Sweet Potatoes - Health Benefits
Sweet potatoes are not only delicious but also nutritious. They are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can benefit your health in many ways. Here are some of the health benefits of sweet potatoes that you should know.
1. They support your immune system
Sweet potatoes are one of the best sources of vitamin A, which is essential for a healthy immune system. Vitamin A helps your body fight off infections and inflammation by enhancing the function of white blood cells and mucous membranes. One cup (200 g) of baked sweet potato with skin provides more than twice the amount of vitamin A that you need in a day.
2. They promote your gut health
The fiber and antioxidants in sweet potatoes can also improve your gut health. Fiber helps soften your stool and prevent constipation, while also feeding the beneficial bacteria in your colon. These bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids that nourish the cells of your intestinal lining and protect them from damage.
Antioxidants, especially in purple sweet potatoes, can also promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria and reduce the risk of inflammatory bowel diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and ulcerative colitis.
3. They may protect against cancer
Sweet potatoes contain various phytochemicals that have anti-cancer properties. These include anthocyanins, carotenoids, chlorogenic acid, and caffeic acid. These compounds can inhibit the growth and spread of cancer cells, induce apoptosis (cell death), and prevent DNA damage caused by free radicals.
Some studies have found that eating more sweet potatoes may be associated with a lower risk of certain types of cancer, such as colorectal, stomach, breast, and kidney cancer.
4. They support your vision
Sweet potatoes are also good for your eyesight, thanks to their high content of vitamin A and other antioxidants. Vitamin A is vital for maintaining the health of your retina, cornea, and optic nerve. It also helps prevent night blindness and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is a leading cause of vision loss in older adults.
Other antioxidants in sweet potatoes, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, can also protect your eyes from oxidative stress and blue light damage. These antioxidants accumulate in the macula, which is the central part of your retina that is responsible for sharp vision.
5. They regulate your blood sugar levels
Sweet potatoes are starchy vegetables that provide complex carbohydrates for energy. However, they have a low glycemic index (GI), which means they do not cause a rapid spike in your blood sugar levels after eating them. This is because they contain fiber and resistant starch, which slow down the digestion and absorption of glucose.
Eating sweet potatoes may help people with diabetes control their blood sugar levels and improve their insulin sensitivity. Some studies have shown that sweet potato extracts or supplements can lower fasting blood glucose levels, postprandial blood glucose levels, and hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), which is a marker of long-term blood sugar control.
6. They support your weight loss
Sweet potatoes can also help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. They are low in calories but high in fiber and water, which can make you feel full and satisfied for longer. They also contain resistant starch, which can increase your fat burning and reduce your fat storage.
Moreover, sweet potatoes can modulate your appetite hormones, such as leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is a hormone that signals your brain that you are full, while ghrelin is a hormone that stimulates your hunger. Eating sweet potatoes can increase your leptin levels and decrease your ghrelin levels, which can reduce your food intake and cravings.
How to enjoy sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are versatile and easy to prepare. You can bake them whole or cut into wedges or fries. You can mash them or puree them into soups or smoothies. You can roast them or grill them with herbs and spices. You can even use them to make desserts, such as pies, cakes, muffins, or cookies.
However you choose to eat them, make sure to eat them with the skin on whenever possible. The skin contains more fiber and antioxidants than the flesh. Also, try to eat them with some healthy fat, such as olive oil or avocado. This can enhance the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and antioxidants from sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes are not only tasty but also healthy. They are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can boost your immune system, promote your gut health, protect against cancer, support your vision, regulate your blood sugar levels, and support your weight loss. Try to include them in your diet regularly and enjoy their benefits.
Dr. Karuturi Subrahmanyam, MD, FRCP (London), FACP (USA)
Internal Medicine Specialist
Phone : 85000 23456