The term potatoes are usually associated with carbs and weight gain. However, when it comes to sweet potatoes, it’s entirely a different scenario. These tubers are packed with nutrients and valuable elements that can actually help you maintain a healthy weight. The very fact that they are beneficial to your health makes it an ideal food to be added to your diet.
Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are starchy and delicious root vegetables that belong to the Convolvulaceae family. They are available in 400 different varieties and are differentiated by the colors of their skin and flesh. Sweet potatoes come in various colors such as yellow, red, orange, purple, brown and beige. The flesh of this vegetable also varies and can be seen in white, beige, pink, red, violet, orange, yellow and purple colors. Although it is sometimes referred to as a yam in certain places, this vegetable is entirely different from the original yam.
Sweet potatoes are thought to have their origin in south or Central America and are one of the oldest vegetables man has been eating. Evidence of prehistoric man eating sweet potatoes 10000 years back has been discovered in Peruvian caves. But nowadays they are grown widely in temperate and tropical areas having adequate amount of water supply for their growth.
Leaves of Sweet potato are also edible and provide good nutrients and dietary fibers. They are often cooked similar to other green leafy vegetables.
Sweet Potato nutrition facts
Sweet potatoes are nutritional powerhouses of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber. The good thing about this vegetable is that it does not have saturated fats and cholesterol that can ruin your health when consumed in large amounts. Sweet potatoes contain high levels of flavonoid phenolic compounds such as beta-carotene and vitamin A that gives it the beautiful orange color and are powerful antioxidant.
Sweet potatoes offer only 2/3 calories as same amount of potatoes. It offer good supply of vitamin A; just 30grams of baked sweet potatoes can meet your daily requirement of Vitamin A. Further a large cup or 300 grams of this tuber can meet your daily dietary requirement of Vitamin C, manganese and some other minerals. It also offers good amount of vitamins – Vitamin B6, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin. Sweet potato is a wonderful source of essential minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, and potassium.
Sweet potatoes leaves are also packed with nutrients, especially vitamin K. Just a cup of green leaves about 100 grams provides more than daily dietary requirement of Vitamin K. It also supplies other vitamins – Vitamin A, Riboflavin and Folate in good quantity. It has good concentration of potassium, manganese and magnesium.
Health benefits of sweet potatoes
Apart from being scrumptious, low-priced and always available, sweet potatoes are nutritious and provide a whole lot of health benefits to us. The following are some of the benefits of sweet potatoes that makes it one of the most popular and favored vegetables.
Sweet potatoes are heart healthy
Sweet potatoes have been found to have large amount of vitamin B6, which is good for the heart. Your body produces an amino acid called homocysteine, which when formed in elevated levels can cause conditions like stroke, heart attack and blood clots. Vitamin B6 has the ability to break down this substance and prevent the hardening and blockage of your blood vessels. Sweet potatoes also contain good amounts of potassium that can control blood pressure and prevent the occurrence of heart attacks.
Sweet potatoes and cancer
According to experts, the antioxidants and nutrients present in sweet potatoes have the power to attack the cancer cells and protect you from the deadly disease. These antioxidants also eliminate the dangerous free radicals that can cause cancer. A study has found anticancer effects over human colorectal cancer through storage proteins in sweet potatoes. Polyphenols such as anthocyanins and phenolic acids found in Sweet potato leaves have shown anticancer activity in prostate cancer.
Control your appetite with sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a rich source of fiber. Eating fiber rich food can control your appetite by satiating your hunger and making you feel full for a long time.
Sweet potatoes help to maintain body weight
Unlike potatoes that make you gain weight, sweet potatoes are different in that they actually help you maintain weight. These tubers have high fiber content that keeps you feeling full for a long period of time. When you are trying to maintain weight, it is important to reduce your intake of junk calories. Sweet potatoes have very low calorie content. Just like high fiber content, sweet potatoes also have high water content which takes up plenty of space in your stomach making your feel full. All of these make this vegetable ideal to be included in your weight loss diet.
