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How Good are Sweet Potatoes for Your Health?

Sweet potatoes are a staple food in many parts of the world. The benefits of sweet potatoes are typically recognized by their copper-coloured skin and vibrant orange flesh. The vegetable has a thin, brown skin on the outside with coloured flesh inside – most commonly orange in colour and is often called a "yam" in parts of Europe and North America. True to their name, sweet potatoes have a naturally sweet flavour, which is further enhanced through cooking methods like roasting. They are also one of the top sources of beta-carotene—a precursor to vitamin A.

 

There are a number of sweet potato benefits and side effects that you should be aware of before including it in your diet. This article details all the benefits and risks of this novel vegetable.

 

Sweet potatoes offer nutritional value and are delicious to eat. The sweet potato is creamy and soft enough to be an ingredient in several pie recipes, and most people think of the vegetable as merely a dessert ingredient. However, scientists have found the benefits of eating sweet potatoes are among the best sources of Vitamins and there are a number of sweet potato benefits for skin. Sweet potatoes are naturally packed with vitamin B5, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, and carotenoids due to their naturally orange colour. While physical health is one aspect of your wellbeing, so is financial health. One of the best ways to safeguard your finances during a health crisis is health insurance.

Types of Sweet Potato

There are primarily three types of sweet potatoes that are consumed in India:

 

  • Red Sweet Potatoes

  • Purple Sweet Potato

  • White Sweet Potatoes

In addition to the two types most commonly found in India, there are regional varieties common in certain states. For instance, Goa grows other types that include the zadd-kondgueo, katta-kondgueo, maddi, and suran.

Sweet Potato Health Benefits

1. Reduce the Risk of Cancer

There is evidence that the nutritional value of a sweet potato can reduce the risk of cancer. Fruit and vegetables are high in antioxidants; compounds that help defend the body against damage from free radicals. Studies have suggested that the antioxidants in the peel of sweet potatoes in particular, and especially purple sweet potatoes, may help reduce this oxidation process, thereby reducing the risk of cancer. To get the most nutrition from your sweet potatoes, don’t peel the outer layer. Simply scrub to remove unwanted dirt and other particles well before cooking.

2. Improves Digestion

Among the sweet potatoes benefits and side effects are that sweet potatoes are high in fibre, which has been shown to promote a healthy digestive system. Much of the research so far has been conducted, but it would appear that the high phytosterol content of sweet potatoes does have a protective effect on the digestive system and may be important in the prevention and management of duodenal and gastric ulcers.

3. Manages Type 2 Diabetes

Studies have shown that nutrients in sweet potatoes may improve blood sugar regulation in type 2 diabetes. Sweet potatoes are categorised as low to high on the glycemic index scale, which can minimise the occurrence of insulin resistance and low blood sugar levels, as well as high blood sugar in people who are suffering from diabetes.

4. Anti-Inflammatory Properties

The nutritional value of a sweet potato has a significant amount of vitamins, most of which have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Studies carried out on the purple sweet potato have conclusively shown that the extracts from the vegetable variant had the capability of inhibiting the production of active inflammatory components in the body.

Sweet Potato Nutritional Facts

When you take a closer look at the nutritional value of sweet potatoes, you’ll see that they pack a number of essential nutrients that are crucial for growth and development. Check out the details of the calories and nutrients in sweet potatoes in the table below. The values given pertain to 3.5 ounces or 100 grams of raw sweet potatoes.

Calories

86

Water

77%

Fat

0.1 grams

Carbohydrates

20.1 grams

Protein

1.6 grams

Fibre

3.0 grams

Sugar

4.2 grams

Carbs

Sweet potatoes are mostly made of carbohydrates. In fact, in one medium-sized sweet potato, you can find around 25-27 grams of carbs. These carbs are present in the form of simple sugars like glucose, sucrose, fructose and maltose. The presence of high carb content makes sweet potato a high GI food, but you can make it healthier by boiling the vegetable instead of frying it. 

Starch

Sweet potatoes contain three main types of starches, which include rapidly digested starch, slow digested starch and resistant starch. Of these types, rapidly digested starch makes up most of the root vegetable’s starch content. This increases the GI value of sweet potatoes. The other two types of starch only make up around 10% of the starch content each. 

Protein

The protein content in sweet potatoes is fairly low, with only around 2 grams present in a medium-sized piece of the root vegetable. That said, most of the protein found in sweet potatoes is sporamin, which is said to have cancer-fighting properties.

