Sweet potatoes – the power of nutritional value
Sweet potatoes have only been popular in Poland for a dozen years or so, but they are one of the most widely consumed vegetables in the world, with around 90 million tonnes grown annually .
Importantly, sweet potatoes have been classified as a so-called functional food – that is food that has the potential to positively affect the human body, improve health and wellbeing and protect against various diseases of civilisation. Such food must show its beneficial effects in amounts that we can consume as part of a daily, well-balanced diet. So, since sweet potatoes are included in this category, it can really pay off to take a closer look at them!
It is worth knowing that sweet potatoes come in several colours, and each variety can have different nutritional properties. Thus, you can come across white, cream, yellow, orange, purple and violet sweet potatoes in different corners of the world.
What health benefits do sweet potatoes offer?
1. They boost immunity and are a source of vitamins
Researchers have long discovered that sweet potatoes, especially the most popular orange-skinned variety, are a rich source of β-carotene (provitamin A), the minerals: magnesium, iron, copper, manganese, calcium, potassium, and vitamins B1, B6, C, E .
About 130 g of sweet potatoes provide the body with almost 13 mg of vitamin C and about 15 mg of vitamin A. Both are important for immunity. Vitamin A in particular has a positive effect on maintaining healthy intestinal mucous membranes, which are crucial for immunity (and thus our health). Studies have shown that vitamin A deficiency can lead to inflammation in the gut . Vitamin C deficiencies, on the other hand, can impair physical performance.
For active people, B vitamins are particularly important. They allow the release of energy in the body and also support the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Vitamin E, on the other hand, is also a source of antioxidants that prevent muscle damage and promote muscle recovery after exercise.
2. They are a source of resistant starch, valuable for intestinal health
And speaking of a healthy gut, it is worth mentioning resistant starch, which you can read about in detail HERE. It is a type of natural prebiotic, thus acting on the richness of the intestinal microbiota. This makes the intestines healthier and work better as well as reduces the risk of cancer and inflammation . It is worth bearing in mind that the resistant starch in sweet potatoes is found in boiled/roast and cooled vegetables. You will find most of it in orange and purple varieties.
3. They exhibit anti-cancer activity
Sweet potatoes are a good source of polyphenols , which we wrote quite a lot about in our article on the health benefits of tea (you can find it HERE). They exhibit antioxidant activity and therefore neutralise free radicals, which are responsible for the formation of various diseases, including cancer.
4. They are a valuable source of dietary fibre
The health properties of fibre are hard to overestimate (you can read more about them HERE). Among other things, it lowers cholesterol levels, supports weight loss, gives a feeling of satiety, reduces incidence of chronic diseases and ischaemic heart disease, and normalises blood glucose levels .
5. They support the fight against overweight
Mainly because they are filling, yet easy to digest. They also have a low glycaemic index (and so can be included in the diet of diabetics) and will not quickly raise blood sugar levels. One large sweet potato contains just under 200 kcal and about 46 g of carbohydrates. These are comparable values for traditional Polish potatoes.
6. They counteract elevated blood pressure
This is due to anthocyanins (belonging to the polyphenol group), which not only neutralise health-threatening free radicals, but also reduce blood pressure, blood sugar levels, alleviate liver dysfunction, and counteract insulin resistance .
Who should eat sweet potatoes?
Any person who can consume foods with fibre. Due to their low glycaemic index, sweet potatoes fit into various dietary requirements. They are gluten-free, non-allergenic and have many uses in the kitchen. They are also available in shops throughout the year. They will constitute a good element of a weight loss diet, although as with all starchy products – they should be consumed with caution.
Are sweet potatoes healthier than regular potatoes?
There is no point in arguing which vegetable is better in terms of nutritional properties. Our Polish potato is a source of vitamin C, B vitamins, as well as potassium and fibre. When the cooked tubers are cooled, the amount of resistant starch increases . Comparing the two vegetables, sweet potatoes are certainly more valuable in terms of their polyphenol content. However, an important difference will be their use in the kitchen.
What can you make with sweet potatoes? Recipe
You can roast, boil, water or steam sweet potatoes. If you blend them into a pulp after heat treatment, they make a great base for creamed cakes, such as a brownie. You can also add them to a vegan pate or chops – they will bind the mixture together and add flavour.
Sweet potatoes are most delicious when roasted. Their flavour is then very pronounced and sweet, well balanced with something salty – such as feta or parmesan cheese. They are a delicious and unusual complement to meat and fish (also grilled!). And here’s our recipe for sweet potatoes that will win the tastes of guests.
Roast sweet potatoes with hummus
Ingredients for sweet potatoes:
- 2 pieces of sweet potatoes (large)
- olive oil
Ingredients for hummus:
- 1 tin of chickpeas
- 3-4 tablespoons of tahini
- 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
- 1 flat teaspoon of salt
- fresh coriander for decoration.
Put the tin of chickpeas in the fridge for 2-3 hours. Cut the sweet potatoes in half, spread a little olive oil on them and sprinkle with salt. Roast them for about 30 minutes in an oven preheated to 190 degrees.
Pour the chickpeas together with the liquid (aquafaba) into a bowl. Then pour off about half of the aquafaba. Add the tahini, lemon juice and salt, then blend thoroughly to a very smooth paste.
Spread a generous portion on a plate, then arrange the roasted and slightly cooled sweet potatoes on top. Pour olive oil over it.
   A comprehensive review of sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas [L.] Lam): Revisiting the associated health benefits, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0924224421004398, dostęp online: 13.07.2023.
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