Health Benefits of Sweet Potato

  • Author :
  • TATA AIG Team
  • Published on :
  • 26/02/2024

Sweet potatoes or Shakarkandi, has a long-standing history in Indian culinary traditions. Originating in South America, some archaeologists suggest that sweet potatoes were cultivated as early as 8,000 BC. Contrary to their name, sweet potatoes are not only about sweetness; there are varieties of sweet potatoes that have a more savoury or neutral taste.

Sweet potatoes are not just a delicious addition to our plates but also nutritional powerhouses offering a myriad of health benefits. In this blog, we will delve into the diverse sweet potato benefits and uses of sweet potato and share delightful sweet potato recipes, encouraging you to incorporate these nutritional wonders beyond culinary delights and make them a permanent and enriching part of your balanced diet.

What is Sweet Potato?

The scientific name for sweet potato, Ipomoea batatas, might not roll off the tongue as easily as its popular moniker, but this humble tuber has earned a place of honour on tables worldwide.

While often mistaken for Sooran or yam, sweet potatoes belong to the morning glory family (Convolvulaceae) and are not botanically related to true yams, which are part of the Dioscoreaceae family. Sweet potatoes come in various colours, including orange, purple, and white, and their flesh can be classified as either firm or soft.

The sweet potato has a rich history dating back thousands of years. Believed to have originated in Central or South America, it quickly spread across the globe through exploration and trade routes. Archaeological evidence suggests that sweet potatoes were cultivated in Peru as early as 8000 BCE, making them one of the oldest known crops.

Sweet potato is a tuber that not only delights the taste buds but also nourishes the body with a wealth of essential nutrients.

Nutritional Value of Sweet Potato

Below is a detailed dissection of the nutritional profile of sweet potatoes, revealing the key components (per 100 gm) that make them a favourite among health-conscious individuals and culinary enthusiasts alike:

Nutrient  Sweet Potato  (Brown skin) Sweet Potato  (Pink skin)
Energy (Kcal) 108.9 108
Carbohydrates (g) 24.25 23.93
Total Dietary Fibre (g) 3.99 3.94
Fat (g) 0.26 0.33
Protein (g) 1.33 1.27
Thiamine (mg) 0.07 0.06
Riboflavin (mg) 0.04 0.04
Niacin (mg) 0.67 0.69
Pantothenic acid (mg) 0.89 0.56
Total B6 (mg) 0.12 0.19
Biotin (µg) 5.19 5.71
Total Folate (µg) 15.62 14.44
Total Ascorbic acid (µg) 17.94 22.2
Phylloquinone (µg) 3 3.5
Lutein (µg) 282 208
Zeaxanthin (µg) 146 133
β-Carotene (µg) 5376 11.12
Total carotenoids (µg) 8653 95.93
Calcium (mg) 27.5 28.93
Magnesium (mg) 17.37 21.05
Phosphorus (mg) 42.96 37.6
Potassium (mg) 345 329
Sodium (mg) 29.6 29.04
Total starch (g) 18.82 19.88
Free sugars (g) 3.63 4.03
Saturated Fatty Acids (mg) 66.1 101
PUFA (mg) 116 180
Total oxalate (mg) 14.39 14.14
Citric acid (mg) 15.66 25.69
Succinic acid (mg) 652 334
Total Polyphenols (mg) 6.89 11.74
Phytate (mg) 54.02 63.69

The nutritional details presented for 100 grams of sweet potato rely on data sourced from the Indian Food Composition Table (IFCT, 2017), as provided by the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), ICMR.

It is important to note that specific requirements may vary based on factors such as age, gender, and activity levels (especially for calorie needs).

10 Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes

Loaded with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, sweet potatoes offer a myriad of health benefits.

Beyond their delightful taste and culinary versatility, sweet potatoes hold specific advantages for women's health and much more. Let us talk about some of the benefits of eating sweet potato:

Vision Health: Beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy eyesight. Sweet potatoes, abundant in this nutrient, contribute to optimal vision and may lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration.

Antioxidants: Sweet potatoes owe their vibrant colours to potent antioxidants such as beta-carotene and anthocyanins. These compounds combat oxidative stress, safeguarding cells from damage and contributing to a reduced risk of chronic diseases.

Anti-Inflammatory: Sweet potatoes contain compounds that may help alleviate inflammation in the body. This makes them a valuable addition to diets aimed at reducing the risk of inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.

Immune Function: The high levels of vitamin C in sweet potatoes bolster the immune system. This essential vitamin stimulates the production of white blood cells, enhancing the body's ability to fend off infections and illnesses.

