba) call it “Lambo or Koko,” the Eastern part (Igbo) call it “Ede” while the Northern part (Hausa’s) call it ” Gwaza.” Just like yam, it is an annual crop that is usually found in markets both in cities and local areas and are cheaper than yam.
In the past, cocoyam is one of the common staple food in Nigeria that serves as regular diet until when civilization and education came into existence which made us lost interest in food like cocoyam in perseverance to processed foods. Nowadays, It is ridiculous when people who eat cocoyam are being regarded as a poor person and this has made farmers to hardly cultivate cocoyam making it a scarce food all over the country.
The fact remains that cocoyam possess essential nutritional values and medicinal usefulness that cannot be jettisoned which will be discussed in this article. It is also known for its versatility with both the leaves and corms used in different ways. The corms (tubers) can be boiled, fried, roasted, baked or pounded after being boiled to be taken with soup of any kind.
It can also be made into chips or flour, the leaves serves as vegetable for soup and also used to wrap other foods for steaming. However, cocoyam leaves or corms cannot be consumed raw, that is it must be thoroughly cooked or processed before consumption because raw cocoyam contains some poisonous substances.
Nutrients found in cocoyam (both macro and micro) include; carbohydrates 34.6g, dietary fiber 5.1g, Calcium 18mg, potassium 484mg, iron 0.72mg, copper, magnesium 30mg, phosphorus 76mg, manganese 0.449mg, vitamin A, B1 0.107mg, B6 0.331mg, folate (B9) 19ug, vitamin C 5mg, Vitamin E 2.93mg and 142 kcal calories based on recommended daily intake. All these nutrients aid the prevention and treatment of some common diseases.
Firstly, cocoyam is highly beneficial for the treatment of Rheumatoid arthritis. This type arthritis occur due to low level of vitamin B6 in the body. Research shows that people with rheumatoid arthritis require good amount of vitamin B6 than people who don’t have it because they experience frequent muscle aches and joint pain due to chronic inflammation. Vitamin B6 which is important in the body for controlling muscle and joint aches and general body pain.
The quantity of Dietary fiber which is present in cocoyam is very important for supporting gastrointestinal health, helps to add bulk to our bowel movements making food move through the digestive tract to facilitate good digestion. Therefore eating cocoyam plays an important role in digestion. Also, a healthy and regulated gastrointestinal system can help boosts overall health and reduce the occurrence of cancer.
Taro root is loaded with some amount of Iron and copper which are both important in the prevention of anaemia and also help boost blood circulation all over the body. Iron and copper are both needed in body for the production of red blood cells. Copper also has bone strengthening properties and it collagen forming qualities promote strong bone and connective tissues. Therefore, to slow down bone loss and reduce the occurrence of osteoporosis mostly in older women, it is advisable to eat food that contains copper in combination with other important minerals like calcium and manganese.
It also contain one of the most important minerals recommended to lower blood pressure and to promote heart health which is potassium. Potassium enables healthy fluid transfer between membrane and tissues, helps to relieve stress and pressure on the blood vessels and arteries.
That is, it help reduce the risk of hypertension and also help promote your heart health. Other minerals present is Phosphorous, helps filter out waste in the kidney and also helps reduce muscle pain after work out and Magnesium which plays vital roles in the body such as energy production, nerves function and muscle support.
For your dental health, cocoyam is an ideal food to keep it healthy. It is loaded with calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D, all which are essential minerals and vitamin needed for the formation and maintenance of bone and dental health by supporting tooth enamel, jaw bone, mineral density and holding the teeth in place. In other words, cocoyam contains the minerals and vitamins that prevent tooth decay.
Vitamin C available in cocoyam plays an important role in boosting the immune system and the absorption of iron which is also present in cocoyam. It is filled with several antioxidants like beta carotene and cryptoxanthin which both help to improve vision as well as preventing the free radicals from ocular cells and causing macular degeneration or cataracts. The development of cancerous cells is as a result of free radicals in our body but with the availability of vitamin A and C in taro roots, our immune system boosts up and dangerous free radicals are eliminated.
Presently, there is everyday increase in diabetes diagnosis and one of the best treatment is to watch what you eat. Dietary fiber is one of the most vital nutrients recommended for patients with diabetes because it helps regulate the release of insulin and glucose in the body.
Therefore, making “lambo” as part of your regular diet will help your glycemic level and lower chances of developing diabetes.
Cocoyam also contain vitamin B1 also known as thiamine. Vitamin B1, a mineral which is important in preventing memory loss, increasing focus and energy, fighting chronic stress. Lambo can enhance learning and memory because the deficiency of vitamin B1 (thiamine) can result to problem relating to learning and retaining information.
Lastly, to promote good vision, healthy hair and skin then it is important to have regular intake of vitamin A and E which are both found in cocoyam.
Vitamin A is a carotenoid that supports healthy vision by protecting eyecells from free radical damage and producing new light detecting cells, the deficiency of this essential vitamin leads to blindness and vision. Vitamin E on the other hand, is a powerful antioxidant that helps decrease environmental damages to your hair and also promote circulation to the scalp, it also speed up the healing of wounds and blemishes, reduces wrinkles therefore making your skin glow and healthy.
When shopping for tuber food stuff, buy more of cocoyam and enjoy the nutrients loaded in it, to keep you healthy and fit.