The most impressive health benefits of yucca include its ability to boost the immune system, improve healing rates, boost heart health, optimize digestion, reduce cholesterol levels, ease arthritic pain, prevent the development of diabetes, improve cognition, and aid in skin and eye care.
What is Yucca?
The term yucca refers to a large genus of more than 40 species of hardy, perennial shrubs and trees. They belong to the Asparagaceae family and the root of the yucca plant is where the most concentrated and easily accessible nutrients are found. These roots are often mistaken as yuca, which belongs to the genus Euphorbiaceae and has common names of manioc or cassava. Adam’s Needle is one very popular variety of yucca that has particularly powerful nutritional benefits and is widely researched.
The primary distribution of yucca is in Central and North America, as well as South America and the Caribbean, and they grow in particularly dry, arid climates. Only a limited number of species grows the valuable roots, but there are also medicinal properties of the fruits, seeds, flowers, and stems. The leaves are usually very tough and sharp, like a cactus, and are generally not used.
The yucca root is often used to replace potatoes in a wide variety of cultural dishes throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and due to the recent exposure it has enjoyed as a healthier alternative to the carb-heavy, simple-sugar laden potato, it is increasing in popularity throughout the United States. The saponins, resveratrol, and other phytonutrients found in the yucca plant are what endow it with such important medicinal benefits.
Health Benefits of Yucca
Now, let’s take a closer look at the impressive health benefits of yucca.
Aids in Digestion
The dense and nutrient-rich root of the yucca plant means that it is full of dietary fiber. This fiber can help stimulate peristaltic motion in your bowels and keep you regular, eliminating problems like constipation and diarrhea. A diet high in dietary fiber can also help you reduce bloating, cramping, excessive flatulence, and more serious gastrointestinal issues.
Due to the fact that dietary fiber makes you feel full and regulates the uptake of nutrients in an efficient way, you are less likely to snack or break from your dietary restrictions. Simple sugars often leave us feeling hungry when we’re not, simply because our body’s glucose levels are imbalanced. Yucca root can prevent that and help in your weight loss efforts in a way that other carbohydrates can’t.
Adding yucca to your diet, as mentioned above, can help regulate insulin and glucose levels, thereby preventing the peaks and plunges of blood sugar that can lead to diabetes. Given that diabetes is considered by some to be a global pandemic, adding yucca to the diet seems like a great choice!
Improves Heart Health
The dietary fiber of yucca can help lower cholesterol levels and promote a healthier cardiovascular system by balancing fatty acid levels. However, the potassium found in yucca can also help relieve the tension in the blood vessels and arteries, thereby lowering your chances of stress on the heart, which can lead to atherosclerosis, strokes, and heart attacks.
Yucca has a high level of vitamin C, far more than most other edible roots, and this makes it incredibly important for the immune system. Vitamin C is the first line of defense for our immune system, stimulating the production and activity of white blood cells. Vitamin C also acts as an antioxidant, preventing free radicals from damaging our organs and causing cell mutation.
Speeds Wound Healing
Vitamin C is also a key component in the production of collagen, which we need for all blood vessels, cells, tissues, and muscles, so adding a vitamin C boost to your diet can help repair and growth throughout your body.
Relieves Arthritic Pain
The resveratrol and saponins present in yucca root have been directly linked to anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, making it a very good natural treatment for inflammation issues, particularly arthritis. Studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between the two, but the precise chemical pathway remains somewhat mysterious.
The high levels of potassium and folate, both of which are known to stimulate blood flow to the brain and increase cognitive abilities, make yucca a brain food. Stimulating pathways in the brain and increasing blood flow is also good for combating cognitive disorders and keeping you sharp well into your old age.
Folic acid has also been connected to improving the overall skin and eye health in humans, mainly through its antioxidant activities. Furthermore, folic acid has been directly linked to a reduced chance of neural tube defects in infants, so pregnant mothers are encouraged to add folic acid to their diet in recommended amounts. Yucca is a great way to boost that vitamin intake!
There are some photoprotective properties of yucca that make it important for protecting the skin against damage from the sun. The resveratrol found in yucca is proven to strengthen skin and increase its resistance to degradation from free radicals and sun damage that can eventually lead to skin cancer.
Word of Caution: Although the benefits of yucca are quite clear, there have also been numerous reports of upset stomach, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea by those who have consumed yucca in large quantities. As with any new addition to your diet, eat yucca in moderation, and always consult a medical professional or nutritionist before adding a new component to your daily or weekly diet.