Sweet Potatoes – 6 Reasons That Make Them One of the Healthiest Vegetables

We can buy sweet potatoes in most grocery shops, although not everyone knows how to handle them. Meanwhile, this vegetable not only has many uses in the kitchen, but is also very healthy. Sweet potatoes are great for the gut, lower blood pressure and sugar levels, are a valuable source of vitamin A, and support the fight against obesity. We have prepared some highlights for you along with a culinary inspiration. They are really worth including in your diet! Why?

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 [1].

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 [2].

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 [3]. 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 [4]. 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 [5], 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 [6].

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 [7].