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Sweet Potato also known as yams, are tuberous crops with the scientific name Ipomoea batatas. The plant is a creeper with heart-shaped or lobed leaves. The color of the tuber varies from purple or red to pale yellow or white, depending upon the variety, soil type, climate, and available minerals.
The red variety has drier and harder flesh while the white and yellow types have juicier flesh. The red variety has a characteristic aroma which becomes more prominent on boiling. The more reddish or orange the color of the flesh of the sweet potatoes, the stronger the aroma will be. Perhaps, this is due to the presence of beta-carotene, the concentration of which also increases with the color.
Nutritional Value of Sweet Potato
Health Benefits of Sweet Potato
Health benefits of potatoes include the following
- Contain Antioxidants – Potatoes are rich in compounds like flavonoids, carotenoids and phenolic acids (3).These compounds act as antioxidants in the body by neutralizing potentially harmful molecules known as free radicals. When free radicals accumulate, they can increase the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer (4). Studies have also found that colored potatoes like purple potatoes can have three to four times more antioxidants than white potatoes. This makes them potentially more effective at neutralizing free radicals (5, 6). However, most of this evidence is from test-tube studies. More human-based research is necessary before making any health recommendations.
- May Improve Blood Sugar Control – Potatoes contain a special type of starch known as resistant starch.This starch is not broken down and fully absorbed by the body. Instead, it reaches the large intestine where it becomes a source of nutrients for the beneficial bacteria in your gut (7). Research has linked resistant starch to many health benefits, including reducing insulin resistance, which, in turn, improves blood sugar control. In an animal study, mice fed resistant starch showed reduced insulin resistance. This means their bodies were more efficient at removing excess sugar from the blood (8). A study of people with type 2 diabetes found consuming a meal with resistant starch helped better remove excess blood sugar after a meal (9).In another study, ten people were fed 30 grams of resistant starch daily over a four-week period. Scientists found that resistant starch reduced insulin resistance by 33% (10). Interestingly, you can also increase the resistant starch content of potatoes. To do this, store boiled potatoes in the fridge overnight and consume them cold (11).
- May Improve Digestive Health – The resistant starch in potatoes may also improve digestive health. When resistant starch reaches the large intestine, it becomes food for beneficial gut bacteria. These bacteria digest it and turn it into short-chain fatty acids (12). Resistant starch from potatoes is mostly converted into the short-chain fatty acid butyrate — the preferred food source for gut bacteria (13, 14). Studies have shown that butyrate can reduce inflammation in the colon, strengthen the colon’s defenses and reduce the risk of colorectal cancer (15). Moreover, butyrate may aid patients with inflammatory bowel disorders, such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and diverticulitis (16).
- Promote Weight Gain – Potatoes are primarily made of carbohydrates and contain very little protein. This makes them an ideal diet for lean and thin people who desperately want to put on weight. The vitamin content includes vitamin C and B-complex, which also help in proper absorption of carbohydrates. That is one of the reasons that potatoes make up a large part of the diet of sumo wrestlers, as well as many other athletes who need large energy reserves in order to compete!
- Skin Care – Vitamin C and B-complex, as well as minerals like potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc, are good for the skin. Apart from that, the pulp obtained from crushed raw potatoes, when mixed with honey, can work well in skin and face packs. This even helps cure pimples and spots on the skin. Again, this pulp, if applied externally on burns, provides quick relief and faster healing. Smashed potatoes and even water in which they have been washed are very good for softening and cleaning dark skin, especially around the elbows.
- Treat Scurvy – The vitamin C present in potatoes can help prevent this disease, caused by a deficiency of vitamin C. It is characterized by cracked lip corners, spongy and bleeding gums, and frequent viral infections. Although it is not found in first and second world countries as they have a ready access to vitamin C, it still exists in certain nations of the world, so the prolific presence of potatoes helps with this problem.
