Sweet potatoes are root vegetables and are not actually potatoes at all (they are not yams either). These “tubers” have a classic sweet taste which many of us, especially in the United States have come to associate with marshmallows and Thanksgiving Day. However if that is the only day of the year you eat this colorful food, you’d be missing out on many of the great health benefits of sweet potatoes.
Six Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes
1. They support healthy blood sugar levels
Sweet potatoes are low on the glycemic index, which means the carbohydrates in them are not quickly turned into sugar. This helps your body maintain balanced energy and avoid the blood sugar spikes that cause fatigue and weight gain. Manganese is the mineral that assists in the healthy metabolism of carbohydrates and its presence can help stabilize the appetite for longer periods of time compared to other carb foods.
2. They help with your digestive function
Sweet potatoes are easy to digest and a healthy food for your digestive tract. First, they contain a moderate amount of fiber, about 4 to 6 grams per average size potato. The soluble fiber in sweet potatoes makes your stool softer and easier to pass. While moving through the digestive tract the fiber attaches to cholesterol and helps remove it from the body. These vegetables also contain magnesium, potassium, and antioxidants which all contribute to help reduce inflammation, remove heavy metals and regulate the digestive process.
3. They assist your immune system and may prevent certain cancers
Beta-carotene, the pigment responsible for the color of the sweet potato is an antioxidant with anti carcinogenic properties. This, along with vitamins A and C and D also found in sweet potatoes make this food beneficial for building a healthy immune system and possibly even preventing certain cancers. Specifically sweet potatoes may benefit those with a risk of prostate cancer, colon cancer and even lung cancer.
4. They make your bones and eyes stronger
The beta-carotene not only benefits the immune system, it is great for the eyes as well. This nutrient has been linked to prevention of vision loss and macular degeneration. The antioxidant levels in sweet potatoes may prevent degenerative damage by protecting the eye’s photoreceptors. Vitamins C and E, also in sweet potatoes, are also two of the most beneficial vitamins for maintaining eye health.
The vitamin D content in sweet potatoes, in addition to supporting the immune system, plays an important role in building healthy bones and teeth and help in preventing bone loss. Manganese also contributes to healthy bone structure and bone metabolism and may help prevent osteoporosis. One cup of baked sweet potatoes contains 50% of your daily recommended intake of manganese.
5. They increase feelings of relaxation and lower your stress
The manganese contained in sweet potatoes also contributes to healthy energy balance, proper nerve function and hormone regulation. This makes sweet potatoes beneficial for symptoms of stress and even PMS. One study found that women taking 5.6 mg of manganese per day had fewer mood swings and cramps.
Another mineral, magnesium is also necessary for healthy nerve function and promotion of relaxation. It is estimated that nearly 80% of North Americans may be deficient in this mineral. A bakes sweet potato will provide you with 54 mg (14%) of your daily needs.
6. They are an important anti-aging food
Rich in beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, sweet potatoes are an excellent source of the antioxidants needed to keep your skin and hair healthy and glowing. Vitamin A found in sweet potatoes helps your body regenerate collagen, which holds things together, like your skin to reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles. Antioxidants not only help you look better, but they also play an important role generally in disease prevention and longevity.