Sweet potatoes can be enjoyed in much the same way as white potatoes and are good baked, boiled or mashed. They can also be used to make sweet desserts. Health benefits of sweet potatoes include improved brain function, heart disease protection, cancer prevention, improved vision and lung health.
Sweet Potato Nutrition
Sweet potatoes contain more starch per gram then white potatoes; however, the starch is low glycemic (GI) index or slow releasing starch. Sweet potatoes are a very good source of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene with one average potato containing more than 250% of the Daily value for vitamin A. They are also a source of vitamin C, vitamin B6 and potassium.
Sweet Potatoes Improve Brain Function
Sweet potatoes are exceptionally high in vitamin B6, which is an important vitamin that plays a role in maintaining a healthy nervous system. Many brain chemicals, or neurotransmitters, require vitamin B6 for production. These include serotonin (which regulates mood), GABA (which helps us relax) and adrenalin (which helps our stress response).
Sweet potatoes May Lower Heart Disease Risk
High levels of the toxic amino acid, homocysteine, have been linked to heart disease, depression and a host of other conditions. Vitamin B6, found in high concentrations in sweet potatoes, has been shown to help lower homocysteine and B6 deficiencies may be associated with raised homocysteine levels. In addition, sweet potato skin contains fibre, which helps to lower blood cholesterol levels.
Sweet potatoes are also very rich in potassium, the mineral that can help lower blood pressure, especially when it replaces sodium in the diet. In addition, Beta-carotene is a powerful heart protector. A large review study of epidemiological studies on the link between heart disease and beta-carotene intake showed that eating a serving of carrots per day can reduce the risk of heart disease by up to 60%.
Sweet potatoes promote good vision and prevention of night blindness
Many of the health benefits of sweet potatoes are related to their high carotenoid content. Carotenoids in sweet potatoes help promote good vision and are particularly good for boosting night vision. Beta-carotene has the potential to be converted to vitamin A, which helps with the production of rhodopsin, the night vision pigment in the retina of the eye. Beta-carotene can also help prevent cataracts and delay macular degenration.
Sweet Potatoes and Cancer Prevention
Carotenoids have been found to offer protection against certain cancers, namely bladder, cervix, colon, prostate and lung cancers.