Top Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potato health benefitsHow sweet it is for your health to eat sweet potatoes! This orange-fleshed (and sometimes purple) vegetable not only tastes delicious, but also provides some unique health benefits. It’s surprising just how many health benefits sweet potatoes have, including antioxidants, anti-inflammatory nutrients, high fiber content and they’re very heart healthy.

Antioxidant benefits
Sweet potatoes are loaded with beta carotene – a vital antioxidant – and in some studies, sweet potatoes have been shown to be a better source of bioavailable beta-carotene than green leafy vegetables1 2. But there’s so much more to the antioxidant benefits of sweet potatoes than that. In purple-fleshed sweet potatoes, cyanidins and peonidins are concentrated in the starchy core, and recent research shows these phytonutrients may be able to lower the health risk posed oxygen radicals and heavy metals.3

High fiber content
Most diets don’t get close to the 20 to 35 grams of fiber recommended for health, the Harvard School of Public Health reports 4. This is important as individuals with high intakes of dietary fiber appear to be at significantly lower risk for developing coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and certain gastrointestinal diseases. Increasing fiber intake lowers blood pressure and serum cholesterol levels, while also improving glycemia and insulin sensitivity in non-diabetic and diabetic individuals. It can also help you avoid a number of gastrointestinal disorders including the following: ulcers, diverticulitis, constipation, and hemorrhoids.5

Heart healthy benefits
Sweet potatoes contain a large amount of vitamin B6, a vitamin crucial in breaking down a substance called homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood. Too much of it is related to a higher risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease (fatty deposits in peripheral arteries). Vitamin B6 helps keep the walls of these important blood passageways flexible and healthy which allows blood to flow freely.6

In addition, sweet potatoes contain high amounts of potassium. Potassium plays an important role in lowering blood pressure by ridding the body of excess sodium and keeping a normal water balance between cells and body fluids. It is also an important electrolyte that helps regulate the natural rhythm of the heart.

If you’re planning your menus for this holiday season, or still picking from Thanksgiving leftovers, make sure your plate includes sweet potatoes!

References:
[1] Bengtsson A, Brackmann C, Enejder A et al. Effects of Thermal Processing on the in Vitro Bioaccessibility and Microstructure of ‘-Carotene in Orange-Fleshed Sweet Potato. J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Oct 1, 2010.
[2] Failla ML, Thakkar SK and Kim JY. In vitro bioaccessibility of beta-carotene in orange fleshed sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas, Lam.). J Agric Food Chem. 2009 Nov 25;57(22):10922-7. 2009.
[3] Chang WH, Huang YF, Yeh TS et al. Effect of purple sweet potato leaves consumption on exercise-induced oxidative stress, and IL-6 and HSP72 levels. J Appl Physiol. 2010 Sep 23. [Epub ahead of print]. 2010.
[4] Harvard School of Public Health: “Fiber: Start Roughing It!
[5] Anderson et al, “Health benefits of dietary fiber.”
[6] American Heart Association: “Homocysteine, Folic Acid and Cardiovascular Disease.”

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  • Burton A.

    I really appreciate the sweet potatoe article as it relates to cancer/health; Its a very informative and welcome piece of data… I’ll appreciate any others regarding healthcare you’d care to send my way… Kind regards