To give you some idea of the sweet potato benefits for your health and the incredible healing power they have, you have to understand that they are more than just a filling food. Besides antioxidants, sweet potatoes come packed with goodness that can help protect your memory, control diabetes and help reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer.
Sweet potatoes are not related whatsoever to that of the white potato family, but instead, they are a member of the morning glory family. Because of their bulging and spherical shape, they have no relation to the morning glory that male members sometimes experience on awakening. Morning glory is a common name for over 1,000 species of flowering plants.
Sweet potatoes contain a full trio of well-known antioxidants - vitamin C and E as well as beta-carotene. It means that they can play a tremendous role in the fight against heart disease and cancer. And because sweet potatoes are rich in complex carbohydrates and low in calories, they are an excellent plant food source for controlling your weight and other weight-related conditions such as diabetes should you have it. There are only about 120 calories in a 5-ounce serving.
Sweet potatoes are known for their high amounts of beta-carotene, and a 5-ounce serving will provide you with more than 15 milligrams of beta-carotene. They are an easy way to get the heart-health and cancer-fighting benefits into your healthy dietary programme.
As does vitamin C and E and other antioxidants, beta-carotene also helps your body from harmful oxygen molecules known as free radicals. Eating sweet potatoes and other foods rich in beta-carotene helps neutralises these molecules before they damage various parts of the body, such as the blood vessels of certain parts of the eye.
Studies show that men who had the most carotenoids in their blood and not just beta-carotene, but also such things as lutein and zeaxanthin had a 72 per cent fewer heart attacks than those with the lowest levels. Even smokers who need all the protection they can, get the benefits. Those who got the most of these protective compounds had 25 per cent fewer heart attacks than those who got the least.
Sweet potatoes are also a rich source of vitamin C, with a 4-ounce serving providing 28 milligrams, nearly half the Daily Value (DV). Also, the same size serving provides six international units of vitamin E, 20 per cent of the DV. That's a very difficult nutrient to get from natural sources.
Some more good news. Since sweet potatoes are a good source of fibre, they are also extremely healthful food for you should you have diabetes. The fibre indirectly helps lower your blood sugar levels by slowing the rate at which food is converted into glucose and absorbed into the bloodstream. And because sweet potatoes are high in complex carbohydrates, they also help with overweight issues, which I'm sure you're aware, that helps keep diabetes under control. It's a win-win solution.
The connection between weight and blood sugar levels is not a casual one. Statistics show that about 85 per cent of people with Type II (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes are overweight. It's staggering to think about these numbers. Because sweet potatoes are so satisfying for those of you wanting to reduce a little weight, you're less likely to reach for other, fattier foods.
And the resulting weight loss can cause a dramatic improvement, not only for the weight loss itself but also for the mind and soul. Even if you lose 5 or 10 pounds, it will help you maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
In addition to fibre and antioxidants, sweet potatoes also contain the B vitamins, folate and B6. These are the vitamins that may give the brain a boost in performing some of its functions, which tend to diminish as we age. Because it becomes more complicated when we are older, the sooner we become aware of these life-saving foods, the better we control a healthier living.
In one study, researchers looked at the levels of folate and vitamins B6 and B12 in the blood of 70 men ages 54 to 81. Men with low levels of folate and vitamin B12 had higher levels of an amino acid called homocysteine. High levels of homocysteine show weaker performances on spatial tests such as copying a cube or a circle or identifying patterns.
Shop for Colour.
When buying sweet potatoes, always choose those with the most intense, lush orange colour. The richer the colour, the higher the jolt of beta-carotene. While you also get red and white sweet potatoes, what I like most about the orange variety, is that orange sweet potatoes can be eaten raw in a salad. The others not so.
Have a little fat.
While some vitamins dissolve in water, beta-carotene requires the presence of fat to get through the intestinal wall. And in most cases, you'll get the necessary amount of fat, usually 5 to 7 grams, in foods you'll be having with your meal.
Because sweet potatoes become cured, meaning that they need keeping at high humidity and temperatures for about a week and a half by growers before shipped to the markets, they are excellent keepers and stay fresh for about a month after you bring them home from the store. It's essential, however, to store them carefully to prevent them from going bad.
Keep them cool.
Store Sweet potatoes in cellars, pantries or basements, where temperatures stay around 45 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Please don't put them in the refrigerator, since this shortens their shelf life. When you store sweet potatoes at room temperature, they'll keep for about a week or so.
Store them dry.
Sweet potatoes will spoil once they get wet. That's why it's best to store them dry, then wash them only when ready to start cooking.
Treat them gently.
Sweet potatoes spoil rather rapidly when they get cut or bruised, so don't buy them if they look damaged. They should always feel firm to the touch. At home, treating them with care will help ensure their longevity.
Please take note that the information on this site is designed for educational purposes and is intended solely for a general readership. The contents herein are not intended to offer any personal medical advice or to diagnose any health issues you may have. This information is also by no means a substitute for medical care by a licensed healthcare provider. For that, you'd need to consult your medical doctor or a health care practitioner for any advice should you require prescription medication.