The versatile and delicious sweet potato has always been touted for being an inexpensive source of antioxidants and nutrients that are beneficial for the body, and its no surprise why. Sweet potatoes are essentially root tubers and much like other root tubers like parsnips, carrots, turnips and beets, sweet potatoes store starch and other carbohydrates underground so as to feed the parts of the plant that are aboveground. As one of the oldest foods known to humanity, sweet potatoes were revered for their far-reaching benefits for the body.
If you look at the nutritional profile of the sweet potato, you could understand why people in most countries adopt a diet that is mainly consistent with sweet potatoes, in fact, traditional Papua New Guinea Highlanders are known to eat more sweet potatoes than any other kind of food, so much so that they obtain 90% of their calories from tubers like yam and sweet potato. Let’s take a deeper look at the impressive nutritional profile of sweet potato.
Benefits Of Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin C, fibre, vitamin B5, manganese, vitamin B6, copper, magnesium and potassium. Additionally, they are high in beta-carotene, which is what gives sweet potato its colour. Beta-carotene also functions as a pigment and antioxidant. Cooked sweet potatoes contain a modest amount of proteins as well – 4g per cup when cooked. Moreover, sweet potato is a rich source of vitamin A and has a lower glycemic index, this means that it usually takes some time to digest.
Aids Weight Loss
As a rich source of dietary fibre, sweet potatoes will leave you feeling full and sated for longer periods of time. This basically means that you will be less likely to snack on unhealthy food or even as frequently. Additionally, the fibre rich content in sweet potato allows it to be digested slowly and prevents a blood sugar spike. You wouldn’t need to worry too much about the calorie intake as sweet potatoes are also low in calories and high in water content, both of which significantly contribute to weight loss. Of course, it is important that you also adopt a healthy diet and an active lifestyle too meet your weight and health goals.
Boosts Digestive Health
As we have discussed before, sweet potatoes are high in fibre. Besides helping you maintain and lose weight, the rich fibre content will also help to promote digestive health and improve the overall health of your intestinal tract. At the same time, a regular diet of sweet potatoes will nourish the microorganisms in the gut. These are actually trillions of microorganisms that reside in the gut and are crucial for good health. By “feeding” these microorganisms, sweet potatoes play a large role in boosting the health of the gut. Another thing to note is that, compared to regular potatoes, sweet potatoes actually contain more fibre. This is one of the reasons why sweet potatoes are seen as a better alternative to potatoes.
Keeps Heart Healthy
The fibre content in sweet potatoes not only help you lose weight or improve digestive health but also help to reduce the low-density lipoproteins (LDL) bad cholesterol in the blood. LDL cholesterol essentially causes the buildup of cholesterol in the arteries. This inadvertently can increase the risk of many chronic conditions such as heart disease, heart attacks and even stroke. Moreover, the high potassium levels in sweet potatoes help to balance the sodium levels in the body. This aids in maintaining healthy blood pressure. In addition to that, sweet potatoes are high in copper as well. Copper is an essential metal that is required for the production of red blood cells. At the same time, it is necessary for keeping the heart healthy. A deficiency in copper has been linked to dangerously high blood pressure, homocysteine and LDL cholesterol levels.
Promote Skin Health
Besides being rich in fibre, sweet potatoes are also a high in vitamin A, which plays a key role in skin health. In fact, vitamin A is one of the most common vitamins found in many skin care products and its no surprise why. Essentially vitamin A is classified as a group of compounds that includes active forms of retinoic acid, retinol, retinal and provitamin A carotenoids like beta-carotene. The antioxidants such as beta-carotene and provitamin A carotenoids, which are present in sweet potato work to neutralise the free radicals in the body and impede their ability to break down collagen, contribute to fine lines and saggy skin. Additionally, vitamin A offers natural protection against sun-related redness and pigmentation, encourages healthy skin cell production as well as cell turnover in the skin. Research has found that vegetables that are rich in carotenoids, like sweet potato, restores the skin’s natural glow and leaves it looking youthful and radiant. In addition to maintaining the overall appearance of the skin, vitamin A also protects the skin from harmful irritants and infections by promoting cell production.