Sweet potato is one of the sweet gifts gifted to us by nature. Along with its sweet taste, it is loaded with various nutrients and minerals and has numerous health benefits. Sweet potato variety with white or pale yellow flesh is less sweet and moist than those with red, pink, or orange flesh. Based on the production volume, sweet potato ranks as the fifth most important food crop in the world.
Sweet potato holds first rank (super-food) in nutrition among vegetables. Sweet potato when eaten with the skin, has more fiber than oatmeal. It protects cigarette smokers from emphysema and also helps in fetal development and also helps in alleviating muscle cramps which are often related to potassium deficiency due to its high potassium content. It also contains magnesium, a crucial mineral for de-stressing which promotes relaxation and calmness and also provides nerve health. As a nutraceutical, it can be formulated into semi-solid food products like soups, beverages, breakfast cereals, in desserts, etc.
The sweet potato is a dicotyledonous plant. Its edible part is the tuber. They are mostly confused with yams but sweet potatoes carry more nutritional value than yams and yams are comparatively bigger in size than sweet potatoes. It is considered the cheapest source of anti-oxidants.
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Family: Convulvulaceae
- Botanical Name: Ipomoea batatas
- Common Name: Shakargand
Phytochemical constituents present in Sweet Potatoes
Its leaf contains various phenolic acids such as – caffeic acid, caffeoylquinic acid derivatives like – chlorogenic acid, isochlorogenic acid, hydroxyl cinnamic acid, etc. Its root contains coumarins like – scopoletin, esculetin, umbelliferone, peonidin, cyanidins etc. and various triterpenes and steroids like – beta – amirin acetate, bohmrylacetate and friedelin. Its tuber root contains various alkaloids like – calystegine B1, calystegine B2, calystegine C1, calystegine B3 and ipomine. It’s root is a rich source of carbohydrates such as – starch, sugar, and dietary fiber. Its root and leaf contain anthocyanins like – carotenoids (beta-carotene, leutine) and also contain tannins like – Phlobatannin and it’s leaf contains flavonoids such as – tiliroside, astragalin, rhamnocitrin, rhamnetin, and the leaf also contains saponins and enzymes like – chitinases.
Sweet potatoes are rich in Vitamins and amino acids
Sweet potatoes are rich in Vitamins like – A, B, C, and E and it is a rich source of amino acids like – Threonine, valine, methionine, isoleucine, leucine, tyrosine, phenylalanine, lysine, tryptophan, aspartic acid, serine, glutamic acid, proline, glycine, alanine, histidine, and arginine. Vitamins C and E are the excellent sources of anti-oxidants thus helps in preventing various diseases and also enhance the beauty of skin and hair. Vitamin A or beta-carotene helps in maintaining the eye’s health. Thus, the combination of these vitamins makes the sweet potato one of the healthiest foods.
These nutrients collectively contribute to a healthy and glowing complexion as well as shiny hair. There are various trace elements found in sweet potatoes like– manganese, iron, and potassium. Manganese is an important component in the metabolism of carbohydrates. Sweet potatoes contain carotenoids as well that help to stabilize blood sugar levels and lowers insulin resistance which helps in metabolism. Carotenoids serve as a co-factor in enzymes that helps in the generation of energy and it is useful in the treatment of anemia and also useful in treating premenstrual syndrome in women.
Sweet potatoes are also rich in fiber. This high fiber is beneficial in weight loss.
Top 10 Health Benefits of Sweet Potato
1. For Heart Health
It contains large amounts of Vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 helps in homocysteine breakdown as homocysteine contributes to the hardening of arteries and blood vessels. It helps in keeping the blood vessels walls flexible and allows normal blood flow.
2. For maintaining Blood Pressure
Sweet potato contains high amounts of potassium. Potassium helps in maintaining or lowering the blood pressure by eliminating excess sodium salts from the body thus regulates the fluid balance. It is also an important electrolyte that maintains the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system.
3. For boosting the Immune system
Sweet potato also contains Vitamin C. This vitamin is important for the immune system as well as for maintaining the overall health of the individual.
4. For stress issues
As sweet potatoes are a good source of magnesium which is considered as an anti-stress mineral, it helps to reduce stress levels. This element is also useful in maintaining a healthy heart, arteries, bones, muscles, etc
5. For Emphysema treatment
For smokers, the intake of sweet potatoes is highly beneficial as it helps in the treatment of emphysema.
6. For fetal development
Pregnant women must include sweet potatoes in their diet as they are rich in folates. Due to their high folate content, it is necessary for healthy fetal cell and tissue development.
7. For diabetes
Sweet potato is considered low on the glycemic index scale as indicated in recent research. It helps in reducing the episodes of low blood sugar and insulin resistance in people with diabetes. Studies have also shown that people suffering from type 1 diabetes who consume high fiber diets have low blood glucose levels and people having type 2 diabetes may have improved blood sugar levels. One medium sweet potato provides about 6 grams of fiber.
8. For preventing Cancer
Among men, a diet rich in beta – carotene may play a protective role in preventing prostate cancer. Sweet potatoes contain higher amounts of beta-carotene.
9. For chronic Inflammation
Sweet potatoes contain the versatile nutrient choline which helps in good sleep, muscle movement, memory, and learning. Choline also helps to maintain the structure of cell membranes and also helps in the transmission of nerve impulses, reduces chronic inflammation, and also assists in the absorption of fat.
10. For Fertility
For females of childbearing age, the consumption of iron from plant-based sources helps in promoting infertility. The beta-carotene which gets converted into Vitamin A is essential during lactation and pregnancy as well.
Storage of sweet potato
Sweet potatoes must be stored at 80-90% relative humidity. It must be stored in a cool, dark place having good ventilation. Use it within 2 weeks and do not store it in the refrigerator.
Excess consumption of sweet potato is contradicted in patients who have a history of kidney stones as the vegetable contains oxalate which contributes to the formation of calcium-oxalate kidney stones.