Heart Health: The potassium content in sweet potatoes contributes to heart health by regulating blood pressure. Additionally, the fibre content helps lower cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Blood Sugar Levels: Despite their natural sweetness, sweet potatoes have a low glycemic index, leading to a slower release of sugar into the bloodstream. This quality makes them an excellent choice for individuals looking to manage blood sugar levels effectively.

Digestive Health: With a generous supply of dietary fibre, sweet potatoes promote digestive health. Fibre aids in preventing constipation, supports a healthy gut microbiome, and may even lower the risk of colorectal cancer.

Weight Management: As a nutrient-dense, low-calorie food with high fibre content, sweet potatoes are an excellent choice for those aiming to maintain a healthy weight. The fibre promotes satiety, reducing overall calorie intake.

Cancer Risk: Purple-fleshed sweet potatoes are essential in cancer prevention. Carotenoids, present in orange sweet potatoes due to their vivid colour, act as antioxidants, controlling cell proliferation and potentially lowering cancer risk.

These carotenoids, found in sweet potatoes, offer protection against prostate cancer in men. Additionally, the antioxidant beta-carotene in sweet potatoes contributes to the prevention of colorectal cancer, emphasising their role as a dietary safeguard against cancer.

Natural Sweet Potato Benefits: Top Sweet Potato Benefits for Women**

**Balances Hormones:**Sweet potato benefits for women’s health include compounds that demonstrate the potential to regulate oestrogen levels. This is particularly crucial for hormonal balance throughout various life stages, offering potential benefits during menstruation and menopause.

The presence of these compounds in sweet potatoes underscores their value as a natural support for women's hormonal well-being.

Pregnancy: Sweet potatoes emerge as a nutritional ally for expectant mothers due to their rich content of essential nutrients, particularly folate. Folate is a crucial element for foetal development during pregnancy, aiding in the formation of the baby's neural tube and preventing certain birth defects.

Beyond supporting the baby's growth, the diverse combination of vitamins and minerals in sweet potatoes contributes to the overall health of the mother, ensuring a well-rounded and nourishing foundation for a healthy pregnancy.

Benefits of Eating Sweet Potato: Sweet Potato Benefits for Skin**

Sweet potatoes, enriched with beta-carotene, play a pivotal role in promoting skin health. Beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, is essential for maintaining the integrity of the skin's outermost layer, the epidermis. This vitamin supports the regeneration of skin cells, contributing to a smoother and more radiant complexion.

Moreover, beta-carotene functions as a powerful antioxidant, neutralising free radicals that can damage skin cells and accelerate ageing. By combating oxidative stress, sweet potatoes aid in preventing the formation of wrinkles and fine lines, providing an anti-ageing effect.

Sweet potatoes contain vitamin C, which stimulates collagen production— a crucial protein for maintaining skin elasticity. Furthermore, sweet potato benefits for skin go beyond surface-level skin improvement. Their anti-inflammatory properties can help alleviate skin conditions such as acne and psoriasis.

The high fibre content aids in detoxification, promoting a clear complexion by flushing out toxins. The presence of vitamins B6 and E also contributes to skin health by supporting cell renewal and protecting against UV damage.

Sweet Potato Benefits: How Does it Work?

Following are the scientific intricacies of sweet potato benefits that reveal a nuanced understanding of how this humble tuber works its wonders.

From antioxidant-rich compounds to intricate biochemical processes, sweet potatoes showcase a sophisticated interplay of nutrients that contribute to overall well-being.

Vitamin C: Sweet potatoes contribute significantly to the body's defence mechanisms through their high vitamin C content. As a water-soluble antioxidant, vitamin C aids in the synthesis of collagen— an essential protein for skin, ligaments, and blood vessels.

Beyond its structural role, vitamin C enhances immune function by promoting the production and activity of white blood cells, fortifying the body against infections and diseases.

Glycemic Index: Contrary to their delectable sweetness, sweet potatoes boast a low to moderate glycemic index, rendering them a favourable choice for blood sugar regulation.

The complex carbohydrates in sweet potatoes release glucose gradually into the bloodstream, preventing rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. This mechanism proves beneficial for individuals aiming to manage diabetes or maintain stable energy levels.

Phytochemical Synergy: Phytochemicals, including anthocyanins and other polyphenols, bestow sweet potatoes with potent anti-inflammatory properties.

These compounds mitigate inflammatory responses within the body, potentially alleviating conditions such as arthritis and reducing the risk of chronic inflammatory diseases.

