Michelle Schoffro Cook December 12, 2013
The holidays are not the only time to break out the sweet potato recipes. Now there are 16 reasons to enjoy these terrific tubers all year round.
1. Sweet potatoes are readily available, although stores often confuse sweet potatoes and yams and mislabel the two. Orange-colored sweet potatoes are often confused with yams although they are not even from the same family of plants or grown in the same locations. Sweet potatoes can have red, orange, yellow or even purple skin. They can also have orange white or purple flesh, adding to the confusion between these two distinct tubers.
2. As the name implies, sweet potatoes are sweet but they won’t cause blood sugar spikes and crashes linked with fatigue and weight gain. The natural sugars are slowly released into the bloodstream, helping to ensure a balanced and regular source of energy.
3. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of fiber, which helps with blood sugar regulation and keeping you regular as well.
4. Sweet potatoes have fewer calories per serving than yams – around 86 calories per seven tablespoons of mashed sweet potatoes (or 100 grams) compared to 118 for yams.
5. Sweet potatoes are also slightly higher in protein than yams. More importantly, the World Journal of Gastroenterology reported that sweet potato contains a protein that inhibits human colon and rectal cancers. The results were dose-dependent meaning that the higher the amount of sweet potato protein, the better the cancer-inhibiting effects.
6. The high levels of vitamin B6 in sweet potatoes helps reduce the chemical homocysteine in our bodies. Homocysteine has been linked with degenerative diseases, including heart attacks.
7. Sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin C, which most people know for its power to ward off cold and flu viruses. Vitamin C is also essential for bone and tooth formation, digestion, and blood cell formation. Vitamin C also contributes to wound healing and produces collagen to keep skin youthful. Vitamin C even improves our ability to cope with stress and protect our body against toxins that may be linked to cancer.
8. These nutritious tubers contain Vitamin D (which is actually a hormone) to support our immune systems and overall health. This vitamin is primarily made in our bodies when we are exposed to adequate sunlight and contributes to healthy bones, heart, nerves, skin teeth and thyroid gland.
9. The iron content in sweet potatoes helps with energy levels, as well red and white blood cell production, resistance to stress, proper immune functioning, and the metabolizing of protein, among other things.
10. Sweet potatoes are a good source of magnesium, a mineral that may be deficient in up to 80 percent of North Americans. Not only is magnesium considered the relaxation and anti-stress mineral, it is critical for healthy artery, blood, bone, heart, muscle, and nerve function.
11. Potassium is an important electrolyte that helps 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 are an excellent source of potassium.
12. The rich orange color found in many sweet potatoes is a visual indication of the high levels of carotenoids that occur in these tubers. 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. Studies at Harvard University of more than 124,000 people showed a 32 percent reduction in risk of lung cancer in people who consumed a variety of carotenoid-rich foods as part of their regular diet. Another study of women who had completed treatment for early stage breast cancer conducted by researchers at Women’s Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) found that women with the highest blood concentrations of carotenoids had the least likelihood of cancer recurrence.
13. The carotenoid beta carotene is the precursor to vitamin A in your body. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that supports healthy eyes and skin. Beta carotene has also been studied for its ability to guard against different types of cancer.
14. Recently researchers discovered a related group of nutrients in sweet potato called batatosides that have been found to have antibacterial and antifungal properties.
15. New research shows that cyanidins and peonidins found in sweet potatoes may be able to reduce the potential health risk posed by heavy metals.