Sweet potato, the root vegetable once used to feed the poor in the early 20th century, is back in fashion, which is good news as it is one of the world’s best superfoods and contains a bunch of nutrients you can’t go past for health benefits. Not actually related to the white potato, which is from the nightshade family, sweet potatoes are part of the Convolvulaceae family. Sweet and starchy, these vegetables, apart from full of valuable nutrients, are tasty, versatile, and inexpensive. Bring on the sweet potato!
Sweet Potato Nutritional Information (100 g/3.5 oz)
- Calories: 86
- Fat: 0.1 grams
- Protein: 1.6 grams
- Carbohydrates: 20.1 grams
- Sugar: 4.2 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Sugar: 4.2 grams
Antioxidants found in food are natural anti-inflammatory agents, and sweet potatoes are full of them! Vitamins from the B family in abundance, like C and A, sweet potatoes are also a good source of choline, which is usually mostly found in meat and eggs. Choline is very important to tame inflammation, but it is also beneficial for a good nights sleep, learning and memory and muscle movement. When you gain antioxidants from natural sources, like nutritious food, they work better in your body than when you take supplements because they are balanced with other nutrients.
The recommended daily dose of potassium is 4,700mg. Sweet potatoes are one of the highest vegetable sources of potassium, containing almost 500mg. Potassium is needed by the body to help nerves and muscles communicate to each other, preventing muscle cramps and contractions, and it helps transport nutrient into the cells and waste products out of them. Potassium is also important to offset the damage sodium has on blood pressure and helps to protect and to regulate the workings of the kidneys.
Vitamin C is one of the most beneficial vitamins around. It’s versatile benefits work on many areas of the body and the health system. Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin c is naturally found in vegetables and fruits and is hugely beneficial for things like heart disease, protection against free radicals in the body, the absorption of iron and reducing cholesterol levels. For adults over 19, the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C is 75mg for women and 90mg for men. Pregnant and breastfeeding women require a slightly higher percentage. One standard serving of sweet potatoes, which is 3.5 ounces, will give you 47% of your daily-recommended dose.
A deficiency of vitamin A can cause deterioration to the outer parts of the eye’s photoreceptors, which can damage vision. Which is why it is worrying to learn that 50% of all Americans are vitamin A deficient. Vitamin A, and vitamin E, which is also found in sweet potatoes, are wonderful for eye health and may prevent eye problems in the aging process and other degenerative damage. Vitamin A, which is a fat-soluble vitamin, is also beneficial to hormone health, which is especially good for women during pregnancy and lactation.
Magnesium is very important for various functions of the body. It helps nerve function, regulates blood pressure, controls blood sugar; it is a neurotransmitter release, it energizes the metabolism and is good for protein synthesis. Many people will be deficient in magnesium but never know it, as it does not show up on any blood test. This is because magnesium is stored in your bones, not in the blood. Sweet potatoes do not have the largest source of magnesium, spinach, almost and pumpkin seeds are on the top of the list, but they still do pack a punch of magnesium benefits for the system.
A low glycemic index is not only important to people living with diabetes, but to those considered on the ‘normal’ blood sugar scale too. White potatoes have a high glycemic index, which means they have a high carbohydrate level, which converts into sugar and then corresponds to elevated blood sugar levels. In comparison, sweet potatoes, however, are quite the opposite, they are very low on the glycemic index, which helps control diabetes and sugar crashes. Eating regular small amounts can help our bodies to maintain healthy blood sugar levels for people both with and without diabetes. This also helps to balance energy, fatigue and weight gain.
Beta-carotene is the orange-red pigment that is found in plants, fruits, and vegetables, especially colorful vegetables, such as sweet potato. This is a fat-soluble plant pigment. It is important to eat foods containing beta-carotene because the body converts it into Vitamin A. This means beta-carotene is not an essential nutrient, but vitamin A is. What is extraordinary about our systems is that the human body will only convert as much vitamin A as it needs to function properly. However, it needs the beta-carotene first to do so. Sweet potatoes have the highest count of beta-carotene amongst all other fruits and vegetables.
Fat-free and full of fiber
Containing absolutely zero amount of fat makes these vegetables a great food, not for weight loss alone, but they contain large amounts of fiber. Fiber is important for the digestive system and the process of foods through the body. For women, the daily intake of fiber per day is recommended at 21-25 grams for women, and 30-38 for men. The most fiber in sweet potatoes is found in the skin, up to 6 grams. So consider leaving the skin on next time you add sweet potatoes to a dish.
The best form of folate is folic acid, otherwise known as B9. Folate is often taken as a supplement but is also found in many foods. Folic acid is good for everyone for the growth of cells in the body. It is even more important for pregnant women in regards to the development of the fetus. Folate supports DNA synthesis and can prevent neural tube defects when taken in the first three months of pregnancy. If you are taking medications, it can disturb the absorption of folic acid, and you should consume more through natural food and supplements.
Good for the skin
Eating sweet potatoes encourages glowing, healthy skin and collagen growth. Carotenoid-rich vegetables, such as carrots, spinach, and sweet potatoes can help your skin to glow. Vegetables such as these increase the red and yellow tones in the skin, which visibly brighten complexions. You need to consume extra amounts of beta-carotene vegetables every day for around six weeks. The beta-carotene in sweet potato also combats the body’s free radicals, which encourage the aging process. So to preserve your skin and stop the aging process, consume more sweet potatoes!