Sweet potato, scientifically known as Ipomoea batatas, is the world’s seventh most important food crop, after wheat, rice, maize, potato, barley and cassava. It is a tuberous root, which is a modified lateral root, enlarged to function as a storage organ; thus it has high nutritional value.
The sweet potato has yellow or orange flesh, and its thin skin may either be white, yellow, orange, red or purple. Sometimes this root vegetable will be shaped like a potato, being short and blocky with rounded ends, while other times it will be longer with tapered ends. Its plant is a creeper with heart shaped or lobed leaves.
There is often much confusion between sweet potatoes and yams; the moist fleshed, orange colored root vegetable that is often called a “yam” and is actually a sweet potato.
Sweet potato nutrition
As an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene) and a very good source of vitamin C, sweet potatoes have healing properties as an antioxidant food. They both are very powerful antioxidants that work in the body to eliminate free radicals. Free radicals are chemicals that damage cells and cell membranes.
Sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin B6, which helps to reduce the homocysteine, levels in the blood and thereby protects the heart. Increased levels of the homocysteine amino acid are associated with increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Including vitamin A rich foods like sweet potatoes, part of your healthy way of eating, might save you from complications like lung inflammation and emphysema that result from smoking.
Contrary to the popular belief, sweet potatoes are beneficial for diabetics (low glycemic index food). Amazingly, they are very effective in regulating blood sugar levels by helping proper secretion and function of insulin. The main job of insulin is to keep the level of sugar in the bloodstream within a normal range, which does not happen in diabetes.
The fiber in sweet potatoes helps lower blood sugar by slowing the rate at which food is converted into glucose and absorbed into the bloodstream. Of course, that does not mean that diabetics should eat them indiscriminately. The idea is to replace rice or carbohydrate intake with sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes are good for stomach ulcers and inflamed conditions to the colon and have been proven to be beneficial for lowering blood pressure.
They are helpful for hemorrhoid sufferers because of their high fiber content and are good for people involved in heavy muscular work as a result of their high in vitamin and mineral content.
Sweet potato calories
For one medium sized sweet potato:
Potassium: 265.2 mg
Fat: 0.39 g
Folate: 18.2 mcg
Protein: 2.15 g
Folic acid: 8.4 mcg
Dietary fiber: 3.9 g
Calcium: 28.6 mg
Sodium: 16.9 mg
Sweet potatoes contain good amount of beta-carotene (vitamin A), vitamin C, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin B6.
Health tips for sweet potato
Bursting with vitamins, fiber and flavor, an increasing number of nutrition aware consumers are incorporating sweet potatoes into their daily diet.
There are many different ways to prepare sweet potatoes including baked, boiled, oven roasted, sautéed and barbequed. They can even be used to make soups, stews, casseroles and pies because of its high nutritional value and fewer calories.
But sweet potatoes fries which have become very popular, one should be beware of eating because “it takes out the nutritional value”.Sweet potato can be healthy for you and may help you lose weight when included in your diet & exercise plan. To help you lose weight in a healthy balanced way and keep it off, see the Fitho weight loss diet plan, designed by dieticians and experts, now available for Rs 799.