by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN
Sweet potatoes can be more than just a Thanksgiving dinner side dish. They have been a staple food in various parts of the world since ancient times. Sweet potatoes are sweet, starchy root vegetables that are available across the globe, even during the winter season.
There are more than 400 types of sweet potatoes grown around the world, out of which some of the well-known varieties include orange, purple, and white.
Sweet potatoes are one of the most nutritious foods in existence. They are rich in minerals, vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants. Sweet potatoes are considered to be the powerhouse of nutrients and are a great source of vitamin C, vitamin A, and manganese.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any condition. It is recommended that you speak with your doctor before changing your nutrition plan or adding any supplements to your regimen.
Nutritional Value of Sweet Potatoes
One cup or 200 grams of baked sweet potatoes with skin provides the following nutrition:
- Calories: 180
- Protein: 4 g
- Carbs: 41 g
- Fiber: 6.6 g
- Fat: 0.3 g
- Vitamin C: 44% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin A: 213% of the DV
- Copper: 36% of the DV
- Manganese: 43% of the DV
- Pantothenic acid: 35% of the DV
- Potassium: 20% of the DV
- Niacin: 19% of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 34% of the DV
In addition, the orange and purple varieties of sweet potatoes are rich in antioxidants that protect our bodies from free radicals.
The Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a very nutritious vegetable loaded with fiber and vitamins. They can be used in various ways, including baked, boiled, fried, or mashed.
Here are some surprising health benefits of sweet potatoes:
1. Boosts immunity
Studies have shown that vitamin A deficiency can increase gut inflammation and lower your immune system’s ability to fight potential threats. Sweet potatoes contain beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A helps boost immune function by increasing infection-fighting T cells. Sweet potatoes are also high in vitamin C, which has been shown to reduce the severity of upper respiratory infections in children.
2. Sweet potatoes improve digestion
The soluble fiber in sweet potatoes helps promote healthy digestion due to its ability to bind with cholesterol and bile acids in the gut, preventing them from being reabsorbed into the intestinal tract, where they could cause digestive problems. This action also helps prevent constipation as well as reduce blood pressure levels by lowering serum cholesterol levels and improving blood vessel elasticity.
3. Supports healthy vision
Sweet potatoes are full of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene. It is an antioxidant that is mostly present in the bright orange-fleshed vegetable. Beta-carotene is transformed into vitamin A in our bodies and used to create light-detecting receptors inside our eyes.
Test-tube studies have found that the anthocyanins sweet potatoes provide can protect eye cells from damage, which can be significant to overall eye health.
4. May enhance brain function
The beta-carotene found in sweet potatoes can help improve memory and learning. This is because it converts into vitamin A in the body, which is needed for proper brain function. In addition, anthocyanins in purple sweet potatoes could protect the brain by lowering inflammation and blocking free radical damage.
5. May have cancer-fighting properties
You may be able to keep cancer at bay with this superfood called sweet potatoes. The presence of anthocyanins in sweet potatoes helps to prevent the growth of cancerous cells in the breast, bladder, stomach, and colon.
According to studies, mice fed diets rich in purple sweet potatoes had shown lower rates of early-stage colon cancer, which suggests that the anthocyanins in the sweet potatoes may have a protective effect. Sweet potato peel extracts have also been found to possess anti-cancer properties in animal and test-tube studies.
6. Sweet potatoes regulate diabetes
Sweet potatoes may be sweet in taste, but diabetic people do not need to worry about that. Eating sweet potatoes can help regulate insulin levels in the body. A particular sweet potato, called Caiapo, is very effective for those with type-2 diabetes.
There are compounds in a sweet potato that could control blood sugar. When boiled, they are low in the glycemic index, which denotes that they won’t increase your blood sugar as fast as high-GI foods do.
7. Improve weight loss
The fiber in sweet potatoes helps fill you up, so you don’t overeat later on in the day — think of them as weight loss insurance! In addition, since they’re rich in vitamin C, they help regulate your metabolism so you can burn more calories throughout the day without even trying.
According to research, eating more dietary fiber helps in weight loss and could even help people follow their chosen nutrition plan.