Sweet potatoes are sweet, starchy root vegetables grown around the world. They can be orange, white, and purple in color.
They're rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. They may be called ‘potatoes’, but they are not related to potatoes, which are white in color.
Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are highly nutritious, as they they are a great source of dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
They're rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, manganese, potassium, pantothenic acid, copper, and niacin.
Some of their health benefits are as follows:
Protection Against Free Radicals
Purple and orange sweet potatoes are rich in antioxidants that fight free radicals, which can cause oxidative stress and cellular damage.
Sweet potatoes contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Dietary fiber helps maintain better gut health, as it promotes the growth of good probiotic bacteria. Dietary fiber also helps soften stool and aids digestion, absorption, and smooth bowel movement.
A high fiber diet has been linked to a lower risk of colon cancer. Several studies have found that a diet containing sweet potatoes promotes the growth of gut-friendly good bacteria known as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus. That can lead to a lower risk of gut-related conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and ulcerative colitis.
Prevention of Cancer
Purple sweet potatoes contain anthocyanins, a powerful group of antioxidants known to prevent certain cancers, like bladder, colon, stomach, and breast cancer. The orange ones have been found to be beneficial in some lab studies.
Vision and Eye Health
Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, the antioxidant responsible for their distinct bright orange color.
Beta-carotene is the precursor of retinol and is converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is required by the receptors in the eyes to detect light. Deficiency of vitamin A can lead to a type of blindness known as xerophthalmia. The orange fleshed sweet potatoes contain more beta-carotene.
Anthocyanins in purple sweet potatoes can be beneficial for the brain by reducing inflammation and preventing damage from free radicals.
Antioxidants are often associated with lower risk of mental decline and dementia. However, further research is required to ascertain whether anthocyanins are beneficial for the human brain or not.
Vitamin A can be beneficial for the immune system as well. It helps maintain the gut barrier, which prevents pathogens from entering the body. This vegetable is rich in beta carotene, which is a precursor of vitamin A. The beta carotene is converted into active retinol, which aids the immune system as well.
How to Include Sweet Potatoes in Diet?
Sweet potatoes can be enjoyed with or without the skin. They are often baked, boiled, roasted, fried, steamed, or pan-cooked across cuisines. They have a natural sweet taste and can be added to savory and sweet dishes.
Some popular cooking ideas include:
- Fried: They can be fried after cutting into wedges or strips.
- Mashed: They can be boiled and mashed with milk and seasoning.
- Baked: They can be whole baked in an oven and seasoned.
- Hash Brown: They can be diced and cooked with onion in a pan till crisp.
- Spiral Fried: This popular snack involves cutting the vegetable into spirals and eep frying in oil.
- Toasted: Thin slices can be toasted on a pan and topped with mayo, seasonings and herbs for a tasty snack.
Frying sweet potatoes in good fats like coconut oil, olive oil, or avocado oil can increase the bioavailability of beta carotene, as caroteoids are fat soluble. That boosts the absorption of beta carotene from cooked dishes. Although cooking destroys some of the beta carotene, the cooked dish can still contain good amounts of the antioxidant.
Sweet potatoes are versatile and can be added to both sweet and savory dishes. Their carb content is similar to potatoes, but they are more nutritious than regular potatoes.
Sweet potatoes are rich in dietary fiber and antioxidants, which protect the body against free radicals and also help maintain a healthy gut. They promote digestion and prevent constipation and flatulence. They are also rich in beta carotene, which is required for eye health.
It can be included in any diet and is ideal for vegans and vegetarians as a source of vitamin A.
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