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Sweet Potato Nutrition and Health Benefits

Although they're soft and creamy enough to be put in pies and served as desserts, sweet potatoes are surprisingly nutritious vegetable as well. Sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A, vitamin B5, B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin. Moreover, due to their orange color, they are high in carotenoids. Plus, they're fat-free, relatively low in sodium and have fewer calories than white potatoes even though they have more sugar. Sweet potatoes are one of the best sources of vitamin A; a large one contains more than 100 percent of the daily recommended intake. Vitamin A is an antioxidant powerhouse, and is linked to anti-aging benefits, cancer prevention and the maintenance of good eyesight. Here are some of the most important health benefits of sweet potatoes.

1. Stabilizes Blood Sugar

Sweet potatoes are an excellent dietary addition for those who struggle with diabetes as they have been shown to significantly help reduce and regulate blood sugar levels. In fact, there are several studies focused on learning more about the connection between the sweet potato and diabetes. Caiapo is a type of white sweet potato that has been studied extensively for its anti-diabetic properties. In one study, 61 participants with diabetes were given either four grams of Caiapo or a placebo daily for three months. At the end of the study, the sweet potato group had significantly lower blood sugar levels than the control group.

2. Anti-inflammatory And Anti-oxidant

The anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant ability of sweet potato is not just limited to its carotenoids. Furthermore, it is a great source of anthocyanin, which is most abundant in the purple-coloured variety. Research has pointed towards the benefits of cyanidins and peonidins present in the flesh of sweet potatoes, towards protection against the potential health risk posed by heavy metals and oxygen radicals. Storage proteins of sweet potato, the sporamins, also contribute towards their antioxidant effect. These proteins have been seen to be released when the tuber is subject to physical injury, helping the veggie heal itself. This property of the proteins is probably what is related to their activity as an antioxidant in our body.

3. Diabetes

Sweet potatoes are considered low on the glycemic index scale, and research shows that they may reduce episodes of low blood sugar and insulin resistance in people with diabetes. The fiber in sweet potatoes is also important. Studies have also shown that people with type 1 diabetes who consume high-fiber diets have lower blood glucose levels, and people with type 2 diabetes have improved blood sugar, lipids, and insulin levels. One medium sweet potato with the skin on provides about 6 grams of fiber.

4. Boosts Brain Function

Some research has found that eating sweet potatoes could help boost brain function and improve memory thanks to their abundance of nutrients and antioxidants. One animal study treated rats with purple sweet potato extract and found that it prevented oxidative damage in the brain, enhanced cognitive performance and improved memory.

5. Skin and hair

Vitamin A may help protect against sun damage, according to a 2004 study. Additionally, vitamins C and E are well-known for their beauty benefits. They encourage healthy, glowing skin and collagen growth.

6. Fertility

For women of childbearing age, consuming more iron from plant sources appears to promote fertility. The vitamin A in sweet potatoes (consumed as beta-carotene then converted to vitamin A in the body) is also essential for hormone synthesis during pregnancy and lactation.

Sweet potatoes are widely available at most grocery stores and can be found in the produce section, usually right alongside white potatoes. However, special varieties, such as white or purple sweet potatoes, may be more difficult to find. But, make sure to look for them at farmers markets or Asian specialty stores from September through April to take advantage of the purple and white sweet potato nutrition benefits.