Beta-carotene: At the heart of sweet potato benefits lies the powerhouse antioxidant, beta-carotene. This compound, a precursor to vitamin A, serves as a guardian against oxidative stress.

Beta-carotene quenches free radicals, preventing cellular damage that can lead to chronic diseases and premature ageing. Absorbed in the small intestine, beta-carotene undergoes conversion into active vitamin A, playing a pivotal role in maintaining skin health, supporting immune function, and promoting vision.

Whether regulating blood sugar, fostering digestive health, or combating inflammation, the intricate mechanisms within sweet potatoes underscore their role as a nutritional powerhouse. Embracing the scientific wisdom behind sweet potato benefits invites not only culinary delight but also a profound investment in holistic well-being.

Best Ways to Consume Sweet Potato: Easy Sweet Potato Recipe

Sweet potatoes, with their sweet and earthy flavour profile, are a culinary canvas waiting to be explored. From traditional dishes to innovative creations, the culinary uses of sweet potatoes are as diverse as they are delightful. Following are some of the ways the culinary uses of sweet potato can be put into practice:

Oven-Baked Fries: Trade traditional fries for a healthier alternative by slicing sweet potatoes into sticks, seasoning with your favourite herbs and spices, and baking until golden and crispy. The result is a guilt-free, nutrient-packed snack or side dish that satisfies cravings without compromising on flavour.

Classic Mashes and Purees: A timeless favourite, sweet potato mashes and purees offer comfort in every spoonful. Boil or roast sweet potatoes until tender, then blend them into a velvety concoction. Add a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg for warmth, creating a side dish that complements savoury mains or stands alone as satisfying comfort food.

Sweet Potato Pancakes: Elevate your breakfast game with sweet potato pancakes. Grate raw sweet potatoes into pancake batter for a nutrient-rich twist on this classic morning indulgence. Top with Greek yoghurt, fruits, or a drizzle of honey for a delicious start to your day.

Savoury Stews and Curries: Sweet potatoes bring depth and sweetness to savoury stews and curries. Their robust texture complements the heartiness of meat or adds substance to vegetarian dishes. The natural sweetness balances spice, creating a harmonious fusion of flavours that tantalises the taste buds.

Sweet Potato Pie: No discussion of sweet potato culinary uses is complete without mentioning the iconic sweet potato pie. Blending the richness of sweet potatoes with spices and a buttery crust, this dessert delivers a delectable experience that is not only sweet but also packs a nutrient punch.

Potential Side Effects and Precautionary Measures

Sweet potatoes, despite their numerous health benefits, may have potential side effects that warrant attention. It is essential to be aware of these considerations and take precautionary measures for a balanced approach to incorporating sweet potatoes into your diet.

Kidney Stone: Sweet potatoes contain oxalates, which can assist in the formation of kidney stones.

Blood Sugar Impact: While sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic index compared to regular potatoes, individuals with diabetes should still monitor their blood sugar levels.

Potential Allergens: Though rare, allergic reactions to sweet potatoes may occur. If you experience symptoms such as itching, swelling, or difficulty breathing after consuming sweet potatoes, seek immediate medical attention.

Precautionary Measures:

  • If you have a history of kidney stones, it is advisable to moderate your sweet potato intake and ensure proper hydration to minimise this risk.

  • Incorporate sweet potatoes into balanced meals, and consult with a healthcare professional to manage their impact on blood sugar.

  • Exercise caution, especially if you have known allergies to related foods.

  • If you are on medication or have specific health conditions, consult with a healthcare professional to ensure that including sweet potatoes in your diet aligns with your overall health management plan.

  • While sweet potatoes offer a plethora of health benefits, being mindful of potential side effects is crucial for a well-rounded approach to their consumption. Incorporating precautionary measures ensures a safe and enjoyable inclusion of sweet potatoes in your diet.

Conclusion

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FAQS

What does Ayurveda say about sweet potatoes?

Ayurveda acknowledges sweet potatoes as a nourishing food, promoting digestive balance and providing warmth to the body.

Is daily consumption of sweet potatoes OK?

Yes, it is generally acceptable to eat a sweet potato every day, given its rich nutrient profile and health benefits, but moderation is key for a well-balanced diet.

What organ is sweet potato good for?

Sweet potatoes are particularly beneficial for the digestive system, supporting gut health and providing essential nutrients that contribute to overall well-being.

Disclaimer: This is a general guide on the health benefits of sweet potatoes. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice. It is advisable to consult a qualified health professional for treatment in severe cases.

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