The sweet potato is gaining popularity as a healthy, sweetly delicious alternative to the potato. It is a nutritious tuber with a unique and distinctively sweet flavor.
There's probably no vegetable with a higher Beta-carotene than the sweet potato. Beta-carotene protects us against cancer, colds, infections and other diseases. The carotene content of sweet potatoes actually increases as the vegetable is stored throughout the winter. But our bodies can only convert carotene to Vitamin A in the presence of bile salt - a chemical produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. This important substance aids in the digestion of fats and helps in the elimination of toxins from the body. That's why it's important to eat sweet potatoes with fats such as butter or cream. These fats stimulate the secretion of bile and help the body to convert carotenes the all-important Vitamin A.
As well as Beta-carotene, sweet potatoes are an excellent source of starch and, therefore, energy. They also provide some protein, Vitamin C and Vitamin E. It is these and the other phytochemicals in the sweet potato that make them such a powerful anti-cancer food. It has been found that a mere 100g a day can dramatically reduce your risk of lung cancer.
- Cancer: Studies have also associated eating sweet potatoes with reducing the risk of breast, colorectal, gallbladder and kidney cancer.
- Longevity: The sweet potato is a major source of nutrition for the Okinawan people, a group of islanders living near Japan, known for their long lives. A white-skinned, purple-fleshed version of the sweet potato is thought to be a contributing factor to their long life expectancies.
- Diabetes: Sweet potatoes appear to have blood sugar regulating abilities. Recent research has shown that extracts from sweet potatoes can significantly increase blood levels of adiponectin in people with type-2 diabetes. Adiponectin is a protein hormone produced by our fat cells, and is needed for insulin metabolism. People with poorly-regulated insulin metabolism and insulin insensitivity tend to have lower levels of adiponectin, and persons with healthier insulin metabolism tend to have higher levels.
Sweet potatoes are an extremely versatile vegetable and are wonderfully healthy for children and adults alike. They can be boiled or steamed, then mashed, or roasted in the oven. In fact, recent findings suggest that when sweet potatoes are steamed, much more of their beneficial nutrients are preserved, and boiling compared to roasting the vegetable has shown better blood sugar effects.