Fibre

When cooked, sweet potatoes typically have significant amounts of fibre like pectin, cellulose and lignin. The high fibre content means that you will feel relatively full after eating sweet potatoes, thus slowing your digestion and reducing spikes in blood sugar levels. 

Vitamins and Minerals

The discussion on sweet potato’s nutritional facts also includes the vitamins and minerals present in the root vegetable. The most common minerals and vitamins you can find in sweet potatoes are listed below.

 

Health Risks of Sweet Potato

Although sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamins and minerals, there are a number of risks involved in the consumption of this staple food.

  • Kidney Stones: 

There is some concern that the high amount of dietary oxalate in sweet potatoes may contribute to the development of kidney stones.

  • Impedes Weight Loss: 

People who consume sweet potato for weight loss, should not include it in their diet. This is because this vegetable is rich in starch content and also contains many important minerals, vitamins and proteins. These nutrients are very easy to digest and help to add mass to your body.

  • Worsens Heart Conditions: 

Sweet potatoes are rich in potassium; this makes them harmful for individuals with heart disease and on beta-blockers medication. Beta-blockers in heart thinner can cause potassium levels to increase and further consumption of potassium-rich sweet potatoes may create complications.

How to Prepare Sweet Potato

Preparing sweet potatoes is fairly easy. When you shop for the root vegetable, ensure that you choose pieces that are firm and do not have any green or black spots. Mushy root potatoes are also not a good idea. Once you have purchased good sweet potatoes, you can prepare them in many different ways. 

 

Sweet potatoes can be steamed or boiled to keep the recipes healthy and lower the GI. You can also choose to bake or roast your sweet potatoes in a microwave. Furthermore, the root vegetable can also be deep-fried. However, it’s best to limit the intake of deep-fried foods to ensure you do not eat too much saturated fat. 

How to Store Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes do not spoil easily, so they can be stored outside the refrigerator itself. To prolong the shelf life of the root vegetable, it is best to store it in a well-ventilated and dry area. If you follow this practice, the vegetables will typically last for a week or two. Avoid refrigerating raw sweet potatoes, as they may become hard and lose their taste. It is, however, advisable to refrigerate them if they are cooked.

Adding Sweet Potato to Your Diet

Sweet potatoes can be added to diet in a number of different health and delicious ways.

 

  • Soup: Simply add sweet potatoes to some vegetable or chicken soup.

  • Salad: Add raw potatoes to a salad.

  • Vegetable dish: You can also make a meal out of it by slicing baked sweet potatoes in half and adding broccoli or other vegetables to the dish.

  • Mashed Potatoes: Sweet potatoes can also be mashed. Simply boil the potatoes, then use a fork, masher, or blender to puree the cooked potatoes. Add liquid such as water, broth, or milk if a smoother consistency is desired. Season with a dash of salt, pepper, spices, or herbs as desired.

  • Chaat: Make a chaat at home with chaat masala, chillies and lime juice. Substitute regular potatoes with sweet potatoes. The sweet and sour flavour of the sweet potatoes will leave your taste buds wanting more.

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FAQs related to Health Benefits of Sweet Potato

  • ✔️What happens if you eat sweet potatoes every day?

    The high nutritional value of a sweet potato makes it a great food for people suffering from lifestyle diseases like blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes to name a few. Eating sweet potatoes daily can fulfill your body's need for potassium, which is around 12% approx.

  • ✔️Are sweet potatoes bad for you?

    Though sweet potatoes are a rich source of beta carotene, they have a high glycemic index and glycemic load—almost as high as that of a white potato. This may not be great for your waist length and a great source of proteins in sweet potato.

  • ✔️Are sweet potatoes better than regular potatoes?

    Both types of potatoes have their own pros and cons. White potatoes provide more potassium, whereas sweet potatoes are incredibly high in vitamin A.

  • ✔️How many calories are in a sweet potato?

    A normal sized sweet potato pod has close to 103 calories.     

  • ✔️Are sweet potatoes food for weight loss?

    Certainly, a sweet potato is a more diet-friendly starch option than a white potato. 

  • ✔️Which colour sweet potato is the healthiest?

    Sweet potatoes that have orange flesh are rich in beta-carotene, which protects the body against free radicals. On the other hand, sweet potatoes that come with purple flesh are richer in anthocyanins, which have antidiabetic, anticancer and anti-inflammatory properties.

  • ✔️Is it better to boil or bake sweet potatoes?

    Boiling sweet potatoes is a healthier way to cook the vegetables, because it ensures that the nutritional value of sweet potato is not altered too much.