Sweet potato a distant variant of the humble potato (solanum tuberosum), is actually a tuber that is largely used as a culinary ingredient but has some non-culinary applications as well. Though the origin of this root vegetable can be traced back to South or Central America, the tuber thrives in all the temperate and tropical zones with plentiful water supply. Sweet potatoes come in a wide variety of colors including orange-the variant most prevalent in USA-pink, purple, brown, violet, white, red, and yellow.
Sweet Potato: Nutritional Facts
Although the entire plant including the shoot, leaves, and stem are consumed, it is the tuberous root-sweet potato-that is eaten most extensively. The vegetable is loaded with nutrients including Vitamins A, B5, B6, riboflavin, thiamin, and niacin. The characteristic orange hue is due to carotene-a terpenoid hydrocarbon and forerunner of Vitamin A-that is found abundantly in the tuber.
Additionally, these are rich in several minerals mainly calcium, potassium, manganese, and magnesium. Their fat and sodium content is negligible and also contain less calories compared to potatoes making these a good health choice. Occasionally including sweet potatoes in diets keeps your eyesight perfect, allays the aging process, flushes out toxins and wastes from your body, and prevents incidences of cancer. However, since sweet potatoes have high sugar content, only small portions of the same should be consumed during meals.
Benefits to Health
Intake of sweet potato results in numerous health benefits. For instance, vitamin B6 present in the veggie prevents arteriosclerosis and the potassium content help maintain the blood pressure level. Potassium also serves as an electrolyte enabling the heart to function effectively. Despite being rich in sugars, sweet potatoes actually help regulate blood sugar levels in sharp contrast to other foods that contain an inordinately high amount of starch.
High calcium content strengthens the bones and teeth keeping them robust and the manganese promotes metabolism of carbohydrates preventing unwarranted hunger pangs. Intake of sweet potatoes aids in de-stressing and keeps you calm with no mood swings. The different varieties of sweet potatoes contain distinct vitamins in accordance with their color pigments. Owing to the presence of various types of vitamins, this root vegetable is instrumental in fighting diseases, boosting the immune system, maintaining a glowing skin, promoting hair growth, and preventing cancer
The Risk Factors
Sweet potato like any other nutritious vegetable should be eaten moderately and should also be prepared keeping health aspects in mind. Sweet potatoes abound in carbohydrates and a generous helping of the same may spike up your glycaemic levels that can be avoided if you take small portions. Excessive consumption might also cause some skin issues. Oxalate presence in sweet potatoes should discourage people who’ve had kidney stones from consuming large quantities of the same.
Sweet Potatoes Vis-à-vis Yams
You might mistake yams for sweet potatoes as both the veggies resemble each other closely in terms of looks. However, yams are grown in Asia and Africa whereas the sweet potato is cultivated widely in Central, South and North Americas. Despite their similar looks, sweet potatoes tend to be more nutritious in comparison to yams and also contain more nutrients.
Image credit: Brent Hofacker