Sweet and starchy, sweet potatoes grow all over the world and come in various colors like orange, purple, and white. People in Okinawa, Japan, are well-known for living longer than almost anyone else on Earth. Almost 60 percent of their calories come from consuming sweet potatoes. In places like Papua New Guinea, some tribes get 90 percent of their calories from sweet potatoes and yams.
“Sweet potatoes are a rich source of fiber as well as containing an array of vitamins and minerals including iron, calcium, selenium, and they’re a good source of most of our B vitamins and vitamin C. One of the key nutritional benefits of sweet potato is that they’re high in an antioxidant known as beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A once consumed,” according to BBC Good Food.
Here are the top 5 health benefits of sweet potatoes.
1. Eye benefits
Vitamin A deficiency is one of the major causes of xerophthalmia, a type of blindness. Consuming sweet potatoes that are rich in beta-carotene can help deal with the issue. Just one cup of baked sweet potatoes provides seven times the amount of beta-carotene that an adult requires per day. Test tube studies have shown that sweet potatoes provide anthocyanins that protect the cells of the eye from being damaged and contribute to eye health.
2. Good for the heart
Sweet potatoes are high in fiber that helps in lowering bad LDL cholesterol, thereby preventing cardiovascular disease. A cup of baked sweet potatoes offers about 950 mg of potassium, which is double the amount provided by a medium-sized banana. Potassium aids in flushing out extra sodium from the body, which reduces blood pressure and diminishes any strain felt by the heart.
According to a survey, less than 2 percent of Americans hit the daily recommended potassium intake target of 4700 mg. Additionally, sweet potatoes are “high in copper, an essential metal for making red blood cells and keeping your heart healthy. Low levels of copper have been linked to dangerously high homocysteine, blood pressure, and LDL cholesterol levels,” according to Food Revolution Network.
3. Gut health
The antioxidants in purple sweet potatoes aid the growth of healthy gut bacteria like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. High levels of such bacteria in the intestines minimize the risk of infectious diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome. Plus, since sweet potatoes are rich in fiber, eating them can help with digestion and ensure regular bowel movements.
4. Effects on weight
Sweet potatoes can help with gaining or losing weight. Since they contain a lot of starch, minerals, proteins, etc., and are easier to digest, they are excellent for people looking to put on weight. Individuals recovering from illnesses or those who are unhappy with their extremely thin bodies should make sweet potatoes a part of their daily diet. As far as people with excess weight are concerned, sweet potatoes can act as an excellent fat burner.
“About 12 percent of the starch in sweet potatoes is resistant starch, a filling, fiber-like substance your body doesn’t digest and absorb. One study found that replacing just 5.4 percent of total carbohydrate intake with resistant starch resulted in a 20 to 30 percent increase in fat burning after a meal. Resistant starch also prompts the body to pump out more satiety-inducing hormones,” according to Health.
5. Improved brain function
Studies on animals have found that the anthocyanins found in purple sweet potatoes have the ability to protect the brain from damage caused by free radicals as well as to minimize inflammation. When mice were fed with extracts from anthocyanin-rich sweet potatoes, their memory and learning capacity were observed to have increased. It is highly possible that similar effects may be found in human beings who regularly consume sweet potatoes.