According to cultivation records, sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) had their origin in Central and South America about 10,000 years ago.
Archaeological remains of this vegetable were found in Peruvian caves that date as far back as 8000 B.C.
The health benefits of sweet potatoes are countless. They contain many essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other compounds.
They are low in calories, no saturated fat, high in complex carbohydrates, and contain many amino acids.
Sweet potatoes are ranked as the world’s most nutritious vegetable by The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CPSI).
It also ranks as the world’s seventh most important food crop.
There Are 3 Different Varieties Of Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes come in deep purple, yellow-orange, and white/cream colors. The latter two being the most common.
The Deep Purple
This variety is an excellent source of anthocyanins (particularly cyanidin, peonidin, gelargonidin, malvidin, delphinidin, petunidin, etc.) that have beneficial health benefits, including:
- antimutagenic (stopping genetic mutations caused by substances like radiation, chemical, etc.)
- cardiovascular disease prevention
- diabetes prevention
- weight loss
Anthocyanins are what give vegetables and fruit a red, purple, and blue pigment.
Blueberries, which contain a high amount of anthocyanins, are considered the highest antioxidant fruit on the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) scale. (A test that measures the total antioxidant power of foods)
However, purple sweet potatoes’ antioxidant potency is 3.2 times higher than blueberries, demonstrating how nutritious and healthy they are.
An extensive study was also conducted on different colors of sweet potatoes to determine which had more nutrients.
The purple variety easily outnumbered all the others by having much more anthocyanins and phenolic content and antioxidant capacity.
Beni Imo, The Superfood Purple Sweet Potato
The longest living people on earth, the Okinawans, have a particular purple sweet potato as a staple food in their diet called “Beni Imo,” labeled a superfood and for a good reason.
Okinawa is a Blue Zone. They are places where people have the longest life span.
Okinawa has the most centenarians (100-year-olds) globally, and 60% of its diet consists of sweet potatoes.
Beni Imo is essential for health due to its potent nutrients. It has a significant contribution to Okinawans’ long life span.
Yellow-Orange, And White/Cream Variety
A study was conducted where researchers compared the nutritional composition between a white and orange sweet potato.
The results showed that the nutritional values were approximately similar except for the higher beta-carotene found in the orange potato. The white sweet potato had zero beta-carotene. However, the white variety still contains vitamin A – 384% of the RDA per 100 grams.
Beta-carotene is a pigment antioxidant that gives fruits and vegetables their orange color, such as carrots and peaches.
When beta-carotene enters our body, it is converted into vitamin A, which is frequently called Provitamin A.
They are one of the best natural sources of vitamin A in the world. One medium-sized sweet potato (114 g) will provide you with 438% of the RDA for vitamin A.
As for the white sweet potato, they are white because of their high lycopene content.
Lycopene, in its own right, has the most significant antioxidant potential among carotenoids.
The bottom line is that all three varieties contribute to the health benefits of sweet potatoes. But researchers highly recommend purple.
Why Are Sweet Potatoes Beneficial For Your Health?
They are called the most nutritious vegetable in the world. Let’s take a look at why the health benefits of sweet potatoes are held in high regard.
Nutrition Of A Sweet Potato
The following is for 1 Baked Sweet Potato 5″ long, (114 g): (Source)
Calories – 103
Protein – 2.3 g
Fat – 0.2 g
Carbohydrates – 23.6 g
Fiber – 3.8 g
Major minerals (Daily Value – DV))
Magnesium – 30.8 mg (7% DV)
Potassium – 541.5 mg (12% DV)
Beta carotene -13120.3 mcg (121% DV)
Vitamin A – 21908.5 IU (730% DV)
Vitamin C – 22.3 mg (25% DV)
Thiamin (B1) – 0.1 mg (10% DV)
Riboflavin (B2) – 0.1 mg (9% DV)
Niacin (B3) – 1.7 mg (11% DV)
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid) – 1 mg (20% DV)
Vitamin B6 – 0.3 mg (19% DV)
Sweet Potatoes also contain 18 amino acids and other essential minerals and vitamins.
Chlorogenic acid was the most abundant individual phenolic acid present in sweet potato root tissues.
Phenolic compounds are substances with potent antioxidant capabilities.
As for chlorogenic acid, studies show that it is or has:
- antilipidemic(lowers fat and cholesterol in the body)
- antihypertensive (lowers blood pressure)
- anti-neurodegenerative activities (can protect brain cells and help prevent Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s, etc.)
Chlorogenic acid can also help with obesity and cardiovascular disease.
They Are High In Amylose
The starch in sweet potatoes consists mostly of a polysaccharide called amylose.
Amylose does not spike your sugar level quickly like a piece of candy would.
Instead, it gradually increases your sugar level and is highly recommended for people with diabetes or for use as a health supplement. (Source on page 734)
Due to the amylose content, sweet potatoes are an excellent source for people that want ongoing energy, not that quick spike and down feeling.
Sweet Potatoes Can Help Yo Lose Weight
Also, sugar spikes make you hungry by triggering ghrelin (called the hunger hormone).
High amylose foods can regulate blood sugar, so ghrelin is not stimulated, reducing the desire to eat and preventing or treating obesity.
Another one of the crucial health benefits of sweet potatoes is that they can help you lose weight or simply avoid you from gaining it in the first place.
Sweet Potatoes Contain Coumarins
Coumarins are Phyto(plant)-chemicals used in medicines worldwide.
The roots from sweet potatoes contain three particular coumarins – aesculetin, scopoletin, and umbelliferon.
These three coumarins are anti-coagulants(inhibit blood clots) and can stop HIV replication. (Source on page 735)
Other Health Benefits Of Sweet Potatoes
They are used to treat: (Source on page 736)
- tumors in the mouth and throat
- bug bites
- catarrh – (inflammation of the mucous membranes in one of the airways, such as sinuses and throat)
- ciguatera – (food poisoning caused by eating fish that is spoiled with ciguatera toxin)
- convalescence – (is the progressive recovery of health and strength after illness or surgery)
- dyslactea – (breast-feeding problems)
- splenosis – (rupture of the spleen)
- stomach distress
- whitlows (a cut on your thumb or finger caused by the herpes simplex virus)
- gastric ulcers
Sweet potato leaves have been used as a decoction (a liquid extract) as a (an):
Flour made from sweet potatoes may prevent gastric ulcers and heal wounds.
They contain oxalic acid, which can cause oxalate stones in the urinary tract in some people.
If you had urinary tract stones in the past, speak to your doctor before eating sweet potatoes. (Source on page 738)
Scientists confirm that sweet potatoes are essential medicinal plants with anticancer, antidiabetic, and anti-inflammatory properties and are being used to make medicines against numerous diseases.
They are anti-aging and protect your health in so many ways due to their potent multi-nutrient content.
From the evidence provided here, the health benefits of sweet potatoes are simply ASTRONOMICAL.