These starchy root tubers are loaded with nutrients including complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, beta-carotene, Vitamin C, B6 and Manganese; have anti-oxidants and anti-inflamatory properties; a Glycemic Index of 17 and may be beneficial in regulating blood sugar levels.
The basics: Sweet potatoes are a root tuber; the swollen part of the plant root is where most of the nutrients are stored. The root, when harvested, is what we enjoy as the ‘sweet potato’.
Anti-oxidants: Anti-oxidants play an important role in stabilizing free radicals circulating in our bodies. Research indicates, oxidative cellular damage caused by free radicals is evidenced by aging and chronic diseases including asthma, cancer and heart disease.
Sources of anti-oxidants: Anti-oxidants come from two sources 1) our diet and 2) we naturally produce them; unfortunately, as we age our production of anti-oxidants slows. To counter the slowing production we need to increase our intake of dietary anti-oxidants. This is an inverse relationship – the more anit-oxidants we eat the lower our risk for disease.
Dietary antioxidants include Vitamin A, C & E, zinc, selenium and beta-carotene; our bodies convert carotenoids (such as beta-carotene) to retinol which is a type of Vitamin A.
Sweet potatoes are a great source of Vitamin A. A one cup serving provides 4 times the recommended daily intake of 5,000 IU. That’s fantastic! Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin meaning any excess is stored in your liver for release when your body needs it. A water-soluble vitamin like Vitamin C when consumed in excess is excreted, as waste.
Free Radicals: Stress, alcohol consumption and smoking are lifestyle factors that increase the numbers of free radicals circulating in our bodies. Thankfully I don’t smoke, so I’m off the hook on that one, but I have a fair amount of stress and I enjoy my drink. 2 out of 3, there is room for improvement.
I’m working on my stress levels but I don’t think I’ll ever be stress free nor will I give up alcohol completely. Factor in my age 47 and well, there you have it, my production of natural free radicals is slowing. I have to eat more anti-oxidants to counter my lifestyle factors or risk the adverse effects of free radicals. Sweet potatoes are the perfect food as they are loaded with Vitamin A and Vitamin C, sweet tasting and easy to prepare.
Additional benefits: The beta-carotene of the orange sweet potato,some are white or yellow, is great for helping to overcome night blindness. In case you didn’t know night blindness is one of the first symptoms of Vitamin A deficiency (VAD). In the developing world, millions of children suffer some sort of visual loss from low Vitamin A intakes.
My work with CARE Canada in Indonesia and Afghanistan targeted nutritionally vulnerable women and children for micronutrient supplementation. The aim was to try to prevent blindness associated with the VAD caused by limited access to Vitamin A rich food sources.
Sorry, I got slightly off track. Sweet potatoes; some call them super foods others call them the healthiest food, no matter how you call them be sure to add them to your shopping list.
Once you have them home, you can substitute your favorite potatoes recipe with sweet potato or you can candy them and have a sweet potato dessert.
How to prepare: During my last visit to Canada I noticed sweet potato fries were the new rage, everyone had heard how good they are for you. I’ve got news for you; a fried potato no matter if it’s a russet or a sweet potato is still fried and loaded with fat.
The question is how to enjoy all the goodness of the sweet potatoes without frying it? There are so many ways steamed, mashed, baked, in dessert or porridge your imagination is the only limitation to how to use them, take your pick.
Here’s how we included sweet potatoes in our meal, last night. The dinner featured oven baked sweet potato fries as an side dish to whole wheat tortilla wraps stuffed with corn, black beans, plain yogurt, and cheese.
The fries are super easy to make. Wash the sweet potato, leaving the skin on cut it into slices about a 1/4′” thick . Put the slices in a bowl and toss with about a tbsp of olive oil, place on a cooking sheet.
Pop them in the oven at 200C or 375 F for half an hour, turn the slices and pop back in the over. They’re finished when they meet your crunchy taste, usually 45 minutes or an hour. Best set a timer or you might forget them like I did. They were a bit crunchier than normal but they still hit the spot.
The kids added hamburger meat to theirs while Vic and I had the veggie wrap.
It’s fun to put the fillings on the table; let everyone make their own just the way they like it. This also guarantees the kids will eat it. When kids are involved in preparing their own food it helps to eliminating the fussy eater syndrome.
The sweet potato fries were delicious; the olive oil enhanced absorption of the beta-carotene, helped the fries to caramelize and added some fat to the meal. Fat helps to make you feel full longer and adds flavor to the meal.
By adding sweet potato to your diet you’ll be increasing your intake of dietary anti-oxidants and decreasing your risk for disease. If you have type 2 diabetes, sweet potatoes have a low glycemic index and research indicates eating sweet potatoes may help you to regulate your blood sugar levels, what better reasons are there for adding them to your meal plan?
There are of course other foods loaded with anti-oxidants including, raspberries, blueberries, goji berries, carrots, kidney beans, apples etc. The moral of the story is if you eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables you’ll be making healthy food choices and that will provide nutrients and lots of free-radical stabilizing anti-oxidants. Too me, that sounds like the right direction towards a long healthy life.
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Office of Dietary Supplements: National Institutes of health. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin A