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 irritates 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. 100 g 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 improved. Cryptoxanthin, which is found in cocoyam, is said to protect against both lung and oral cancers.