Sweet Potato - Plant With Unexpected Health Benefits
(Ipomoea batatas) is plant from family Convolvulaceae, famous as
one of the oldest vegetable. It is a herbaceous perennial
vine, with leaves and flowers, which root is a vegetable. It was used even
in prehistoric times, with origins in Central and South America. Sweet
potatoes can grow on different soils, but best on the temperature of 24 °C
and it can't tolerate frost.
Orange sweet potato is sometimes called "yam" in English-speaking parts of
the world, although it's different from a yam (yam is a tropical crop from
family Dioscoreaceae, with origins in Africa and Asia). Also, the sweet
potato is wrongly related to the potato; they only share the name because
of the same origins.
Origins of Sweet Potato
Sweet Potato was
brought to Europe in the 15th century by Christopher Columbus
after his first trip to the New World. In the 16th century, sweet potato
came to the Philippines by Spanish and even to Africa, India and southern
Asia thanks to Portuguese. Since that times, it was cultivated and accepted
There are about 400 varieties of sweet potato, so the skin
and flesh can be in different colors: from white, cream, yellow, orange, to
pink and deep purple, although white-cream and yellow-orange fleshed are
most seen. The root of this vegetable is usually shaped like a potato with
rounded ends, but it also can be longer with tapered ends.
In Africa there is food Amukeke and inginyo, sun-dried slices of root and
the crushed root of sweet potato; both are mostly used in Uganda. In Egypt,
there is "batata", sweet potato which is sold as a street food.
Orange-flesh sweet potato is popular in Africa because there's a vitamin
deficiency. Sweet potato soup is very popular even in Asia. There are also
in use young leaves of sweet potato, especially as baby food. In America,
sweet potato pie is traditional food often served on Thanksgiving, like
sweet potato fries (similar to French fried potatoes).
Sweet Potato and Health
Sweet potato was treated as healing plant in South American folk medicine
for over 5,000 years.
It has a good nutritional profile containing a higher density of nutrients,
and his rank is much lower on the glycemic index than a regular potato.
Sweet potato contains potassium, vitamins: A, C, B5, B6, thiamin, niacin,
riboflavin, and, thanks to orange color, it is high in carotenoids.
It can be orange or yellow-fleshed or purple on the inside. The orange and
yellow are rich in vitamin A, and the purple in antioxidants. Scientists
say that the purple-fleshed sweet potato has peonidins and cyanidins with
important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, so when it passing
through our digestive tract, it may be able to lower the potential health
risk caused by heavy metals and oxygen radicals. It's interesting that
preservation of sweet potato anthocyanins (which are, before mentioned,
peonidins and cyanidins ) is better with steaming, and also that boiling
comparing to roasting have shown better blood sugar effects. Storage
proteins in sweet potato, sporamins, also have antioxidant properties so
they can heal our gastrointestinal tract.
No other food contains more vitamin A than sweet potatoes, so according to
studies, besides anti-aging benefits, it should be used to prevent cancer,
to treat diabetes, and inflammatory-based conditions like heart disease.
Vitamin B is excellent for blood vessels and arteries, too. Also, vitamin
A, along with vitamins C and E (all are present in sweet potato), can
prevent degenerative damage in eyes. Several studies from Africa showed
that sweet potatoes have between 100-1,600 micrograms (RAE) of vitamin A in
every 3.5 ounces, which is enough to meet 35% of all vitamin A needs.
Another words, in one medium spud there's over 400% of daily needs.
According to the journal Carcinogenesis from 2013, the study showed that
polyphenol-rich sweet potato greens affected prostate cancer in that way
that daily oral administration of 400 mg/kg body weight stopped progression
and growth of prostate cancer cells in mice up to 75%.
Because of the high content of beta-carotene, sweet potato is good for
skin, too. It helps in converting vitamin A in the body, so new skin cells
can be made. The intensity of the color of the sweet potato's yellow or
orange flesh is directly correlated to its beta-carotene content, so
because of this, it's often called "Provitamin A" (beta-carotene is being
converted to vitamin A in our body). Vitamin A from sweet potato is
essential during pregnancy for hormone synthesis, and it seems that it
affects fertility, too. It's also good to know that diets rich in
beta-carotene may be protective against prostate or colon cancer, according
to the study of the Harvard School of Public Health's Department of
Choline from sweet potato can reduce chronic inflammation. It can also help
with sleep and brain activities like learning and memory because it helps
in transmission of nerve impulses.
Sweet potato is popular in weight loss diets because it's
low on the glycemic index and in calories, besides that, it's high in fiber
and potassium. These vegetables can potentially improve blood sugar
regulation, despite medium glycemic index: its can significantly increase
blood levels of adiponectin, a protein hormone which is an important
modifier of insulin metabolism. This could be helpful to persons with type
Although sweet potato is very healthy, it can be harmful to people with
kidney stone formation, because of oxalic acid, which may crystallize as
oxalate stones in the urinary tract.
It's interesting to know that George Washington Carver found out 118
products based on sweet potatoes, like starch for sizing cotton fabrics and
glue for postage stamps.
China produces about 80 million tons of sweet potatoes a year, while Africa
about 14 million tons. In Central and South America are produced
approximately 2 million tons every year. Only in 2004 world had produced
127 million tons.
As North Carolina is the leading producer of sweet potatoes in the United
States, sweet potato is North Carolina's official state vegetable.