The most familiar sweet potatoes have bright orange skin and flesh. There’s also the violet skin with white flesh variant called the purple sweet potato. Because a plant’s nutrients will depend on its color, each variety will have a slightly different composition. Regardless, all kinds of sweet potatoes can potentially benefit one’s health. China is the largest producer and dealer of sweet potatoes, producing 114 billion pounds in 2019, or 61.27% of the world’s overall total. It is followed by Malawi and Nigeria, which in 2019 produced 13 billion and 9 billion pounds of sweet potatoes respectively.
Oftentimes, sweet potatoes are placed in the same category as other root vegetables like carrots and beets. However, sweet potatoes along with the cassava, are in fact root tubers. They can be found in the parts of the roots which look like bulbs. They are essentially storage containers where the plant likes to keep extra nutrients for it to stay alive during the winter. It’s for this reason sweet potatoes are jampacked with minerals, vitamins, and other healthy compounds.
Sweet potatoes protect our eyes
Orange sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene. This is actually what gives this root tuber its bright orange color. After eating beta-carotene, our body transforms it into vitamin A. Just one sweet potato gives 400% of the vitamin A you need per day. This vitamin is used to form light-sensing receptors in our eyes. Vitamin A is an absolute necessity for maintaining healthy eyes, preventing dry eyes, keeping eye diseases at bay, and even seeing in the dark. It also protects our eyes from being damaged by unstable, damaging cell metabolism molecules called free radicals and also inflammation.
Sweet potatoes support our immune system.
Sweet potatoes provide 25% of the body’s daily recommended value of vitamin C. This vitamin is essential in maintaining the immune system. It stimulates the creation of white blood cells to help fight infection. It also enhances iron absorption. Unfortunately, vitamin C isn’t stored too well in the body, so we need to get it however we can from the foods we eat or through supplements.
Sweet potatoes are healthy for our skin and hair
Our bodies use vitamin C in sweet potatoes in making collagen, an important protein in our skin, hair, muscles, tendons, and bones which keeps them healthy. The body’s production of collagen lessens as individuals grow older. Getting adequate vitamin C is essential for the body to produce more collagen. Furthermore, vitamin A from sweet potatoes can prevent the drying out of our hair and skin.
Sweet Potatoes give our bodies important minerals
Minerals are as vital to the body as vitamins. A regular-sized sweet potato gives 25% of the body’s daily value of manganese. This mineral helps in promoting healthy bones, creating sex hormones, and controlling blood sugar. One sweet potato also gives 20% of the daily value of copper which is needed in the production of red blood cells. A sweet potato a day also gives 12% of the body’s daily value of potassium which is used for controlling the body’s fluid balance, promoting healthy nerves, and muscle contraction.
Sweet potatoes promote healthy blood pressure
Sweet potatoes have an abundance of magnesium and potassium. Both of these reduce the risk of stroke, hypertension, and other coronary problems. Additionally, potassium assists in controlling blood pressure.
Sweet Potatoes can ease constipation and is good for digestion
A medium-sized sweet potato grants 4 grams of fiber which is 14% of what you need each day. Furthermore, it gives both kinds of fiber. Insoluble fiber will promote regular bowel movements and ease constipation. Soluble fiber becomes food for good bacteria or the gut microbiome in the stomach. Healthy microbiomes can lessen the risk of diabetes and decrease inflammation. Just two weeks of a high-fiber diet is enough to produce noticeable results. A huge amount of plant sterols or phytosterols found in sweet potatoes can also have a protective effect on the digestive system. This can prevent ulcers – even those caused by anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. Evidence shows that vitamin A can even shrink stomach ulcers.
Sweet potatoes can help reduce weight
Purple sweet potatoes lower inflammation and prevent the growth of fat cells. Being high in fiber and complex carbohydrates, sweet potatoes are heavy and filling. Eating a sweet potato is going to make you feel full and satisfied, giving you prolonged energy for the day’s activities. It’s also packed with nutrients giving it a great nutrient-to-calorie ratio.
Sweet potatoes protect our cells from damage
Antioxidants like the carotenoids in orange sweet potatoes can fight free radicals. Whenever our bodies are exposed to cigarette smoke, pollution, UV rays, and even physical activity, unstable molecules called free radicals are formed. This is unavoidable but can be effectively counteracted with antioxidants in a person’s diet. These antioxidants are capable of neutralizing free radicals to prevent them from causing damage.
Sweet Potatoes may be able to fight cancer
Purple sweet potatoes may have less beta-carotene but studies have shown that they are rich in anthocyanins, a group of antioxidants that can slow the growth of some cancer cells in the colon, breast, bladder, and stomach. In a scientific study, mice were fed a diet rich in purple sweet potatoes. Results showed that they have smaller rates of early-stage colon cancer. The next step would be to test this effect on humans.
Sweet potatoes can make you smarter
The antioxidants found in sweet potatoes can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Medical studies have shown that carotenoids in orange sweet potatoes slow cognitive decline keeping your brain sharp longer. In animal studies, anthocyanins in purple sweet potatoes promoted improved learning and memory.
Sweet potatoes help people with diabetes
People with type 2 diabetes have cells that start to resist the effects of insulin so that glucose can’t enter their cells. Instead, glucose is collected in the blood and more insulin is needed to allow the glucose to enter the cells. In 2008, a study found that extract from white skin sweet potato improved insulin sensitivity in patients with type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance noticeably improved in individuals who ate sweet potatoes. The fiber in sweet potatoes also plays a role in preventing diabetes. People who consume more fiber have a lower tendency to develop type 2 diabetes.
Sweet potatoes help with liver damage from alcohol
According to a study with mice by the National Institute of Health, anthocyanins in purple sweet potatoes can repair liver damage from alcohol abuse.