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Health Food of the month - Ube

January 2020

The Ube: a purple coloured yam variant
The ube offers nutritional benefits as well as bright colouring.

Previous Health Foods of the Month...





Diet & Supplements Index

With the global reach of most main foods these days, the excitement of discovering new exotic fruits and vegetables is being eroded.

A few years ago a traveller to the Philippines would have stopped in curiosity and wonder at the bright purple yam that was used in a variety of meals across the islands.

Now the ube, as this vibrant vegetable is called, is not only becoming available in the UK but also looks to be a trending food for 2020.

The ube’s official name is dioscorea alata and is a species of yam which has long been cultivated across the islands of south east Asia. Early sailors also transported yams including the ube further afield as far as Madagascar and the Comoros islands as well as New Zealand.

The plant is often confused with other root vegetables such as sweet potato or taro, but ube is a yam and different. While most root vegetables are usually used in savoury dishes, ube has a sweeter, more mellow taste with a slightly nutty and vanilla flavour which means it can be used in a way similar to pumpkins including in soup. In the Philippines it is usually used for cakes and desserts including a very popular dish where the ube is boiled, mashed and then mixed with condensed milk.

One of the key aspects of the ube is its colour. Ube contains a high level of anthocyanins which gives the vegetable, and the dishes it is used in, a distinct violet hue. It is due to their level of anthocyanins that blueberries, blackberries and purple cabbage also provide a deep purple and blue colour.

Because of this, ubes are becoming a top favourite with chefs who want to create dramatic dishes, from vivid violet ice creams to lavender coloured cakes.

Glasses with bright purple dessert
Ube is great when you want to create a dramatic effect

As an antioxidant, anthocyanins have been linked to a wide range of health benefits, but ube also offer other healthy contents, with good levels of vitamin C plus potassium, calcium, iron and some vitamin A. Ube also contain flavonoids which can contribute towards controlling blood sugar levels. The vegetable is also full of complex carbohydrates plus there are small amounts of potassium, iron and copper.

At the moment it is much easier to buy purple sweet potatoes in the UK as these are stocked in a range of supermarkets; but as more and more chefs are using ube to create dramatically vivid dishes, leading supermarket brands are now looking at stocking it.

Powdered ube is a good back up if you can’t find fresh ube at the moment. One Green Planet gives a lot of cooking tips as well as links to where to buy powered ube:

Seeds from Asia can be imported for anyone who wants to grow their own including on ebay at:

Products with ube as an ingredient are also available; for instance you can buy ube jam at the Asian Cookshop:


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