Sweet potatoes for bone health
Sweet potatoes are a rich source of beta-carotene, calcium and phosphorus that helps to strengthen your bones and keep them healthy.
Sweet potatoes as antioxidant
Flavonoid phenolic compounds such as beta-carotene and vitamin A works as powerful antioxidant and are present in ample quantity in this tuber. In fact value is largest in other root vegetables. These nutrients are required for healthy skin and vision.
Sweet potatoes also contain sporomins which are known as storage proteins and increase shelf life of sweet potatoes. These proteins are antioxidant in nature and protects tuber from physical damage. It offers similar property to our body protecting it from damage of free radicals.
Sweet potatoes have anti-inflammatory properties
The nutrients like Vitamin C, vitamin B6, manganese and beta-carotene present in sweet potatoes gives it anti-inflammatory qualities. It has been found that consumption of sweet potatoes can lower both internal and external inflammations of the body.
Sweet potatoes treat lung disorders
Sweet potatoes are good for treating nasal and lung infections. It provides relief as expectorant in clearing nose, bronchi and lungs. It gives relief from asthma.
Sweet potatoes are good for Diabetics
Sweet potatoes have been traditionally used in treatment of type II diabetics. Various studies have confirmed its ability to reduce and control blood sugar. Certain flavonoids from sweet potato leaves have found to reduce blood sugar in drug induced diabetic rats.
Like other potatos, Sweet potatoes supplies body with carbohydrate which is digested in body as sugar. However content of amylose is more in sweet potato as compared to potato which has higher amylopectin. Amylose raises blood sugar slowly and thus works as healthy food even for diabetes.
Sweet potatoes are cholesterol free, fat free and low in sodium. They are packed with nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, fiber and potassium. Moreover they have a low glycemic index. All these qualities make this awesome vegetable, a healthy and nutritious addition to the diet of a diabetic patient. In fact, according to the American Diabetes Association, sweet potatoes have earned a place in their list of top 10 diabetes super foods.
Sweet potatoes improves digestion
Sweet potatoes, being an excellent source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin C, manganese and complex carbohydrates are very helpful in the process of digestion. When eaten without removing the skin, this vegetable can offer amazing health benefits to your digestive system. The nutrients and fiber in sweet potatoes help to regularize the bowel movements, prevent constipation and also relieve conditions like inflammatory bowel problems and ulcers.
Sweet potato – a hydrating food
Sweet potato helps retain water in body. This can be attributed to presence of dietary fiber which form gel with water. It helps maintain water balance and keep hydrated. Sweet potato is considered as fasting food in India with its ability to keep you hydrated while supplying essential minerals.
Sweet potatoes boost your immune system
The high levels of beta-carotene and vitamin C helps to strengthen your immune system. According to experts, beta-carotene increases the activity of T cells, which are a type of white blood cells that help your body fight against infections and diseases.
Sweet potatoes are excellent pregnancy foods
Sweet potatoes are one of the top pregnancy foods, as they are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, folate and fiber. The high content of folate helps in the healthy development of the cells and tissues of the fetus.
Sweet potatoes help to maintain blood pressure
High blood pressure is a major health problem that can lead to strokes and heart attack. Potassium is a mineral that plays a key role in controlling your blood pressure. Sweet potatoes are a rich source of potassium and so making them a part of your regular diet can help you maintain a normal blood pressure.
Sweet potatoes for great skin
Sweet potatoes can make your skin radiant, glowing and looking young. The beta-carotene in this vegetable is converted in to Vitamin A inside our body, which activates new cell production. Beta-carotene helps to remove wrinkles and also protects your skin from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun. Sweet potatoes contain high amounts of vitamin C, which is good for the skin. It helps to get rid of dryness of the skin and also reduces the signs of aging.
Some tips for enjoying benefits of sweet potatoes for skin
- Mix boiled mashed sweet potatoes with honey and use as face mask. Astringent Lemon juice can be added for oily skin.
