In some parts of the USA and Canada, sweet potatoes are called yams. This is a misnomer since yams are actually a totally different species.
Sweet potato is an underground tuber. It grows on the roots of a plant known scientifically as Ipomoea batatas.
It is rich in an antioxidant called beta-carotene, which is very effective at raising blood levels of vitamin A, particularly in children.
Sweet potatoes are only distantly related to regular potatoes. There are about 400 varieties of sweet potato, some more rare than others, differentiated by their skin and flesh colour, ranging from cream, yellow, and orange to pink or purple.
Sweet potatoes are nutritious, high in fibre, very filling and have a delicious sweet taste.
They can be consumed in a variety of ways, but are most commonly boiled, baked, steamed or fried.
Nutritional Profile and Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes have an impressive nutritional profile. Consumption of sweet potatoes has been associated with good health and nutrition status.
They are high in vitamin B6.
Vitamin B6 helps reduce the chemical homocysteine in our bodies. Homocysteine has been linked with degenerative diseases, including heart attacks.
They are a good source of vitamin C.
While most people know that vitamin C is important to help ward off cold and flu viruses, few people are aware that this crucial vitamin plays an important role in bone and tooth formation, digestion, and blood cell formation. It helps accelerate wound healing, produces collagen which helps maintain skin’s youthful elasticity, and is essential to helping us cope with stress. It even appears to help protect our body against toxins that may be linked to cancer.
They are a good source of vitamin D, which helps build healthy bones.
Vitamin D is critical for immune system and overall health at this time of year. Both a vitamin and a hormone, vitamin D is primarily made in our bodies as a result of getting adequate sunlight. You may have heard about seasonal affective disorder (or SAD, as it is also called), which is linked to inadequate sunlight and therefore a vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D plays an important role in our energy levels, moods, and helps to build healthy bones, heart, nerves, skin, and teeth, and it supports the thyroid gland.
Sweet potatoes contain iron and support a healthy immune system.
Most people are aware that we need the mineral iron to have adequate energy, but iron plays other important roles in our body, including red and white blood cell production, resistance to stress, proper immune functioning, and the metabolizing of protein, among other things.
Sweet potatoes are a good source of magnesium.
Magnesium is the relaxation and anti-stress mineral. Magnesium is necessary for healthy artery, blood, bone, heart, muscle, and nerve function.
They are a source of potassium.
Potassium is one of the important electrolytes that help regulate heartbeat and nerve signals. Like the other electrolytes, potassium performs many essential functions, some of which include relaxing muscle contractions, reducing swelling, and protecting and controlling the activity of the kidneys.
Sweet potatoes do not cause blood sugar spikes.
Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet-tasting but their natural sugars are slowly released into the bloodstream, helping to ensure a balanced and regular source of energy, without the blood sugar spikes linked to fatigue and weight gain.
Sweet potatoes help ward off cancer and protect against the effects of aging.
Diets rich in antioxidants, such as carotenoids, have been associated with lower risk of stomach, kidney and breast cancers.
Their rich orange colour indicates that they are high in carotenoids like beta carotene and other carotenoids, which is the precursor to vitamin A in your body. Carotenoids help strengthen our eyesight and boost our immunity to disease, they are powerful antioxidants that help ward off cancer and protect against the effects of aging.
The high fibre content of sweet potatoes helps prevent constipation.
How to Select and Store
Choose sweet potatoes that are firm and do not have any cracks, bruises or soft spots. Avoid those that are displayed in the refrigerated section of the produce department since cold temperature negatively alters their taste.
Sweet potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark and well-ventilated place, where they will keep fresh for up to ten days. Ideally, they should be kept out of the refrigerator in a cool, dry, dark place not above 60°F /15°C, which would fit the characteristics of a root cellar. Yet since most people don't have root cellars, you can just keep your sweet potatoes loose (not in a plastic bag, but if desired, a brown paper bag with multiple air holes punched in it will work) and storing them in a cool, dark, and well-ventilated cupboard away from sources of excess heat (like the stove).
Adverse Effects and Individual Concerns
Sweet potatoes are well tolerated in most people.
However, Beta-blockers, a type of medication most commonly prescribed for heart disease, can cause potassium levels to increase in the blood. High potassium foods should be consumed in moderation when taking beta-blockers.
Consuming too much potassium can be harmful to those whose kidneys are not fully functional. If the kidneys are unable to remove excess potassium from the blood, it can be fatal.
It is the total diet or overall eating pattern that is most important in disease prevention and achieving good health. It is better to eat a diet with variety than to concentrate on individual foods as the key to good health.
....making effort to "STAY WELL"