Sweet potato is a staple food in various parts of the world since ancient times. They are known for their copper-colored skin and vibrant orange flesh. There are hundreds of varieties present worldwide with different colors such as white, cream, yellow, reddish-purple, and deep purple. 

The sweet potatoes originated from Central and South America. Some shreds of evidence suggest that sweet potatoes were growing in the Americas 35 million years ago. But recently, scientists discovered 57 years old leaf fossils in India.

As its name itself suggest, sweet potatoes have a naturally sweet flavor. The sweet potato is a starchy, sweet-tasting root vegetable that belongs to the nightshade family. They are available in 25 varieties. Here are a few of the most popular types of sweet potatoes-

  • Garnet, Jewel, and Beauregard sweet potatoes – This type of sweet potatoes has reddish-orange skin and deep orange flesh. They are rich in various antioxidants. 
  • White sweet potatoes – They are rumbly, with white flesh and golden brown skin. It doesn’t contain antioxidants as much as orange varieties. 
  • Okinawan sweet potatoes – It is known as purple sweet potatoes because of their high anthocyanin content. They are high in antioxidants due to the presence of anthocyanins. 
  • Japanese or Satsumaimo sweet potatoes – They are sweet than other sweet potatoes. 

Nutritional profile of sweet potatoes 

 Sweet potatoes are a rich source of 

  • Vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin C
  • Potassium
  • Fibers
  • Minerals – iron, calcium, and selenium
  • Antioxidants 

Health benefits of sweet potato 

1: Support healthy vision:

Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene. It is an antioxidant that is generally present in bright orange-fleshed vegetables. Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in your body and used to form light-detecting receptors inside your eyes. 

Various eye disorders related to vitamin A deficiency such as xerophthalmia, cataracts may be controlled by consuming orange, sweet potatoes. Purple sweet potatoes also seem to have vision benefits.

2: Help for good digestion:

Sweet potatoes are rich in dietary fibers and are also known for improving gut health and digestion. The high fiber content in sweet potatoes can also help in preventing constipation in both children and adults. It also contains a high amount of phytosterol that has a protective effect on the digestive system. It may help to prevent and manage duodenal and gastric ulcers. 

3: Help to manage diabetes:

Sweet potato is naturally high in sugar and starch. However, Sweet potato has a low glycemic index. The low glycemic index means that the sweet potatoes release sugar into the bloodstream slowly, unlike other starchy foods. This steady phase to mix sugar in the blood is helps to control the raised blood sugar. 

The fiber in sweet potatoes is also beneficial to manage diabetes. Studies have found that people who consume more fiber appear to have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A half-cup of mashed sweet potato contains about 2.5 gm of fibers. 

4: Help to prevent the risk of cancer:

Various studies suggest that purple-fleshed sweet potato is essential to fight cancer. Carotenoids present in sweet potatoes are helpful to prevent getting cancer like prostate cancer in males. 

Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that may help to prevent and reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. 

5: Help to minimizing the risk of heart health: 

Various studies suggest that fibers and antioxidants present in sweet potatoes help decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Other scientific studies have shown the high level of anthocyanin in the purple sweet potato help lower the chances of coronary disease. 

6: May enhance brain function:

Purple-fleshed sweet potato is excellent for normal brain function. Few animal studies have found that the anthocyanins in purple sweet potatoes can protect the brain by reducing inflammation and preventing mental decline. 

7: May boost the immune system:

Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are a great source of the antioxidant beta-carotene. This beta-carotene helps to convert it into vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is essential to boost your immunity to fight against infections. It also keeps your gut system healthy and keeps your natural gut flora balanced. 

8: Help to improve skin:

Types of sweet potatoes are a rich source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and antioxidants. Vitamin C and vitamin E are essential for skin and hair health. Vitamin C helps in collagen synthesis that is the main structural protein of the skin. Many studies have also shown that Vitamin C contains anti-inflammatory properties. It means that the vitamin can help manage skin diseases such as acne.

Vitamin A is essential in the treatment and management of sun-damaged skin, and it also stimulates collagen synthesis. These all nutrients are beneficial for skin health to make our skin shiny and youthful.

Sweet potato recipe ideas:

Now that we’ve covered sweet potato benefits, here are a few ways to add sweet potatoes to your diet easily:

  • Thinly slice sweet potatoes and fry them for crunchy chips. Sprinkle it with salt and a little bit of pepper. 
  • Peel and cut them into fries and deep fry or bake, add to a casserole dish or much on it as a snack by itself. 
  • Use sweet potatoes as an alternative when making mashed potatoes (add milk for a smooth finish). Be sure to season and taste it first as it will not have the same texture or taste as regular mashed potatoes. 
  • Baked sweet potatoes can be eaten with seasoning or as part of a larger dish

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