- You can use water used for boiling sweet potato for cleaning your skin. It has sufficient nutrients which can tone your skin and cleanse it.
- Same warm water can be used for washing cracked and dry feet.
- Place two slices of sweet potatoes over eyes similar to cucumber. Anthocyanin in sweet potatoes reduces pigmentation and thus help you get rid of dark circles and wrinkles around eyes.
- Boil sweet potatoes till they are extremely soft. Remove peels and to this add some honey, cream and ginger juice. This paste can be sieved through muslin cloth. Fine paste can be used as facial mask. It keeps your skin young and good looking. This mask can be refrigerated for later use.
- Mash boiled sweet potato with some oats and yoghurt to make a moisturizing scrub for your skin.
Sweet potatoes for healthy hair
Good nutrition is extremely important for the proper growth of your hair. Sweet potatoes are packed with beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in our body. Vitamin A is essential for the health of your hair, as it promotes the growth and development of tissues and cells. Sweet potatoes also contain copper, iron and vitamin C, all of which are important nutrients that promote the healthy growth of hair.
Try making some sweet potato mask with egg, honey, yoghurt, lemon or olive oil for your hair. This works great for dry and rough hair.
Sweet potatos and Urinary tract stones
Like some popular food items, sweet potatoes also contain measurable oxalic acid. This acid along with calcium results in stones in kidney and urinary tract. People with history of stones may well avoid eating sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes coupled with ample water intake reduces such risks.
Selection and storage of sweet potatoes
When compared to white potatoes, sweet potatoes happen to be more fragile. So it is important that you select them with some extra care. Always choose the ones that are uniformly colored and have firm skin. Avoid sweet potatoes that have bruises, and cracks on them. Also avoid the ones that are kept refrigerated because cold temperature has a negative impact on their taste.
Sweet potatoes have very thin skin that can easily be damaged. They should not be stored in a refrigerator. Instead you should take care to store them in cool, dry and properly ventilated places, probably a pantry or cellar. The ideal temperature under which these tubers should be kept is between 55°F to 60°F. It is possible to store sweet potatoes without damage for more than a month if kept under these conditions. If you don’t have a cellar or pantry, a good way of storing them would be to keep then in brown paper bags that have holes punched in them and then store them in cupboards that are dark, cool and properly ventilated.
How to prepare and cook sweet potatoes?
Before cooking sweet potatoes, you first have to peel off their skin. However, if you are using organic sweet potatoes, there is no harm in keeping the skin on. Once the skin is peeled, it is important to cook them immediately, because they may darken or change color once the flesh comes in contact with air. If you don’t want to cook them immediately, then it is better to keep them in a bowl of water to prevent oxidation.
What is healthiest way to cook sweet potatoes?
There are several ways by which sweet potatoes can be cooked. They can be boiled, fried, or baked. But for obtaining optimum flavor and nutrition, it is recommended to steam them. Often people ask does microwaving sweet potato damage its health benefits? We feel microwaving is good way to preserve nutrients.
Healthy recipes for sweet potatoes
Among healthy sweet potato recipes, we would recommend eating just boiled sweet potatoes with sugar crystals. They are simple and tasty.
- Sweet Potato Wedges: If you have French fries carving, sweet potato wedges can substitute them in healthy way. You can cut sweet potato in 4 long piece. In various ways to make these wedges you can microwave for some time which makes it soft inside and then grill to make outer skin crispy. Use herbs like mustard, pepper, garlic or rosemary to make healthy sweet potato recipe. Grilled sweet potato fries is another healthy recipes for sweet potatoes.
- “A” sweet potato soup: Soups are always considered healthy recipes. Boil sweet potatoes with carrot pieces and ginger pieces. Blend them with some vegetable stock to make smooth Vitamin A packed sweet potato healthy recipe. This soup will work wonders for your skin and vision.
- Also try out some dehydrated sweet potato chips. You may replace your potato chips with these dehydrated sweet potato chips as a healthy alternative.