Sweet potatoes are a truly magnificent food, they are full of nutrients and provide an exquisite taste to a huge variety of dishes. They can be baked and served as a jacket potato, they can be cut up into wedges and cooked in coconut oil, they can be steamed or boiled and placed into curry, or even mashed and served up with portions of rice and beans.
Sweet potatoes, along with their vibrant and appealing orange glow, provide a rich and appetising sweetness that rivals any other type of potato. A 100 gramme serving of sweet potato provides 86 calories. This amount will supply 1.6 grammes of protein, 20.1 grammes of carbohydrate (of which 4.2 grammes is sugar), and 0.1 grammes of fat.
Let's delve deeper into what benefits sweet potato has to offer, and find out why you should include more of this starchy goodness in your diet.
Sweet potato contains a very impressive list of vitamins, substances that are essential for normal growth, nutrition and processes within the human body.
A 100 gramme serving of sweet potato contains 709 micrograms of vitamin A. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is required for the proper development and function of the eyes, skin and immune system, among other aspects of the body. Beta carotene, which is the form of vitamin A that occurs in plants, may help to prevent macular degeneration, and also plays the role of an antioxidant, meaning it can help protect against oxidative stress that causes damage to DNA.
Vitamin A also helps to bolster the immune system, and deficiency in the vitamin leaves people susceptible to certain infections. Those interested in skin health and complexion will also be interested to know that vitamin A can help wound healing and skin re-growth. The vitamin plays a role in soft tissue formation and can help to combat acne and boost skin health in general.
A 100 gramme serving of sweet potato also contains 12.3 milligrammes of choline. Choline plays an important role in the body and may help to maintain a healthy heart, this may be due to its effect to reduce cholesterol in the blood, however, research still needs to fully verify this.
Choline is extremely important for the developing brain of a child and plays a role in concentration, memory and learning. Choline also plays an important role in the liver, as the nutrient moves fat from the liver and delivers it to the cells of the body. Therefore choline deficiency may cause an increased risk of liver damage.
Minerals are a collection of inorganic substances that the body needs in order to carry out necessary processes. Sweet potato contains an array of important minerals.
A 100 gramme serving of sweet potato provides 30 milligrammes of calcium. Calcium is a mineral that the body needs in order to maintain and build strong and healthy bones. It is also required for the proper function of the heart, muscles and nerves.
A 100-gram serving size of sweet potato also contains 337 milligrammes of potassium. Deficiency in this mineral can manifest as fatigue, muscle weakness, high blood pressure, headaches and heart palpitations. Potassium also contributes to bone health, brain function and muscular strength. Adequate levels of potassium may also be able to prevent muscular cramps, as cramps are a sign of lows of the mineral.
The same serving size also offers 0.15 milligrammes of the copper, equaling an impressive 17 percent of the recommended daily value. Copper is an important mineral that is involved in the proper growth of the body, enzymatic function and, iron use and the health of connective tissue. Copper has shown to be able to reduce the levels of LDL, of bad cholesterol, in the body and may, therefore, help to defend against the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
A 130 gramme serving of sweet potato can also provide a person with 30 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that cannot be stored in the body, therefore it is important to obtain dietary sources of the nutrient. Vitamin C is required by the body to fulfil numerous function, one of which is the production of collagen, the most abundant protein in the body that is responsible for the elasticity and strength of skin, along with the health of tendons and joints.
Sweet potatoes serve as a decent source of fibre, with a medium sized sweet potato containing 3.8 grammes made up of both soluble and insoluble fibre.
Soluble fibre, as its name suggests, dissolves in water and in doing so becomes a gel-like substance. Soluble fibre can help to lower cholesterol which may, in turn, boost heart health. Soluble fibre also helps to control glucose levels as it assists in slowing down the emptying of the stomach and may also help to stave off blood sugar spikes. It can also relieve several bowel conditions such as diarrhoea and constipation.
Insoluble fibre, on the other hand, plays a slightly different role in the body. It is effective in creating a feeling of being full and therefore can serve as a great weight loss tool. Insoluble fibre is also very helpful in the maintenance of regular bowel movements and can, therefore, help with bowel conditions such as haemorrhoids and constipation.
Sweet potato contains multiple antioxidants, substances that can help to protect cells against damage caused by oxidation. Sweet potato contains the antioxidants beta-carotene and chlorogenic acid. Purple varieties of sweet potato also contain anthocyanins, substances that possess strong antioxidant abilities.
Sweet potato contains multiple forms of starch which are long chains of glucose. One type of this starch is known as resistant starch which passes through the digestive system without undergoing change. Resistant starch is known to have numerous health benefits such as boosting insulin sensitivity and lowering blood sugar levels.