These starchy, sweet-tasting root vegetables are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals. The most popular variety has a thin, brown skin on the outside and colored (typically orange) flesh inside, sweet potatoes can be eaten peeled or not.
Sweet potatoes provide a wide array of vitamins and minerals, such as iron, calcium and selenium. They’re also a good source of B and C vitamins, which protect cells against aging and disease.
While we all know they are yummy, let’s take a look at the uncommonly known health benefits of sweet potatoes.
They’re great antioxidants
One of the sweet potato’s key nutritional benefits is a high level of the antioxidant beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A once consumed. By adding a drizzle of olive oil just before serving, you can increase your absorption of beneficial beta-carotene with delicious sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes boost your digestive health
Another benefit of the sweet potato is its positive effect on the digestive system. Studies have shown sweet potatoes can prevent and manage duodenal and gastric ulcers, including those due to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen.
Unchecked, low-grade inflammation raises the risk of nearly every chronic disease, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Natural anti-inflammatory compounds in sweet potatoes have been shown to slow inflammation at the cellular level.
Say no to blood sugar spikes
While some people regard sweet potatoes as too starchy, their high fiber content makes them a slow burning starch. This means they won’t spike blood sugar and insulin levels. One cup of baked sweet potato provides about six grams of fiber, which is more than a quarter of the daily recommended minimum.
Say yes to regulated blood pressure
A single cup of sweet potatoes baked in their skin provide 950 mg of potassium. That’s more than twice the amount from a banana! Potassium helps remove excess sodium and fluid from the body, which lowers blood pressure and reduces strain on the heart. Potassium also helps regulate heart rhythm and muscle contractions.
They help support weight loss
About 12 percent of the starch in sweet potatoes is resistant starch – a filling, fiber-like substance the body doesn’t digest and absorb. One study found that replacing just 5.4 percent of total carbohydrate intake with a resistant starch resulted in a 20-30 percent increase in fat burning after a meal.
Bottom line: eat more sweet potatoes
Now that the health benefits of sweet potatoes are clear, it behooves us all to eat more of them. Fortunately, there are a variety of different cooking methods and recipes available to incorporate the yummy root vegetable into our diets, from baking, mashing to smoothies and more.
Check out these recipes from the Food Network for some inspiration.
Muzzarelli Farms is open May through November and carries several varieties of sweet potatoes throughout the entire season.