Sweet potatoes are plants native to America that have edible, starchy roots. They are rich in fibre and are nutritious, filling and delicious. The edible roots come in different shades of colour, such as brown, orange, red, yellow and beige. They belong to the Solanaceae family and grow in moderately warm environment especially in tropical and temperate regions. It is notable that sweet potatoes are quite distinct from yams and potatoes.
Sweet potatoes were introduced in Europe by Christopher Columbus. He brought sweet potatoes to Spain, on his voyage back from the New World, from where they spread in other European countries. From Europe, sweet potatoes were carried to all parts of the globe. There is further hypothesizing that sweet potatoes may have been brought to Southeast Asia by the Polynesians long before the Europeans brought their varieties of it.
Here are some interesting facts about sweet potatoes:
You can cook sweet potatoes in a variety of ways. They may be baked, boiled or fried or barbecued.
- You could even have sweet potato chips! Check out our review of one brand here.
- Currently, China is the greatest producer of sweet potatoes in the world.
- George Washington, the first President of the US, used to be a sweet potato farmer back in the day.
- Sweet potatoes can be stored for a long time in a dry and cool place, without washing them, as moisture can spoil them. So, it is good to wash them just before cooking.
- Refrigerating sweet potatoes gives them a bad taste and makes them hard.
- Sweet potatoes are the official vegetable of North Carolina.
Let us look at some health benefits of sweet potatoes:
Low in calories
The great thing about sweet potatoes is that they are low in calories while still being highly fulfilling and that makes them a go-to vegetable for those watching their weight or in general, aiming for a healthy lifestyle.
High in fibre
The fulfilling characteristic of sweet potatoes is mostly due to their high fibre, and this aids in digestion as well, and promotes gut health. To read more about the role fibre plays in diet, read this article.
Not only are sweet potatoes low in carbohydrates, they also have negligible amount of fat, which again makes them an ideal food item for those wanting to reduce their body fat. If you are looking to shift to a healthier diet, then you might want to read this.
Sweet potatoes contain high amounts of vitamins, minerals, fibres and antioxidants. As such, they provide great nutritious value and are a valuable addition to the dinner table.
2 grams (1 cup) of sweet potatoes contain:
- Calories: 180
- Fat: 0.3 grams
- Protein: 4 grams
- Carbs: 41.4 grams
- Vitamin A: 769% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin B6: 29% of the DV
- Vitamin C: 65% of the DV
- Pantothenic acid: 18% of the DV
- Fibre: 6.6 grams
- Manganese: 50% of the DV
- Copper: 16% of the DV
- Potassium: 27% of the DV
- Niacin: 15% of the DV00
Good source of Vitamin A
Sweet potatoes contain beta-carotene which the body alters into vitamin A. In underdeveloped countries around the world, a serious problem is the deficiency of this vitamin, which research shows can be combatted by including sweet potatoes in diet.
Helpful in managing diabetes
The sugar in sweet potatoes is not released into the blood all at once, but rather slowly and gradually and can be helpful if you are diabetic. This means eating sweet potatoes does not cause a spike in blood sugar levels and so they can be eaten by diabetic people safely. Further, the rich fiber content and magnesium in sweet potatoes further helps in regulating blood glucose levels. Also, if you want to read about other foods that regulate blood sugar levels, then you should read about Goji berry.
Can reduce stress
Research shows that deficiency of magnesium is linked to depression, insomnia and anxiety. Sweet potatoes are a good source of magnesium, hence consuming they can increase our bodies store of magnesium and be helpful in reducing stress.
Good for skin and hair
Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamins A, C and E. These vitamins boost skin and hair health. Vitamin A helps slow down the natural aging process of the skin and helps repair skin damaged from harmful Sun rays. Vitamin C also helps in repairing of skin, as well as being an important element in synthesis of new skin cells. Vitamin E keeps hair healthy and prevents hair loss due to stress because of its antioxidant properties. If you are looking for food products that promote skin health, you should read about cranberries’ skin benefits.
Promote eye health
A research by Food & Nutrition Research has found that sweet potatoes are good for eyes, because of the antioxidants they contain. If you are looking into foods that promote eye health, then you should look at strawberries, too.
Help normalize blood pressure
Sweet potatoes contain potassium, which serves in regulating the blood pressure by flushing out the excess of sodium from the body, and in regularizing the contractions of heart muscles.
Things to Keep in Mind before Buying Sweet Potatoes
When you set out to buy these delicious, nutritious veggies, there are a couple of things you should take care of. Firstly, when buying sweet potatoes, make sure they are not majorly discolored (a little discoloration should be fine). Also, the skin should not be bumpy or cracked, but rather smooth. Secondly, pick up the sweet potato in your hand and press it. It should be firm and not give in. If it is squishy or soft from some place, it shows signs of decay. If you are buying frozen sweet potatoes, then make sure you pick out a brand that has not salted the vegetables. Also, see to it that the fat content should be minimum.
Now that we have gotten the basic things to look for out of the way, we can go a step further and look at which varieties of sweet potatoes to buy. Some of the better varieties that are also easily available at supermarkets are Japanese, Purple, Garnet and Jewel. They are each full of flavor and delicious, yet distinct in their own way.
Sweet potatoes can be kept at room temperature for 3-4 weeks and will go bad after that time, so be careful not to buy more than you need.
The only side effect of sweet potatoes is that they contain high amounts of oxalates, which can be dangerous for people who are likely to suffer from kidney stones.
To conclude, sweet potatoes are highly nutritious, starchy, and fibre rich vegetables that deserve a place at your dinner table.