If you are someone who gets into fall flavors and foods, then you are probably a fan of sweet potatoes. While they are plentiful all year round, they really thrive around this time of year. Not only are they yummy in any form, from simply baked to the more popular “French fry” format, but there are many health benefits to sweet potatoes as well. Learn about some of these benefits and how to get the most out of your favorite sweet potato dishes.
Nutrients in Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes have been prized as another one of those “superfoods” that we continue to hear about in the nutrition world. Here are some of its nutritional aspects:
Vitamins: Sweet potatoes pack an ample punch of various vitamins including Vitamins B6, C, and D. Vitamin B6 has cardiovascular benefits as it helps to prevent heart attacks. Meanwhile, Vitamin C helps to protect us from effects of stress, including built up toxins and signs of aging. It produces collagen, which allows us to keep our youthful appearance, all while promoting healthy wound healing. And last but not least, Vitamin D supports various functions, including thyroid health, nervous system and bone health.
Minerals: Iron is an important mineral that the sweet potato has to offer as it helps produce both red and white blood cells. In addition, iron helps with the metabolism of protein and further supports the immune system. Magnesium is another essential mineral in this food, which is known for promoting relaxation and anti-stress benefits.
Electrolytes: Potassium is also found in the sweet potato and helps to regulate the heart beat and nerve signals. Some of its functions in the body are to reduce swelling, monitor activities of the kidney, and relax muscle contractions.
Antioxidants: We know that antioxidants are beneficial for fighting off free radicals and helping to prevent cancer. Carotenoids like beta carotene are found in sweet potatoes and give off similar benefits. Studies have shown that these antioxidants have a strong association with lowering one’s risk for cancer.
Fiber: Fiber has many purposes and supporting a healthy digestive system is one of them. Organs like the stomach and colon depend on fiber to clear them out of debris and toxins so that your body can properly metabolize nutrients that you continue to feed it.
Because of many of the nutrients previously discussed, there are many health benefits one can gain from eating sweet potatoes.
While some people worry about the blood sugar raising effects that many starchy foods can have on their bodies, sweet potatoes are different in the fact that they can actually work to regulate blood sugar, rather than spike it. When boiled or steamed, especially, they can carry a glycemic index (GI) of about 50, which is not that bad. The nutrients in sweet potatoes work to lower insulin resistance, making the body more sensitive to the insulin production.
The high fiber content also makes it a prime food for digestive health. Not only does the fiber promote regularity, but it also helps to eliminate heavy metals such as arsenic and mercury from the digestive tract.
Prevention of Chronic Disease and Illness
The anti-inflammatory effect of sweet potatoes is yet another health benefit. Because of this power, it can prevent against chronic inflammatory diseases and symptoms such as multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, arthritis, stomach ulcers, and emphysema.
Rheumatoid Arthritis: The beta-cryptoxanthin content found in sweet potatoes has been shown to be effective, specifically in helping chronic conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis. This element, coupled with the Vitamin C, help to alleviate the inflammatory properties of this type of arthritis.
Stomach Ulcers: If you are prone to this ailment, the nutritional content of sweet potatoes will likely help sooth your symptoms as well. The potassium, beta-carotene, calcium and Vitamins B and C all help to heal stomach ulcers. The fiber also works to fight constipation and high acid levels, which may help to prevent the ulcers from occurring in the first place.
Emphysema: Smokers are one population that needs to be extra mindful of their Vitamin A intake as a deficiency in such has been associated with the incidence of emphysema and other lung diseases.
Did you know?…Other Interesting Facts
- Sweet potatoes are NOT the same thing as yams
- There are PURPLE-fleshed sweet potatoes
- Sweet potatoes are native to Central America and are one of the oldest vegetables known to man
- Sweet potatoes should ideally be stored loosely or in a brown paper bag, poked with many holes in dark, cool climate.
So now you probably know way more about the sweet potato than you would have ever imagined. Because of its high nutrient density, you are bound to benefit from at least a few of these health advantages given by consuming this root vegetable. Not only do these nutrients offer general health value, but they have been specifically linked to certain chronic diseases (listed above). If you’ve ever needed yet another reason to purchase this veggie, here it is!