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Sweet Potato: Nutrition And Health Benefits

Sweet potato: Nutrition and health benefits

Sweet potato is an underground tuber that is quite famous worldwide and is a popular food in various parts of the world.

Along with taste, sweet potato also holds a lot of nutritional benefits that can prevent various health issues and improve metabolic functions of the body. 

Sweet potato is rich in fiber and antioxidants like beta carotene. It is a very nutritious, filling, and easy to go choice in a meal.

Sweet potatoes are usually orange but also found in other colors, such as white, red, pink, violet, yellow, and purple.

Sometimes, the correlation of sweet potato with regular potatoes is taken as a very close one where in reality, sweet potato is distantly related to regular potatoes.

Sweet potato nutrition facts and values

For 100 gm of raw sweet potatoes, the nutritional values are as follows-

  • Calories- 86
  • Water- 77%
  • Protein- 1.6 grams
  • Carbs- 20.1 grams
  • Sugar- 4.2 grams
  • Fiber- 3 grams
  • Fat- 0.1 grams

Carbohydrates

Starch is the main component of sweet potato which makes up about 53% of the carbohydrate content in it. 

Simple sugars ( fructose, sucrose, maltose, etc.) contribute around 32% of the total carbs content.

Sweet potatoes are usually consumed after boiling them as they are known to have a high GI ( Glycemic index) which can raise blood sugar levels if they are eaten raw or through roasting or baking. Thus, sweet potatoes are not generally suitable for diabetic patients.

Proteins

A medium-sized sweet potato has roughly around 2 grams of protein thus making it a not-so-good or we can say, a poor source of protein.

However, it contains sporamins which are unique proteins containing antioxidant properties, accounting for about 80% of the total protein content.

Fiber

Sweet potatoes, especially cooked ones, are relatively high in fiber, both soluble and insoluble fibers present in them.

The soluble fibers in sweet potatoes promote satiety and reduce raised blood sugar levels whereas the insoluble ones benefit by reducing the risk of diabetes and improving gut health.

Vitamins and minerals

Sweet potatoes are a rich source of vitamins and certain minerals. The most abundant vitamins and minerals found in sweet potatoes are-

  • Beta carotene ( which the body converts to Vitamin A )
  • Vitamin C
  • Potassium
  • Manganese
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B5
  • Vitamin E

Health benefits of sweet potato

  • Improves gut health

Sweet potatoes have fiber and antioxidants which provide gut-related health benefits. They help in softening stools and reduce the risk of colon cancer, also improving bowel movement.

The soluble and insoluble fibers can also be fermented by the bacteria in your colon, creating compounds called short-chain fatty acids.

These short-chain fatty acids fuel the cells of your intestinal lining and keep them healthy and strong.

  • Cancer-fighting properties

Sweet potatoes offer various antioxidants, which may help protect against certain types of cancers.

Anthocyanins are a particular group of antioxidants found in purple sweet potatoes which reduces the risk of colon, bladder, and breast cancer, according to research.

Extracts of orange sweet potatoes and sweet potato peels have also been found to have anti-cancer properties in test-tube studies. However, human trials are yet to be done to confirm the effects.

  • Healthy vision and eyesight

Sweet potatoes are a rich source of beta carotene which gets converted to Vitamin A inside the body and are used to form the light-detecting eye receptors.

Severe vitamin A deficiency is a concern in developing countries and can lead to a special type of blindness known as xerophthalmia.

Eating beta carotene-rich foods like sweet potatoes can help in preventing this problem and keep up a good vision.

  • Enhancing brain function

Consuming purple sweet potatoes may improve brain function. According to studies, the anthocyanins present can reduce inflammation and can prevent free radical damage

No studies have been done to test these effects in humans, but in general, diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and antioxidants are associated with a 13% lower risk of mental decline and dementia.

  • Strengthen the immune system

Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are one of the richest natural sources of beta-carotene converting to Vitamin A in the body, making it a great choice for a healthy immune system.

Studies have shown that vitamin A deficiency increases gut inflammation and reduces the ability of your immune system to respond properly to foreign agents or pathogens. 

As sweet potato is a rich source of beta carotene, it can be a good choice to maintain immunity. However, researchers are yet to clarify this point.

  • Adequate hydration

Sweet potatoes contain a rich amount of fiber which helps in retaining water in the body, thus making them a fit choice for adequate hydration.

The water content in sweet potatoes is also relatively high so you can consume them in order to maintain a proper fluid balance, apart from energy drinks or other natural electrolyte drinks.

Sweet potato vs regular potatoes

  • Both sweet and regular potatoes have similar water, carbs, fat, and protein amounts. However, the major distinction is in the case of vitamins and minerals in particular.
  • Sweet potatoes sometimes have a lower GI and boast higher amounts of both sugar and fiber.
  • Both sweet and regular potatoes contain good amounts of Vitamin C and potassium, the difference being majorly in beta carotene levels which are fairly higher in sweet potatoes than regular ones.
  • Regular potatoes may be more filling but may also increase levels of glycoalkaloids, compounds that can be harmful in large amounts.
  • Due to more fiber and vitamin content, sweet potatoes are considered a healthier choice between the two.

Sweet potato home remedy Uses

  • Sweet potato hair mask

Peel and boil a sweet potato and add a tablespoon each of raw honey, coconut milk, and coconut oil and blend the mixture. 

Section your damp hair and work your way up from the roots to the top. Keep your mask on for a good 15 minutes. 

The minerals like zinc, copper, magnesium, and antioxidants like beta carotene work wonders for your hair by reducing hair thinning and dullness and bring shine to the hair.

  • Sweet potato skin texture treatment

Boil sweet potatoes and use the boiled water as a toner for your face. This is one of the excellent DIY remedies to draw out all the impurities, tan, and dirt from your face.

Take-away

Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and healthy carbs and can be included in diet without hesitation, however, being cautious in terms of its GI levels can cause a problem for diabetics.

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