Discover Chinese Yam’s Benefits for Pregnancy and Kids

5 min read


By Wing Joo Loong Team

Key Takeaways

  • The effectiveness of nutrient absorption in your body is influenced by your digestive system, which is governed by the spleen.
  • In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), our spleen helps to transform food into essential energy (Qi) and blood necessary for the body's functions and overall vitality.
  • Chinese yam is a nutritional powerhouse that nourishes our spleen and is especially beneficial for expecting moms, elderly and even babies.

A wholesome, well-balanced diet is the cornerstone of well-being. Yet, the key to truly harnessing the nutritional benefits of the food we consume stems on nurturing an often-overlooked organ: the spleen. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the spleen plays a pivotal role in transforming ingested food into the essential energy (Qi) and blood necessary for the body's functions, nutrient absorption and overall vitality.

Have you heard about Chinese yam (淮山 huái shān)? This seemingly humble plant ingredient is a nutritional powerhouse that strengthens our spleen health as well as overall immunity. It is a highly nutritious food for everyone, from expectant mothers to seniors and even babies aged 6 months and above!

What is Chinese yam?

Commonly known as huai shan (淮山), shan yao (山药) or Japanese yam (nagaimo), Chinese yam is neutral in nature and is great for strengthening the digestive system and nourishing both the lungs and kidneys. It is a common ingredient found in classic herbal soups like Si Shen Tang, known for boosting digestive well-being which is especially beneficial for young kids as well as expecting moms coping with morning sickness.

Dried huai shan herb (chinese yam)

What are the health benefits of Chinese yam / huai shan?

Chinese yam / huai shan provides a good source of dietary fiber and contains various minerals and vital nutrients, including Vitamins C and B6, potassium, zinc and manganese.

It boasts many health benefits, such as:

  • Improving poor appetite
  • Supporting healthy energy levels
  • Improving digestion and nutrients absorption
  • Strengthening the lungs and immune system, particularly beneficial for individuals prone to respiratory issues like shortness of breath, coughs and colds

How to cook Chinese yam / huai shan soup for pregnancy

The following soup recipe is suitable for pregnancy, starting from the first trimester, and is especially beneficial for those dealing with poor digestion, low energy and bloating issues. It is also nourishing for everyone, including toddlers aged 1 onwards and seniors.


Chinese Yam / Huai Shan Soup

Servings: 1 to 2 
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 2 hrs

  • Rinse herbs before use.
  • Put all the ingredients (except wolfberries) into a double boiler.
  • Add water till it covers all the ingredients and double boil for 2 hours.
  • Add wolfberries in the last five minutes of cooking and serve warm.
A bowl of Chinese yam soup with pork ribs

How to cook Chinese yam / huai shan for babies and toddlers

Introducing solid foods to your little one is an exciting milestone. Fresh Chinese yam can be a nourishing addition to your little one's diet. Here's a simple porridge recipe that incorporates the goodness of Chinese yam, suitable for babies aged 6 months and above.


  • 30g lean pork ribs, blanched
  • 1 small piece of fresh Chinese yam, peeled and diced
  • 1 handful of rice
  • Water

Chinese Yam / Huai Shan Porridge

Servings: 1 to 2 
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hr

  • Rinse the rice and soak it in water for about 30 minutes.
  • In a pot, combine the soaked rice, diced Chinese yam, blanched pork ribs and enough water to cover the ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. 
  • Cook the porridge for about 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally and adding more water if needed.
  • Once the rice and Chinese yam are soft and well-cooked, remove from heat and let it cool slightly before serving.
  • Mash or blend the porridge to a suitable consistency for your baby's age and preference. You can adjust the thickness by adding more water if necessary. Serve warm.

Note: Before trying this recipe, ensure your baby is developmentally ready for solids. Monitor for any food allergy reactions within 1-3 days before including Chinese yam in your baby's regular diet.

Is Chinese yam / huai shan safe for pregnancy?

As a plant ingredient itself, Chinese yam / huai shan is generally well-suited for most individuals. In fact, pregnant mothers can start consuming it from the first trimester to strengthen the spleen and alleviate morning sickness. A strong spleen is also vital in transforming food into new Qi and blood to support fetal nourishment and growth. For a simple soup, double boil 15-30g dried Chinese yam with 300g pork ribs and 1 tbsp of wolfberries (suitable from the first trimester onwards).

A platter of fresh Chinese yam or huai shan, chopped and prepped for a cooking recipe

Is Chinese yam / huai shan safe for babies?

Generally, Chinese yam is considered a mild and nourishing food that can be suitable for babies aged 6 months and above who are ready to start consuming solid foods. It is gentle on the stomach and can be easily digested. When introducing fresh Chinese yam / huai shan to babies, it is important to cook it thoroughly until it is soft and easily mashable. This ensures that it is safe for your baby to consume.

Why is Chinese yam / huai shan good for kids' development?

Chinese yam is believed to strengthen the spleen and stomach in TCM. A well-functioning spleen is essential for proper digestion, nutrient absorption and overall digestive health. A robust digestive system lays the foundation for effective nutrient absorption and, thus, for young children’s growth and development.

For young children, whose immune systems are still developing, incorporating nutrient-rich foods like Chinese yam can be beneficial for strengthening the immune system and respiratory health.

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Note: All information contained herein serves as a general guide only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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