The humble sweet potato - Benefits and nutrition
A starchy vegetable that’s loaded with nutrients, the sweet potato’s nutritional value is usually underestimated. In this article, we share with you eight reasons why this tuberous root is actually good for your eyes, skin, immunity and heart and can also help keep lifestyle diseases at bay!
Let’s begin by asking “Is sweet potato healthy?” Sweet potatoes are a delicious and versatile vegetable that possesses a high nutritional value. The sweet potato plant is used as traditional medicine, and the vegetable is preferred over other vegetables for its extraordinary nutrient profile.
Often known as Misti Alu, Sakarkand, and Ratalu in the Indian local language, eating sweet potato may be helpful due to its anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral, and wound healing properties. As sweet potatoes are easily available and nutrient dense, these are also considered valuable in reducing the negative health impacts caused by the high incidence of malnutrition in children and in women during pregnancy.
Read on to discover the sweet potato's health benefits and why it must be included as a part of a nutritious diet!
Types of sweet potatoes
Several types of sweet potatoes range over a wide variety based on the colour of the skin, right from yellow, orange, red, brown, and purple, to beige. The colour of its flesh ranges from beige to white, red, pink, violet, yellow, orange, and purple.
- White fleshed sweet potatoes: The most widely grown are the white-fleshed varieties. These potatoes with white or pale yellow flesh are less sweet and moist than those with red, pink, purple or orange flesh.
- Orange fleshed sweet potatoes: The colourful orange-fleshed types boast a rich antioxidant profile, namely- carotene that is converted to vitamin A in our body as well as some amounts of anthocyanin.
- Purple-fleshed sweet potato: It is characterised by its bright colour and a significantly greater amount of anthocyanin than the ordinary orange-fleshed sweet potato. Anthocyanins function as antioxidants and can strengthen your immune system while reducing inflammation. Compared to the typical blueberry, purple sweet potatoes have nearly three times as many anthocyanins.
Sweet potato nutrition
Sweet potato’s nutritional value is very high. The following is a list of sweet potato nutrients in the brown skinned variety:
|Nutrient||Amount/100 g||Sweet Potato Nutritional Benefits|
|Energy||108.9 kcal||A powerhouse of calories, the energy obtained from sweet potato can be used to carry out daily activities and for the body to perform its tasks.|
|Carbohydrate||24.25 g||Our body's primary source of providing and storing energy, the carbohydrate in sweet potato is present as starch and could be a good option for those involved in strenuous jobs.|
|Fibre||3.9 g||Sweet potatoes contain a great balance of soluble and insoluble fibre. This may prove to be beneficial to those suffering from Type 2 Diabetes, as it is associated with the stabilisation of blood sugar levels.|
|Vitamin A (Beta - carotene)||5376 mg||Among the root vegetables, sweet potato has some of the highest levels of Vit A that is required for good vision and may act as an antioxidant.|
|Vitamin C||17.94 mg||The Vit C in sweet potato is needed to fight harmful molecules called free radicals and can thus protect the integrity of our cells.|
|Magnesium||17.37 mg||Alongside other minerals, magnesium from sweet potato helps our body in the synthesis of various enzymes.|
|Potassium||345 mg||Potassium from sweet potato is one of the nutrients involved in fluid balance, and for maintaining the heart rhythm.|
Health benefits of eating sweet potato
The following is a list of the benefits of eating sweet potato:
- Essential for healthy vision: Sweet potatoes are a fine source of beta-carotene that can be converted to vitamin A when consumed. Vitamin A is required for good vision and enables us to perceive objects under dim light.
- Helps treat wounds: The fibre present in sweet potatoes can be used alongside other therapeutic agents for skin wound therapy and burns. Besides, the high phenolic content in them makes them potential antioxidant agents - substances that can protect our cells from the harmful effects of free radicals. Alternatively, the beta carotene and vitamin C in sweet potatoes can promote a healthy immune system and maintain the integrity of the skin.
- Friendly gut food: Gut health is positively influenced by the presence of dietary fibre in our diet. It is that part of the food that cannot be digested but may be fermented into smaller beneficial compounds called short chain fatty acids. These compounds can stimulate blood flow in the colon and promote normal cell growth. Diets high in dietary fibre can also contribute to the survival of healthy bacteria in our gut and are associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases.
- Can help with a healthy brain: It is learnt that the purple variety of sweet potato that is rich in anthocyanin pigment can improve brain performance. Its antioxidant properties are also attributable for exhibiting memory enhancing effects.
- Muscle relaxant: Sweet potatoes are high in potassium and can relieve muscle cramps.
- Regulates mood: The magnesium present in sweet potatoes helps in relaxation and calmness and promotes nerve health. Magnesium is also a key mineral for de-stressing and good moods.
- Helps regulate blood sugar levels: Sweet potatoes may help lower blood glucose levels in diabetics. The white-ﬂeshed variety may improve the function of the cells in the pancreas that are involved in the management of blood sugar levels. Sweet potatoes may also be beneficial in improving insulin sensitivity. Insulin is the hormone that ensures the glucose levels in the blood are managed and any excess is sent to our cells.
Ways to include sweet potatoes in your diet
Sweet potatoes are versatile and have a number of different uses. They can be eaten in a number of different ways and can be included in your diet as a snack or as a part of a balanced meal. Following are some ways you can reap sweet potato benefits:
Sweet Potato Upma: A highly nutritious breakfast or snack option, this upma is made from a combination of semolina and sweet potato along with onion, coriander, and a dash of seasonings. It is a good source of energy to keep you fueled for the day and also provides dietary fibre, which gives a sense of satiety.
Sweet Potato Idli: Known for its slightly tart, doughy taste and made from a blend of cereals and pulses, you can give your regular idli a twist by adding grated sweet potato to the batter. This will help improve the overall vitamin A content of your meal, which is important for healthy skin and eyes.
Soup: Everyone loves a warm bowl of soup on a cold winter evening! When looking for soup options, sweet potatoes can serve as quite a nutritious choice when blended and added to onions sautéed in butter. The high phytochemical content of sweet potato nutrients can build your immunity and help fight infections.
Sweeter than its counterparts, sweet potato benefits health in children and adults alike. Sweet potato is a healthy alternative to other starchy vegetables and is considered good for cardiovascular health, longevity, prevention of diabetes, and reducing the risk of cancer. If you’re wondering whether sweet potatoes are healthy and sceptically eyeing this tuberous root all this time given the general notion associated with its high carb content, this is your cue to shun any misjudgments and include a moderate portion size in your meals!