The charm of a Sweet Potato


Feben Getachew




How great is it that this rainy season brings us plenty of sweet potatoes. This amazing tuber which is native to the Central America is not only easily available and tastes great, but is also a powerhouse of nutrients packed with many health benefits. But what is beneficial about sweet potatoes? They contain a great number of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and blood sugar-regulating nutrients which are great for you.

 Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory

Sweet potatoes contain antioxidants which have anti-inflammatory properties as well. The vitamin C and the readily bioavailable beta-carotene in these tubers help in repairing damages caused by free radicals and thus protect you from cancer. Beta-carotene, aka Vitamin A, is also known to protect the skin from sun damages because of excess UV exposure. It is also an excellent nutrient for eyes and is involved in the prevention of vision loss and macular degeneration. The same vitamin together with vitamin C is excellent for people suffering from asthma or arthritis.  These tubers contain also sporamins, storage proteins, which are linked with lowering health risks posed by heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium or arsenic residues. Many other color-related pigments in sweet potatoes and Anthocyanin are also known for their anti-inflammatory health benefits.

Helps control blood glucose level

Unlike other starchy foods sweet potatoes improve blood glucose level regulation because they contain a valuable amount of dietary fiber which gives them a “slow burning” quality and if boiled or steamed can have a low GI (glycemic index).

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Rich in minerals

These root vegetables contain a lot of minerals that are beneficial for health. In just 112 calories (1 sweet potato), one will be getting good quantities of potassium, copper, iron and manganese. The potassium present helps in lowering blood pressure by removing the excess sodium in the body and regulating the fluid balance. In addition it is also involved in maintaining normal functioning of the central nervous system and the brain. The iron is involved in the production of red and white blood cells, ensures proper im­mune functioning and increases resistance to stress. The magnesium is indispensable for proper bone, artery, heart, blood, nerve and muscle function.

Other benefits

They contain a large amount of vitamin B6 involved in the protection of arteries and blood vessels from hardening and thus protecting the heart. The Vitamin D in them is vital for immune system, good energy levels, improved mood, bones, teeth, nerves, skin and thyroid gland. Another great benefit for people suffering from stomach ulcers is that thanks to the vitamins C and B-complex, calcium, beta carotene and potassium sweet potatoes have a soothing effect on the stomach and intestines. Moreover, the fiber in them helps to prevent constipation, the presence of a good amount of iron and vitamin C help curing bronchitis and the combination of beta-carotene, vitamin E and vitamin C promotes a healthy, glowing skin and great hair.

Beware of oxalates

Sweet potatoes contain oxalic acid, a substance which is found naturally in vegetables and in high concentration in some vegetables it may crystallize as oxalate stones in the urinary tract. Individuals suffering from known kidney or gallbladder disorders may have to avoid eating them or drink plenty of water to minimize stone risk.

 The Healthiest way of cooking Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes can be cooked in different ways. One could be boiling. Boiling is the most effective method to increase bioavailability of beta-carotene.  In addition it also increases vitamin A blood levels in children and provides the tuber with a lower glycemic index (GI). Sweet potatoes can also be steamed or stir fried.

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