Food: The nutritional benefits of sweet potatoes

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 2, 2024

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Sweet potatoes are enjoyed throughout the year, but their popularity may peak during fall and winter when they are an important part of holiday meals. Sweet potatoes were cultivated in Central or South America at least 5,000 years ago. They eventually were introduced to Europeans by explorers like Christopher Columbus, and soon these bright-orange delights became staples of diets across the globe.

According to WebMD, sweet potatoes are not potatoes, but sweet roots in the morning glory family. There are hundreds of varieties of sweet potatoes. While the most common have bright orange pulp, other varieties are yellow, red or purple.

There are many good reasons to enjoy sweet potatoes regularly. According to Healthline, sweet potatoes offer a host of nutritional benefits that make them worthy of inclusion on any dinner table.

• Low in calories: A one cup serving of sweet potatoes is around 180 calories with negligible fat content, 41 grams of carbohydrates, and 6.6 grams of fiber.

• Help stabilize blood sugar: Sweet potatoes are higher in fiber than white potatoes, which can provide more stability for blood glucose, says Everyday Health. The fiber in the sweet potatoes helps slow the digestion of sugar from the food, resulting in a steadier rise and fall in blood sugar.

• Loads of vitamin A per serving: Sweet potatoes contain 213 percent of the Daily Value of vitamin A. Vitamin A is important for eye health and can boost the immune system. It’s also good for organs like the heart and kidneys. The vitamin A in the potatoes can reduce the risk of macular degeneration and age-related cataracts.

• Beta-carotene connection: Sweet potatoes also are high in beta-carotene, which is a carotenoid that can be converted to vitamin A. Along with other carotenoids, beta-carotene helps with macular health and could sharpen vision.

• Promote gut health: The fiber and antioxidants in sweet potatoes are important for digestion. Sweet potatoes contain soluble and insoluble fiber which can help move stool along. The fiber also can be fermented by digestive bacteria to create a healthy digestive biome that keeps the intestines healthy, according to Healthline.

• Might reduce inflammation: Consuming the beta-carotene in sweet potatoes may do more than just boost vision. Some researchers believe this antioxidant can clean the body of free radicals that may cause inflammation in the body. Some studies indicate low levels of beta-carotene is associated with higher risk of heart disease.