Sweet potatoes are nutritious and delicious root vegetables. The sweet potato is creamy and soft enough to be an ingredient in several pie recipes, and most people think of the vegetable as merely a dessert ingredient. However, scientists have found that sweet potatoes are among the best sources of Vitamin A (1). Sweet potatoes are also naturally packed with vitamin B5, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, and carotenoids due to their naturally orange color.
The sweet potato, also known as the Ipomoea batatas, not only contains many nutrients, but it is also packed with medicinal benefits. Scientists have determined that sweet potatoes contain anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and anticancer properties (2). Most sweet potatoes are orange in color, but there are others that come in purple, yellow, white, pink, and red. The following are some of the health benefits that you can accrue from including sweet potatoes in our regular diet.
Sweet potatoes can help manage diabetes
Sweet potatoes are categorized as low to high on the glycemic index scale, and several studies have indicated that it can minimize the occurrence of insulin resistance and low blood sugar levels, as well as high blood sugar in people who are suffering from diabetes (7).
Their relatively low glycemic index means that the sweet potatoes release sugar into the bloodstream slowly, unlike other starchy foods. This steady release of sugar is what aids in controlling the blood sugar levels of individuals so that it does not go low or high. Thus, the sweet potatoes can be used in the regulation of blood sugar levels especially in people with diabetes. This regulation is witnessed in both types of diabetes, i.e. type I and type II.
Studies into the varieties of sweet potatoes have revealed that the Beauregard is the most effective sweet potato variant when it comes to blood glucose regulation (7). In addition, the variant has been shown to have similar protein patterns to Caiapo, which is an extract from white sweet potatoes. Caiapo has been documented as improving the glucose and cholesterol levels of individuals with type II diabetes, and is thus used as dietary management of this disease (8).
Sweet potatoes can help manage cancer
Studies have also shown that the purple-fleshed sweet potato is especially effective in the fight against cancer (21). This variation of the sweet potato has elements that are able to inhibit growth of specific cancers that include breast cancer, gastric cancer, and colon cancer by inducing the cell death of these cancer cells. The vegetable’s high anthocyanin content is believed to be the reason behind the sweet potato’s anti-cancer activity when it comes to gastric and breast cancers (20).
Other studies have conclusively shown that extracts from different parts of the sweet potato can also induce cell death in prostate cancer cells, ensuring that the cancer does not grow and spread to other parts of the prostate (20). Scientists have concluded that the anti-cancer activity of sweet potatoes when it comes to controlling prostate cancer is due to their high polyphenol content.
The presence of carotenoids such as beta-carotene in sweet potatoes has also been reported as having a significant effect on reducing the risk of men becoming afflicted with prostate cancer (25).
Sweet potatoes can boost fertility
The high doses of Vitamin A in sweet potatoes makes the vegetable ideal for consumption by women of childbearing age to enhance their fertility. Studies on animal models have shown that Vitamin A plays an integral role in improving reproductive performance (45). Research has also shown that a deficiency in Vitamin A can lead to secondary infertility in women of childbearing age (46).
Sweet potatoes also contain a healthy dose of iron (47), which is a crucial mineral in promoting fertility in women of childbearing age. Reports indicate that anemia, or iron deficiency, is a cause of infertility among women (48). These reports have shown that treating the iron deficiency by increasing dietary intake of iron usually results in women being able to conceive a few months to a year after the treatment. Other studies have found that an increase in dietary iron intake reduces the risk of ovulatory infertility (49).
Sweet potatoes can help in weight management
Sweet potatoes contain soluble and fermentable fiber that increase satiety and offers the body a natural, self-sustaining mechanism for body weight regulation (56). Studies have shown that one of the major soluble dietary fibers in sweet potatoes, pectin, is effective at reducing food intake ,reducing weight gain, and also increasing the activity of satiety hormones in the body.
Scientific studies have also shown that a higher intake of fibers is strongly correlated to reduced body weight (32). An increase in consumption of sweet potatoes will result in an increase in fiber intake, which will in turn, lead to a lower body weight.
Sweet potatoes are important for good vision
Sweet potatoes contain a lot of vitamin A, and most of us know that vitamin A is good for our vision, but we may not know in exactly which way the vitamin improves our vision. Studies have shown that the vitamin is essential in the formation of the pigments responsible for light absorption (50). In addition, vitamin A is also essential in maintaining the proper structure of the retina. A deficiency of vitamin A can result in poor vision, and in some instances blindness. Deficiency in the vitamin can also lead to night blindness (51, 52).
Furthermore, other eye diseases including the dryness of the cornea, the ulceration of the cornea, and conjunctiva, have also been linked to a deficiency in vitamin A (52).
Source: La Canada care center