Sweet potatoes are sweet, starchy root vegetables that are grown worldwide. They come in a variety of sizes and colors — including orange, white, and purple — and are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Not to mention, they provide a number of health benefits and are easy to add to your diet. Here are the surprising health benefits of sweet potatoes.
Surprising Health Benefits Of Sweet Potatoes
Help prevent Vitamin A deficiency
Vitamin A deficiency is a serious issue especially in developing nations around the world. The health repercussions of a vitamin A deficiency are grave and can include decreased resistance to infectious disease, increase in infectious morbidity, dry eyes as well increased mortality for both pregnant and lactating women and their children.
Sweet potatoes are an extremely important source of Vitamin A because they contain high levels of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is transformed into vitamin A in our livers, with every molecule of beta-carotene producing two molecules of Vitamin A.
Promote Gut Health
The fiber and antioxidants in sweet potatoes are advantageous to gut health. Sweet potatoes contain two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble.
Your body cannot digest either type. Therefore, fiber stays within your digestive tract and provides a variety of gut-related health benefits. Certain types of soluble fiber — known as viscous fibers — absorb water and soften your stool. On the other hand, non-viscous, insoluble fibers don’t absorb water and add bulk. Some soluble and insoluble fibers can also be fermented by the bacteria in your colon, creating compounds called short-chain fatty acids that fuel the cells of your intestinal lining and keep them healthy and strong.
Fiber-rich diets containing 20–33 grams per day have been linked to a lower risk of colon cancer and more regular bowel movements. The antioxidants in sweet potatoes may provide gut benefits as well.
May Have Cancer-Fighting Properties
Sweet potatoes offer various antioxidants, which may help protect against certain types of cancers. Anthocyanins — a group of antioxidants found in purple sweet potatoes — have been found to slow the growth of certain types of cancer cells in test-tube studies, including those of the bladder, colon, stomach, and breast.
Similarly, mice fed diets rich in purple sweet potatoes showed lower rates of early-stage colon cancer — suggesting that the anthocyanins in the potatoes may have a protective effect. Extracts of orange sweet potatoes and sweet potato peels have also been found to have anti-cancer properties in test-tube studies. However, studies have yet to test these effects in humans.
Help manage diabetes
Sweet potatoes are categorized as low to high on the glycemic index scale, and several studies have indicated that it can minimize the occurrence of insulin resistance and low blood sugar levels, as well as high blood sugar in people who are suffering from diabetes.
Their relatively low glycemic index means that the sweet potatoes release sugar into the bloodstream slowly, unlike other starchy foods. This steady release of sugar is what aids in controlling the blood sugar levels of individuals so that it does not go low or high. Thus, the sweet potatoes can be used in the regulation of blood sugar levels especially in people with diabetes. This regulation is witnessed in both types of diabetes, i.e. type I and type II.
Studies into the varieties of sweet potatoes have revealed that the Beauregard is the most effective sweet potato variant when it comes to blood glucose regulation. In addition, the variant has been shown to have similar protein patterns to Caiapo, which is an extract from white sweet potatoes. Caiapo has been documented as improving the glucose and cholesterol levels of individuals with type II diabetes, and is thus used as dietary management of this disease.
Protect eye health
As mentioned above, sweet potatoes are a good source of provitamin A in the form of beta-carotene. After the age of 18, the Dietary Guidelines recommend an intake of 700 mg of vitamin A per day for women and 900 mg per day for men. Vitamin A is important for protecting eye health.
According to the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), a baked sweet potato in its skin will provide around 1,403 mcg of vitamin A, or 561% of a person’s daily requirement.
Vitamin A also acts as an antioxidant. Together with other antioxidants, it can help protect the body from a variety of health conditions.