- Treat Rheumatism – There are two parts to the effect of potatoes on this condition. Vitamins like calcium and magnesium help provide relief from rheumatism. Also, water obtained from boiling potatoes can relieve the pain and inflammation of rheumatism. However, due to high starch and carbohydrate content, they tend to increase body weight which may have adverse effects on rheumatic people.
- Reduce Inflammation – Potatoes are very effective in reducing inflammation, both internal and external. Since they are soft, easily digested, and have a lot of vitamin C (a very good that repairs tissue wear and tear), potassium, and vitamin B6, they can relieve any inflammation in the intestines and the digestive system. They are a very good dietary element for those who have mouth ulcers as well. Therefore, people who suffer from arthritis and gout can use potatoes for their anti- impact. However, potatoes can add to weight gain, which exacerbates these conditions, and are commonly eaten with meat and other rich foods that make gout worse, a fine balance must be struck.
- Prevent Cancer – Certain types of potatoes, particularly red and russet ones, contain high levels of flavonoid antioxidants and vitamin A, like zeaxanthin and carotenes, and they can protect you against many types of cancer. Also, a study at the Research has shown that potatoes contain a compound called quercetin, which has been proven to have anti-cancer and anti-tumor properties. Finally, the high levels of vitamin A and C, both have antioxidant properties that can protect your body from the devastating effects of cancer.
- Lower Blood Pressure – Since high blood pressure can occur for a number of reasons that include diabetes, tension, indigestion, nutrient balance, diet, and many others, different treatments are required. Luckily, potatoes can alleviate multiple possible causes and can be used to relieve high blood pressure due to tension. They can also treat indigestion due to an abundance of vitamin C and fiber within, but they should be avoided if the high blood pressure is a result of diabetes. The fiber present in them is helpful in lowering cholesterol and improving the functioning of insulin in the body, which aids in the lowering of blood pressure. This is because there is a direct relationship between blood pressure and the glucose level in the blood; insulin helps regulate that glucose level. Furthermore, the potassium found in potatoes (46% of daily requirement per serving) lowers blood pressure, since it functions as a vasodilator.
- Proper Functioning of Brain – Proper functioning of the brain depends largely on the glucose level, oxygen supply, various components of the vitamin-B complex, and certain hormones, amino acids and fatty acids like omega-3. Potatoes cater to almost all the needs mentioned above. They are high in carbohydrates, and thereby maintain good levels of glucose in the blood. This prevents the brain from letting fatigue creep in and it keeps your cognitive activity and performance high. Next, the brain needs oxygen, which is carried by the hemoglobin in the blood; its main constituent is iron.
- Prevent Heart Diseases – Apart from the vitamins (B-complex and C), minerals, and roughage, potatoes also contain certain substances called carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin). Carotenoids are beneficial for heart health and the functioning of other internal organs. Again, since potatoes raise the glucose level in the blood and their over-consumption may cause obesity, which puts pressure on your heart, you must be careful about how often you use potatoes for this health benefit. This method of preventing heart diseases is not recommended for obese people or diabetics.
- Treat Kidney Stones – Kidney stones, also known as renal calculi, are caused mainly due to increased levels of uric acid in the blood. In such cases, foods high in protein should be avoided, particularly animal proteins such as meat, turkey, shrimp, fish, eggs, and milk, as well as spinach, raw plantain, black grams, and certain beans, which drastically increase the level of uric acid in the blood. Iron and calcium also contribute to the formation of stones. Potatoes are rich in both of these so logically, they wouldn’t fit in as a preventative measure for kidney stones, but they also contain magnesium, which inhibits the accumulation or deposition of calcium (calcification) in the kidney and other tissues, thereby proving beneficial for the treatment of renal calculi.
- Treat Diarrhea – Potatoes are an excellent component of an energy-rich diet for those suffering from diarrhea since they are easy to digest and contain mild roughage. However, eating too many potatoes can cause diarrhea due to the excessive ingestion of starch.