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Sweet potato is a tuber that grows under the ground. It is a rich source of beta-carotene, an anti-oxidant that adds to blood level of vitamin A, especially in the children. Sweet potatoes are highly nutritious and also taste very delicious.
The starch-rich tuber belongs to the family of Convolvulaceae. Its botanic name is Ipomoea batatas. Its flesh is crunchy and rich in flavored anti-oxidant pigment, minerals, vitamins and dietary fiber, all of which are beneficial to keep your health in the fine fettle. It is very good for oneâ€™s optimal cardiovascular health. Sweet potatoes are consumed in different ways but usually taken boiled, fried, steamed or baked.
Nutritional Facts of Sweet Potato
- In addition to simple starches, sweet potatoes are a very rich source of dietary fiber, beta-carotene and complex carbohydrates. It contains moderate amount of micronutrients including manganese and vitamin B5. When sweet potatoes are baked, a small change occurs in the density of micronutrient to include a significantly higher volume of vitamin C.
- Some sweet potatoes have dark orange flesh and they have higher content of beta-carotene than their counterparts with light-colored flesh. That is why, these varieties of potatoes are cultivated more in Africa where a larger number of people suffer from vitamin A deficiency.
Important Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes
- Sweet potato is one of those foods having high calorie starch. Normal potatoes have 70 calories/100 gm whereas the same amount of sweet potatoes provides 90 calories.
- The tuber does not contain cholesterol or saturated fat. It is richer in anti-oxidants, fiber, minerals and vitamins if compared with normal potatoes.
- The high calorie content in sweet potatoes comes from a complex carbohydrate, commonly referred to as starch. In comparison with potato, the sweet variations have significantly higher ratio of amylose to amylopectin. Amylose raises the sugar level in blood but at a slower pace than fruit sugars like glucose, fructose etc. That is why, it is highly recommended for diabetics.
- Sweet potato is a very good source of flavonoid phenolic compounds like vitamin A and beta-carotene. 100 gm of sweet potato contains 14,187 IU of vitamin A as well as 509 Âµg of ÃŸ-carotene. This value is considered the highest for any vegetable belonging to the category of â€˜root vegetableâ€™. These compounds are natural and extremely powerful antioxidants. Vitamin A is a must for human body in order to maintain integrity of skin and mucus membrane. The nutrient is vital for healthy vision. Consumption of flavonoids-rich fruits and natural vegetables is, according to research, a strong protection against cavity and lung cancer.
- In raw sweet potatoes, the total strength of antioxidant is 902 Âµmol TE/100 g (measured in ORAC, Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity).
- The tuber is an excellent source of several vitamins essential for our health, including pyridosine (vitamin B-6), pantothenic acid (vitamin V-5) and thiamin (vitamin B-1. All these afore-mentioned vitamins are a must-intake for the human body and we need to take them from external sources for replenishment. These vitamins work as co-factors for a wider variety of enzymes during the process of metabolism.
- Raw sweet potatoes also have a very higher content of different minerals including iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium and manganese. All these are extremely essential for the metabolism of carbohydrates, protein and enzyme.
- According to studies, sweet potato top greens are more nutrition-rich than the tuber. 100 gram of its fresh leaves has more iron, folates, vitamin C and K as well as magnesium though it contains less sodium than the tuber.
- Sweet potato produces collagen that is responsible for maintaining youthful elasticity of the skin. It also helps us deal with stress. Stress leaves a negative impact on our body and leaves skin dull and most unattractive.
- The tuber helps our body build up strong protection against toxin which is, as per studies, intimately linked to cancer.
- Sweet potato contains vitamin D. This vitamin is important for a strong and well-developed immunity system. Our body can synthesize vitamin D and it is also created in our body due to sunlight. SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder is caused due to lack of adequate sunlight and results into vitamin D deficiency. The same By keeping sweet potato in your diet chart, you can ensure adequate intake of vitamin D. it will help keep your heart and nerves in a good working condition while providing support to your teeth and thyroid gland.
How to Store Sweet Potatoes
- The best way to store sweet potatoes is in a cool, dark place. These sweet potatoes cook up evenly and will remain soft all the way through.
- Store Sweet Potatoes in a loosely covered bag to allow air circulation
- Do not refrigerate raw sweet potatoes. Doing so can alter the taste and flavor during cooking. Also refrigerated sweet potatoes can remain hard in the middle and will take longer to cook.
How to Choose Sweet Potatoes
- Look for small to medium sweet potatoes. The larger ones will have more starch in them.
- The skin should be firm, smooth, and even-toned.
- The deep orange ones are more sweeter and moister than the other varieties.
The deeper the color of the sweet potato, in general, the richer it is in the antioxidant beta-carotene.