By Julia Kitlinski-Hong
When’s the last time you ate a sweet potato? As a healthy, starchy vegetable, sweet potatoes make a perfect addition to any meal. They also stand alone as a great snack with a little a bit of coconut oil and salt.
Sweet potatoes are part of the root vegetable family that includes beets, carrots, parsnip, turnip, rutabaga and others. A little known fact is that the yam which makes an appearance around autumn, is actually a type of sweet potato. Who knew? Now you have a conversation starter at your dinner party.
Another added benefit is that unlike the regular potato, this veggie has a sweet flavor that satisfies a sweet tooth craving, but avoids the sugar crash that is often associated with processed sugar. Here are a few other ways that sweet potatoes are highly beneficial — and the reasons why you should add them to your plate.
They are rich in nutrients
Full of beta-carotene which is converted into vitamin A when it is consumed, this veggie is a wise choice for optimal health. A big, 180-gram sweet potato baked in the oven with its skin has 1,730 micrograms of vitamin A. (The daily requirement is only 900 micrograms for men and 700 micrograms or women.) Vitamin A is crucial for a well-balanced diet because it helps with the tasks of regulating, repairing and growth various systems within your body (for example the growth and repair of your bones).
They help control diabetes
Sweet potatoes rank low on the glycemic index scale and current research suggests that they may have a chance at decreasing the frequency of low blood sugar and insulin resistance episodes that occur in people with diabetes. The high levels of fiber also assist with type 1 diabetics to decrease blood glucose levels and individuals with type 2 diabetics could have more stable blood sugar, insulin and lipid levels. A single medium-sized sweet potato has about 6 grams of fiber with its skin still intact.According to the Institute of Medicine, men should have a daily amount of 25 grams of fiber a day and women around 38 grams.
They help regulate digestion
The high level of fiber that is present in sweet potatoes is ideal for promoting a healthy digestive system and prevents constipation. Thepresence of magnesium also aids in creating a smooth-running GI system.
They help prevent stomach ulcers
Not only are sweet potatoes great for curing digestive issues, but they are also known to be an ideal preventative measure against stomach ulcers due to the presence of B-complex vitamins, beta carotene, vitamin C, calcium and potassium — all substances that have healing power when it comes to curing stomach ulcers.
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They help prevent arthritis
The beta-carotene, zinc, magnesium and vitamin-B complex present in sweet potatoes are critical in battling arthritis. An added bonus is that if you boil sweet potatoes, the remaining water can be rubbed externally on joints to lessen the pain that is associated with this illness.
They help prevent cancer
According to a study done by Harvard School of Public Health’s Department of Nutrition, it is beneficial for younger men to consume a diet high diet in beta-carotene, in order to possibly ward off prostate cancer. In a separate study, beta-carotene has been shown to display an inverse association with colon cancer.
They improve vision
Jill Koury, MD, a Duke University ophthalmologist, claims that Vitamin A deficiency is responsible for the deterioration of the outer portions of the eye’s photoreceptors, resulting in damaged vision. The natural preventative solution? Consuming foods high in beta-carotene that will help with recovering vision. It is also important to note that the antioxidant-rich vitamins E and C present in sweet potatoes have been proven to increase healthy eyes and decrease the risk of degenerative damage.
So what are you waiting for? Sweet potatoes are one of nature’s ways for keeping you healthy — and they taste delicious. Try incorporating them into your diet today!
Julia Kitlinski-Hong is a freelance writer and founder of the travel and culture website smallworldthisis.com that inspires others to explore their world, both locally and abroad.