They are easily available. They are inexpensive. And they are delicious. Whether it is in casseroles or pies or even fries, sweet potatoes are a common addition to our diet. But they are often confused with regular potatoes (we will address that, by the way), which they are not. And their array of benefits has something to do with that. Just keep reading!
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What Is The Nutritional Profile Of Sweet Potatoes?
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No doubt, they are nutritious. Which is what makes the benefits they offer so important to know.
What Are The Benefits Of Sweet Potatoes?
1. Sweet Potatoes Fight Cancer
Studies have shown the anticancer effects of sweet potatoes – especially cancers of the liver, lungs, kidneys, gallbladder, and the breast. This may be due to the rich array of antioxidants (preventing free radical damage) and anthocyanins.
2. Can Aid Diabetes Treatment
Sweet potatoes are rich in fiber, and this can work wonders in treating diabetes. What’s better – boiled sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic index and won’t spike your blood sugar levels as much as regular potatoes. Their high antioxidant content may help prevent complications of diabetes, such as retinopathy and neuropathy.
3. Can Boost Heart Health
Sweet potatoes contain an array of nutrients, including fiber, antioxidants, minerals, and B vitamins, all of which help in controlling the inflammation that can contribute to heart disease and other forms of vascular diseases.
4. Aid Weight Loss
The high amount of dietary fiber in sweet potatoes makes you feel full for longer periods. This means you won’t be eating as frequently as you used to. Also, fiber is digested slowly – and this prevents overeating as well.
Sweet potatoes are low in calories and high in water content – both can contribute to weight loss along with a sensible diet and exercise.
5. Improve Digestive Health
It’s the fiber, again. It is higher than in the regular potatoes, and it promotes regularity and improves the overall digestive health through nourishing effects on the gut microbiome (the trillions of microorganisms that inhabit the gut and are important for good health).
6. Improve Respiratory Health
These sweet veggies can clear congestion and hence help treat asthma and bronchitis. And then, we have beta-carotene in sweet potatoes – research suggests that this nutrient, which is later converted into vitamin A in the body, can reduce the severity of exercise-induced asthma (1).
7. Enhance Immunity
The beta-carotene and vitamin C in sweet potatoes offer immune-boosting benefits. These two nutrients work even better when taken together, which is what happens when you serve yourself a helping of sweet potato.
8. Improve Brain Function
Thanks to the abundance of antioxidants, taking sweet potatoes on a regular basis has shown to boost brain function. One Korean study even found that taking sweet potatoes can prevent oxidative damage in the brain, which can otherwise lead to serious ailments like Alzheimer’s (2).
And then, there is another study that tells us how a purple sweet potato extract had improved spatial learning and memory in mice – which carries similar prospects in humans as well (3).
Also, the starch in sweet potatoes is a perfect energy source for the brain. They also contain B vitamins, another set of essential nutrients for brain health. These vitamins can also lower stress levels.
9. Boost Bone Health
Sweet potatoes are rich in magnesium and potassium, which, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, can boost bone health (4). And the vitamin A in the vegetable also promotes bone health.
However, excessive vitamin A has been linked to bone loss (5). So, please consult your doctor before taking sweet potatoes for your bone health.
10. Promote Vision
Sweet potatoes are great sources of vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects your eyes from free radical damage (6).
These tuber vegetables are also rich in vitamins A and C (we already saw that). These nutrients are particularly beneficial for vision, and they help prevent serious eye ailments like age-related macular degeneration and cataracts (7).
11. Promote Skin Health
Vitamin A is crucial for skin health, and sweet potatoes have it in abundance. Deficiency of vitamin A can often lead to dull and dry skin. The vegetable contains other antioxidants that fight free radical damage, which can lead to early signs of aging.
Even research supports the fact that veggies rich in carotenoids, like sweet potatoes, give the skin a natural glow (8). And then, there is vitamin C, another potent antioxidant. This nutrient stimulates collagen production and firms the skin, thereby delaying the onset of fine lines and wrinkles.
Sweet Potato Recipes
There are a couple of them you might want to try. They are quick and easy, and highly nutritious.
1. Baked Sweet Potatoes
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 2 pinches of dried oregano
- 2 pinches each of salt and ground black pepper
- 3 large sweet potatoes
- Preheat the oven to 350o F. Coat the bottom of a baking dish with the olive oil.
- Wash and peel the sweet potatoes. Cut them into medium pieces, and place them on the baking dish. Turn them accordingly such that they are totally coated with olive oil.
- Sprinkle oregano, salt, and pepper.
- Bake in the oven for about 60 minutes or until they are soft.
2. Sweet Potato And Cauliflower Salad
- 1 small cauliflower head cut into florets
- 7 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- 1 ½ pounds of sweet potatoes cut lengthwise into ½ wedges
- Ground black pepper
- 3 teaspoons of sherry vinegar
- 8 cups of torn lettuce
- 2/3 cups of pomegranate seeds
- Toss the cauliflower, sweet potatoes, half of the olive oil, salt, and pepper on a rimmed baking sheet.
- Roast at 425o F. Keep tossing for about 20 to 30 minutes until the sweet potatoes turn golden. Allow to cool.
- Add the remaining olive oil and sherry vinegar and salt and pepper. And add the remaining ingredients and toss to coat.
- Serve right away.
Quite simple, aren’t they? And yes, there is one more topic we would like to discuss.
Sweet Potatoes Vs. White Potatoes Vs. Yams
There is some confusion regarding this in the world outside.
A medium-sized sweet potato has about 102 calories. It contains 24 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of protein, and 4 grams of fiber and has no cholesterol or fat. It is rich in beta-carotene and also contains vitamin C, though in a small amount. It is also loaded with vitamin B6 and potassium. Sweet potatoes have tapered ends with smoother skin.
A white potato of the same size contains about 120 calories. It has 28 grams of carbohydrates and 3 grams each of protein and fiber. It is free of fat and cholesterol as well. It is also loaded with vitamins B6 and C, folate, potassium, manganese, and magnesium. White potatoes have a slightly flattened appearance and medium russet skin and are white-fleshed.
One yam contains about 118 calories, 28 grams of carbohydrates, 4 grams of fiber, and 1.5 grams of protein. It is also rich in vitamins B6 and C, potassium, and manganese – though it is not as nutrient dense as a sweet potato. Yams are cylindrical and have rough skin. They are typically white-fleshed.
Moreover, the three belong to different plant families and are not the same.
They sure are delicious. And they are also easily available and inexpensive. Which is why we often miss their importance. Have them peeled or with their skins (though we recommend consuming them with their skins), and you will only be doing yourself a lot good. Include them in your diet today.
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- “Vitamin A and bone health”. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.