Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes Health Benefits

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Sweet potatoes are one of the oldest vegetables known to man; they have been around for thousands of years and this very tasty vegetable was thought to be part of the staple diet of ancient people living centuries ago in Central and South America.

It’s now grown and eaten worldwide by a huge variety of culturally different people mainly because of its extensive heath benefits and because it’s so versatile when cooked as it can be used in a variety of ways including both savory and sweet dishes.

The sweet potato as its name implies is a sweet tasting vegetable and comes in many different varieties, the colors of these vegetables tend to vary according to the type of potato being grown but can range from orange red and purple in color on the outside to orange, white and yellow on the inside.

Despite its name, the sweet potato does not belong to the same vegetable group as the normal potato; sweet potatoes are root vegetables whilst ordinary potatoes are tuber vegetables. The sweet potato is more like the Yam; in fact some varieties of sweet potato are so similar to Yam that many people often tend to get them mixed up and buy yams instead of sweet potatoes.

Many people only eat sweet potatoes as part of their meal during celebratory times such as Thanksgiving or Christmas which is a shame because they are so healthy when eaten as part of a staple diet.

The year round use of sweet potatoes in recent years within the western world has grown exponentially as people have come to realize the health benefits, long recognized by their Asian neighbors of adding it to their diet on a regular basis.

A Nutrient Powerhouse

The health benefits of sweet potatoes are immense, mainly because they are packed with vitamins and minerals.

Just one large potato will provide an adult with all the vitamin A they need, and a very good source of vitamin C and manganese. It is also a good source of dietary fiber, potassium and vitamin B6.

Potassium is used for muscle contraction and nerve impulse transmission, water balance, and has been shown to help reduce high blood pressure.

Sweet potatoes are also very low in saturated fat, and are virtually cholesterol and salt free.

The bright color of sweet potatoes comes from its beta-carotene pigments which act as powerful, free-radical fighting antioxidants. Free radicals are generated in the body by a number of things, including physical exertion from a workout.

Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes Include:

  • Effectiveness in fighting the risk of contracting diabetes and heart disease by stabilizing blood sugar and lowering high insulin levels.
  • If they are eaten as part of a calorie controlled diet, they can assist in weight loss as they are a bulky vegetable so when eaten they help in making you feel full for longer periods.
  • Sweet potatoes contain a huge amount of “good” fiber; therefore they help to reduce the risk of bowel cancer by acting as an anti-constipation aid.
  • They assist in reducing inflammation in gut disease.
  • The beta carotene found in sweet potato also assists in fighting off the effects of free radicals, thus assisting in the possibility of reducing the risk of developing cancer.
  • As they are potassium enriched, they assist in maintaining the electrolyte balance within the body.
  • The boiled water from sweet potatoes is thought by many people to assist in the reduction of joint pain when suffering from arthritis and other types of joint diseases.
  • Finally, sweet potatoes may help you breathe easier. Quercetin, a potent phytonutrient found in the vegetable, has been shown to help ward off allergies such as hay fever and asthma.

How to Cook Sweet Potatoes for Optimum Health Benefits

First of all you should purchase firm, medium sized potatoes that aren’t damaged or have cracks in them. Don’t store them in a plastic bag as this can cause mold to form on the potatoes. Keep them in a dark, cool place and refrigerate only after you’ve cooked them.

Even though sweet potatoes are not related to the normal potato they can be cooked in much the same way. You can boil (then mash) them, also bake, steam and stew them just as you would any other potato.

Other ways they can be enjoyed include:

  • Roasting them with other traditional vegetables such as parsnips and carrots.
  • They are excellent when baked in their skins (exactly as jacket potatoes are cooked).
  • They can also be used to replace normal potatoes such as when making fries and/or chips (much healthier option).
  • They are an excellent filling and a nutritious addition to stews and casseroles.

It only takes between 7 to 10 mins to cook sweet potatoes, thus maintaining the bulk of their nutrients.

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