Sweet potatoes are quite versatile ingredients to use in cooking. They can be baked, boiled, mashed, sliced, toasted, steamed, and can be used to make many different types of dishes. Sucrose is the principal sugar found in sweet potatoes, with smaller amounts of glucose and fructose also present as monosaccharides. The main protein found in sweet potatoes is globulin, which has a relatively high nutritional value due to its inclusion of many essential amino acids. Nevertheless, it does not contain sufficient amounts of tryptophan and other sulphur-containing amino acids to be classified as a complete protein source. The protein content of sweet potatoes is highly variable, and depends on the variety, environmental conditions, and genetics of the plant, amongst other things.
Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes contain a significant amount of pro-vitamin A carotenoids, which are converted to vitamin A in the body. Sweet potatoes also contain significant amounts of vitamins such as thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), and vitamin C, however, methods of cooking such as boiling and steaming can result in the loss of many of these water-soluble vitamins . Sweet potatoes provide variable amounts of minerals such as potassium, sodium, calcium, chloride, and phosphorous to the diet, and interestingly enough their peels contain more minerals than their flesh (so try to cook them with their peels on).
Potential Health Benefits of Sweet Potato
- Preventing vitamin A deficiency – Globally, sweet potato has a significant role to play in preventing vitamin A deficiency, which is prevalent in many developing countries worldwide. Vitamin A deficiency can result in temporary and permanent eye impairments, as well as death amongst children, and pregnant and lactating women. Due to their high pro-vitamin A carotenoid content, orange-fleshed sweet potatoes can substantially increase the vitamin A status of individuals who consume them.
- Weight loss support – Sweet potatoes have a lower glycaemic index (GI) than regular potatoes, meaning that they are digested and absorbed more slowly in the digestive tract, resulting in a steady supply of glucose in the bloodstream and more sustained energy. Low GI foods may help control appetite and balance blood sugar levels, which can help with both managing weight and reducing the risk of developing insulin resistance.
- Healthy skin – Including orange-fleshed sweet potatoes can promote skin health due to their beta-carotene content, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A plays an important role in triggering DNA responsible for producing new skin cells.
- Antioxidant properties – Many studies suggest that the carotenoids and polyphenols found in sweet potatoes can be useful in treating inflammatory conditions such as heart disease, as well as cancer.
- Healthy vision & eye health – Beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body, plays an important role in preventing macular degeneration, which can lead to blindness. This is because vitamin A is a critical component of rhodopsin, which is the molecule that is activated when light shines on the retina and sends a signal to the brain, which results in us being able to see things.
- Nutrition Stripped Pantry – Sweet Potato
- Sweet Potato: A Review of its Past, Present, and Future Role in Human Nutrition
- Sweet Potato Nutrition Facts and Benefits
- Vitamin A: Benefits, Sources & Side Effects