What Are Purple Yams And Why Should You Consider Eating Them?

by Ani Manukian, RDN, LD

Last Updated: December 14, 2020

Purple Yam, or Ube (Dioscorea alata), has been growing in popularity over the last few years. Still, it’s nothing new in some parts of the world as it is a staple in the Philippines and neighboring South Pacific countries.

As the name suggests, the purple yam is a brightly pigmented root vegetable – with shades ranging from cream to pale lavender to deep violet. It is often confused with taro (Colocasia esculenta), but there are some distinct differences – taro is not a part of the yam family. The two appear the same with skins on but suddenly reveal themselves as separate vegetables when the skins are peeled – taro flesh ranges from white to lavender and lacks the Ube’s vibrant purple hue.

Nutritionally, this starchy root vegetable has a lot to offer. In just 100 grams, there are 140 calories, 27 grams of plant-powered carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, 13.5% of your daily need for potassium, and 40% of your daily need for vitamin C. They also pack a powerful antioxidant punch in the form of anthocyanins, which contribute to their bright purple color. Between the vitamin C (also an antioxidant) and strong anthocyanin content, Ube is a strong contender as a top free-radical fighter. Free radicals are associated with cancer and chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes, so eat up as part of a diet rich in high-antioxidant fruits and vegetables for whole-body protection.

As a starchy root vegetable, Ube can be subbed in for other root vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, etc.) in soups, stews, and side dishes. Their sweet and nutty flavor makes them extremely versatile - boil them, mash them, and bake them like any other root vegetable. It is also made into a powder that is used as a natural coloring agent.

Purple yam is a staple for desserts in the Philippines, and its popularity has spread. A quick internet search brings up recipes for everything from Purple Yam Soup with Pork to Samosas to Mochi Cake. These dishes look artificially colored, but the vibrant hue is completely natural and a testament to this unique root vegetable’s high anthocyanin content. Try it for yourself with recipes from Yummly, authentic, user-provided recipes on Cookpad, or Allrecipes.

Want to expand your family’s palette but struggling with picky eating or a food rut? Connect with one of Kroger’s Registered Dietitians via a FREE Telenutrition appointment for personalized nutrition recommendations and recipes your family will love.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.

Ani Manukian, RDN, LD

Ani Manukian, RDN, LD

Ani is living her dream as a real food dietitian, helping her patients merge the science of nutrition with the art of creating tasty, balanced meals. She competes in the sport of weightlifting and has personal and professional experience in sports nutrition, flexible dieting, and weight loss.