Insights Series: Healing Power of Food: Sweet Potatoes.
In the spirit of my Food & Nutrition Coaching studies, I created this insights series to share some of the incredible information I learned about nutrition and the intriguing topic Food as Medicine. If you are interested in building your knowledge, please join me on Instagram or Facebook.
The unit Food as Medicine in Term 2 was extensive and focused on the concept of eating foods for disease prevention. It described whole foods, explored healing properties of specific foods or food groups from a traditional and scientific perspective while also recognising the benefits of eating local and seasonal produce.
In focus – Sweet Potatoes.
I chose the humble sweet potato, a native American plant, as my third topic for this nutrition focused series. Put a spring in your step by eating more sweet potatoes. These tuberous roots are among the most nutritious vegetables and an excellent source of antioxidants, beta-carotene (a precursor for Vitamin A) and Vitamin C. Here are my key call out’s.
Sweet potatoes help:
- Lower blood pressure as they are rich in potassium, known for bringing blood pressure down – you will actually get more potassium from sweet potatoes than bananas
- Protect the eyes and the skin, supporting their health due to high levels of beta-carotene
- Support the immune system and guard against infections
- Combat heart disease
- Lower blood sugar and cholesterol as packed with disease fighting soluble fibre
- May reduce insulin resistance - due to the carotenoids (orange/yellow pigments) helping the body respond to insulin and due to the natural plant compound chlorogenic acid
- A study found that men with diets rich in beta-carotene and Vitamin C were more likely to survive prostate cancer; the protective effect comes from food, such as sweet potatoes, NOT from supplements
- Note there was concern that taking beta-carotene supplements may increase the risk
- A Nurses’ Health Study at Harvard Medical School found that women who ate a lot of foods rich in beta-carotene reduced their risk of breast cancer by as much as 25%.
Did you know?
- Ideally, eat sweet potatoes with a little bit of fat such as olive oil (or butter if preferred) to increase the bioavailability of beta-carotene
- Most of the nutrients are next to the skin, thus it is better to cook and eat them whole – when eating with the skin a sweet potato has as much fibre as half a coup of oatmeal
- Sweet potatoes contain an enzyme that converts most of its starches into sugars as the potatoes mature, this sweetness continues to increase during storage and when cooking them
- Do not refrigerate sweet potatoes as they may develop a hard core and a bad taste, use within a week of purchasing them when stored at normal room temperature
- Wash them only once ready to be cooked (if you are using the peel)
- Often confused with Yams, they are not the same (although interchangeable in recipes)
- Nutmeg is a sweet potato's great friend and it comes with a whole rafter of benefits as well, such as acting as a muscle relaxant, relieving pain, soothing indigestion, supporting blood circulation and immune system – note large amounts of nutmeg can be toxic as it can cause hallucinations, drowsiness or delirium.
This article and ongoing posts on my Social Media channels are intended for educational purposes and not deemed as advice. As always, listen to your body and conduct further research to ensure this is right for you or consult with your GP or relevant healthcare professional.
With ease and joy,
"Some people think I look like a sweet potato, I consider myself a spud with a heart of gold."
~Shirley MacLaine ~
- Full content credit goes to the Nature Care College via the Learning Guide and the excellent lectures by our tutor Fiona (who practices as a naturopath)
- Berkoff, F. & Schwarcz, J., Foods that harm, foods that heal, Reader’s Digest (2018), Trusted Media Brands, Inc, pp. 199-200.
Related article in this series - click on link to read: