Sweet potatoes belong to the Convolvulaceae or morning glory plant family, are dicotyledons (or “dicots” for short, with the prefix “di” referring to the fact that they have two embryonic seed leaves), and are known by the scientific name of Ipomoea batatas.
Sweet But Not Really A Potato
Sweet potatoes, though resembling in appearance to yams or the common potato, belong to an entirely different food family, so when you choose sweet potatoes as a dietary root vegetable, you are getting a truly unique type of potato that is nutritionally different from other types. The skin and flesh of the sweet potato which comes in 400 odd varieties, may be almost white, cream, yellow, orange, pink, or deep purple, although white/cream and yellow-orange flesh are most common.
The intensity of the sweet potato’s yellow or orange flesh color is directly correlated to its beta-carotene content, which is referred to as “Provitamin A” as our bodies can typically produce vitamin A from it.
Purple-fleshed sweet potatoes, on the other hand, are a fantastic source of anthocyanins (especially peonidins and cyanidins) and have outstanding antioxidant activity, more than even blueberries.
History Of Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes are native to Central and South America and have been consumed since prehistoric times (10,000 years ago). Christopher Columbus brought sweet potatoes to Europe after his first voyage to the New World in 1492. By the 16th century, they were brought to the Philippines by Spanish explorers and to Africa, India, Indonesia and southern Asia by the Portuguese. Around this same time, sweet potatoes began to be cultivated in the southern United States, where they still remain a staple food in the traditional cuisine.
15 Super Nutritious Facts About Sweet Potato
- Diabetic Food: Naturally sweet, these fibrous roots have long been considered a suitable diabetics food as their natural sugars are slowly released into the bloodstream, ensuring a balanced and regular source of energy, regulating blood sugar, and helping stabilize and lower insulin resistance.
- Healthy Digestion: Sweet potatoes are abundant in dietary fiber, that helps promote a healthy digestive tract, increases the bulk of the stool, eases toxic waste expulsion relieving constipation and also helps prevent colon cancer.
- Fights Emphysema: Studies have shown that people who smoke or are exposed to cigarette smoke fall victim to a deficiency in Vitamin A. Sweet Potatoes contain carotenoids-beta carotene which the body converts to Vitamin A, vital for the health of the respiratory system.
- Immune System: Sweet potatoes are a potent source of Vitamin D, a vitamin and hormone critical to our energy levels, moods, and body’s potential to build healthy bones, heart, nerves, skin, and teeth, and supporting the functions of the thyroid gland.
- Cardio Care: Vital potassium content in sweet potatoes negates the sodium impact and helps maintain optimal fluid and electrolyte balance in the body cells, necessary for healthy blood pressure and overall heart function. Also Vitamin B6 helps reduce the chemical homocysteine, linked with degenerative diseases, including heart attacks and stroke.
- Muscle and Tissue Health: Potassium is one of the most important electrolytes that help regulate heartbeat and nerve signals, provide instant energy, relaxes muscle contractions, reduces swelling and cramps, and protects and controls the activity of the kidneys. A integral part of an athlete’s diet.
- Anti-Oxidant: Sweet potatoes are high in carotenoids like beta carotene making it suitable in combating inflammatory problems like asthma, arthritis, gout, etc., ward off cancers of the lung, breast, etc. and protect against the effects of aging.
- Fetal Development: Sweet potatoes are a rich source of folate necessary for healthy fetal cell and tissue development and to prevent congenital abnormalities like spina bifida (malformed vertebra) and neural tube defects.
- Anti Stress: Sweet potatoes replenish our potassium stores, depleted by stress attacks, helping normalize the heartbeat, increase oxygen flow to the brain and regulate the body’s water balance. Sweet potato contains the relaxation and anti-stress mineral magnesium, necessary for healthy artery, blood, bone, heart, muscle, and nerve function.
- Vitamin C SuperStore: Sweet Potatoes are abundant in Vitamin C, that not only wards off common cold and flu viruses, but is crucial in bone and tooth formation, digestion, blood cell formation, wound healing, shielding against cancer causing toxins, collagen production- key to skin’s elasticity, and is essential to helping us cope with stress.
- Fights Anemia: Sweet potatoes are rich sources of the wonder mineral iron that not only provides adequate energy, but also plays an important role in red and white blood cell production, improves stress resistance, proper immune functioning, metabolizing of protein, and preventing debilitating anemia.
- For Youthful Skin: Water left after boiling sweet potatoes works as a wonder toner for the skin that helps absorb impurities, deep cleansing your pores and soothing irritated skin. Vitamin C helps produce collagen necessary for healthy skin tone and elasticity. Vitamin E improves complexion, providing flawless skin. Anthocyanin helps reduce pigmentation and has anti-inflammatory properties that will help in getting rid of dark circles, wrinkles and puffiness of eyes.
- Treats Premenstrual Symptoms: Manganese along with iron, present in sweet potatoes, helps in promoting healthy metabolism, maintaining healthy blood sugar balance, and treating severe premenstrual symptoms.
- Hair Care: The presence of vitamin A or beta-carotene in sweet potato makes it an ideal food for hair growth, preventing hair problems like dull, damaged, lifeless hair and dandruff.
- Vitamin/Mineral Store: Sweet potato provides a good amount of vital minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and potassium that are essential for enzyme, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism. This starchy root vegetable is a rich source of flavonoids, anti-oxidants and dietary fiber that are essential for your overall health.
- Oxalates: Sweet potatoes contain oxalic acid, a naturally occurring substance found in some vegetables that may crystallize as oxalate stones in the urinary tract in some people. It is, therefore, individuals with known history of oxalate urinary tract stones may have to avoid eating them. Adequate intake of water is therefore advised to maintain normal urine output in these individuals to minimize stone risk.