Sweet potatoes are also known as ngwaci in Kenya. Sweet potatoes are root tubers that are nutritious, high in fibre, very filling, and delicious to boot. They are usually white or orange and can also be red, pink, violet, yellow, or purple.
Protein: 1.6 grams
Carbs: 20.1 grams
Sugar: 4.2 grams
Fibre: 3 grams
Fat: 0.1 grams
Vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene)
Health benefits of sweet potatoes
Prevention of vitamin A deficiency
Vitamin A plays a vital role in the body’s functioning, key among them strengthening eyesight. Vitamin A deficiency can cause both temporary and permanent damage to the eyes and even lead to blindness.
Deficiency can also suppress immune function and increase mortality, especially among children and pregnant and lactating women. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of highly absorbable beta carotene which your body can convert into vitamin A. The intensity of the yellow or orange colour of the tuber is directly linked to its beta carotene content.]
Good for eyes
Sweet potatoes contain several nutrients that have been linked to good eye health besides vitamin A. Some of the nutrients are carotenoids including alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Beta carotene in them has been shown to have powerful anti-cancer and vision-enhancing properties.
Improve blood sugar regulation
The fibre and complex carbohydrates in sweet potatoes can help keep the blood sugar stable. The fibres reduce blood sugar spikes by slowing your digestion of sugars and starches. A high intake of insoluble fibres has been associated with a decreased risk of diabetes and improved gut health.
A type of sweet potato with white skin and white flesh may improve symptoms in people with type 2 diabetes. This sweet potato may not only decrease fasting blood glucose and LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) levels but also increase insulin sensitivity. Further research is needed though.
Reduced oxidative damage and cancer risk
Oxidative damage to cells is often associated with an increased risk of cancer, which occurs when cells divide uncontrollably. Diets rich in antioxidants are associated with a lower risk of stomach, kidney, and breast cancers. Studies indicate that sweet potatoes’ potent antioxidants may reduce your risk of cancer. Purple potatoes have the highest antioxidant activity.
Support digestive health
They are an excellent source of fibre especially when you eat the skin. Fibre is important for digestive health, preventing constipation and serious diseases like colon cancer. The starch also feeds the stomach’s good bacteria.
Supports heart health
The high fibre content of sweet potatoes lowers LDL levels which is bad cholesterol. This helps prevent cardiovascular diseases. The high potassium levels work in balance with sodium in the body to maintain healthy blood pressure.
Sweet potatoes are high in copper which is essential for making red blood cells and keeping the heart healthy. Low levels of copper have been linked to dangerously high blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels.
Aid in weight loss and anti-inflammatory
Sweet potatoes, especially the purple ones may help lower inflammation in the body and keep fat cells from growing which may keep obesity at bay and aid in weight loss. When cooked they are relatively high in fibre which may increase the feeling of fullness thus decreasing food intake.
Inflammation is linked to a variety of diseases including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Sweet potatoes have natural anti-inflammatory compounds that have been shown to quell inflammation at the cellular level. Research has shown reduced inflammation in brain tissue and nerve tissue after consumption of purple sweet potato extract.
May help boost fertility
Vitamin A is an essential nutrient for healthy reproduction. The iron in sweet potatoes has also been shown to be important in supporting fertility.
Sweet potatoes are easy to prepare and add to your diet and are usually eaten boiled, baked, steamed, or fried. Hopefully, more sweet potatoes will find their way to your plate.