Traditionally we have been using sweet potatoes as a source of energy and carbohydrates. In most rural communities in Africa and other developing countries, sweet potatoes are used to replace bread during for breakfast. It then because a cheaper source of carbohydrates during breakfast. However, there are more sweet potato benefits which go beyond them being carbohydrate sources.
Rarely do you see people experimenting with sweet potatoes in their meals. It’s always the same boring boiled sweet potato each and every day. Some like charcoal baked ones which have a better taste than boiled ones (which is my personal opinion of course). I believe that sweet potatoes can play an active role in our everyday diet. For example, we can replace cereals in our diet with sweet potatoes. And to be frank, I have taken sweet potatoes with beans, green vegies, beef and chicken among other forms of relish. And I am happy to tell you that I never regretted any of these meals. So, this is the reason why I want to discuss about the possible sweet potato benefits.
Why go the sweet potato way?
Nowadays, scientists as well as many people are starting to represent sweet potatoes as functional foods that promote good health and help prevent disease. Especially those sweet potato varieties that have coloured fleshes. According to studies of the Okinawan diet, eating sweet potatoes (especially those with coloured flesh) or their extracts containing their bioactive compounds promotes good health.
Sweet potato benefits listed
Protect your body from oxidative damage
Understanding oxidative damage
Oxidative damage is the damage that occurs to different parts of your body due to different reasons. Some of these reasons include normal body functioning processes, toxic compounds and poisons in your body as well as heavy metal damages. Exposure to toxic substances such herbicides, chemicals and heavy metals also cause oxidative damage. All these substances will result in the production of tissue damaging chemicals called free radicals.
Now, normally if these damaging free radicals are in reasonable quantities, the body can deal with them without problems. Nowadays, people are exposed to toxic chemicals and environments many times each day. This results in higher production of these damaging free radicals. This results in a condition called oxidative stress. And this results in tissue and organ damage as well as chronic inflammation which all lead to the development of several chronic diseases.
How a sweet potato deals with oxidative damage and stress
Now for every problem there is always a solution. This means that you may not know the solution but it’s always there somewhere. This is the same with these damaging chemicals, they also have something that can fight them.
Some foods also contain antioxidant chemicals that help fight these harmful compounds. Many studies show that all types of sweet potatoes contain these compounds. Purple fleshed sweet potatoes have a very higher antioxidant activit that protects your body from damage. Some studies show that purple fleshed sweet potatoes anthocyanins have a higher antioxidant activity than anthocyanins from several other purple coloured foods. White fleshed sweet potatoes also contribute to the antioxidant effects that protect the body because they provide you with phenolic acids and caroteinoids.
These carotenoids and phenolic acids can also protect your body from oxidative stress. Also, orange or yellow fleshed sweet potatoes can also offer you protection from oxidative stress. They contain carotenoids which give them their characteristic colour. Most carotenoids protect you against oxidative stress, some can help you improve your eyesight and immunity whilst others help you improve your health.
So, what does this mean? To be frank, this is a whole lot of information that needs digestion. However, the best thing to note is that eating all types of sweet potatoes in a balanced diet is really good for your health. It is one low-cost food for combating micronutrient malnutrition as well as improving diet quality.
A good food for a healthy liver
As I explained earlier, it is good to know that all sweet potato varieties contain many different phytonutrients, even if you don’t see any sign in their sweet potato flesh colour.
Some of the healthful compounds in sweet potatoes include flavonoids, anthocyanins, phenolic compounds and carotenoids. All the compounds have a beneficial effect on your body. And some of them can protect you from tissue and organ damage.
Anthocyanins in purple flesh sweet potatoes and most of these compounds have excellent antioxidant activities. As a result, anthocyanins can play an active part in protecting your liver. These compounds protect the liver by preventing damage induced by liver toxins. They also inhibit processes that generate dangerous free radicals from body fats. One such process is lipid peroxidation which generate free radicals from damage.
Eating sweet potatoes can also protect you from disease, high cholesterol and drug induced liver damage due to the presence of these phytochemicals. So, including sweet potatoes to your diet does not only fill the stomach, it also protects your liver from metabolic, toxic and oxidative damage.
For your good coordination and memory
The phytochemical compounds in purple fleshed sweet potatoes have the ability to repair and enhance both memory and learning capabilities as seen in studies done in mice. They can also help in your protection from cognitive dysfunction, poor memory retention and memory damage. Cognitive deterioration is usually associated with obesity and overweight. And extracts from purple sweet potatoes have been shown to have a protective effects against this. So, eating sweet potato rich balanced diets can be highly beneficial to your family.
In some cases, there are temporary cases of poor memory, like for example, you can suddenly start being forgetful. I think these kind of healthful foods like purple fleshed sweet potatoes may be able to jumpstart your memory back to memory.
Most healthful phytochemicals have been shown to play a part in protecting your body from chronic conditions such as cancers. However, most studies on the subject were done in vitro, which means in the lab instead of humans, hence more studies in humans are still needed.
So, far it has been shown that extracts from purple fleshed sweet potatoes have powerful cancer and inflammation fighting activities. This is mainly attributed to their powerful antioxidant activities due to the presents of various compounds like polyphenols, anthocyanins and flavonoids. And these extract can suppress and inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
Breast cancer is a common cause of death among women. Some studies show that the healthful phytochemicals in sweet potatoes are helpful in preventing and suppressing cancer cell growth. In a 2021 study, extracts from a fermented sweet potato where shown to inhibit and suppress the growth of breast cancer cells.
Polyphenols present in fruits and vegetables like these sweet potatoes have been shown to confer cancer fighting and protective effects on consumers with regular intake.
Benefits of sweet potatoes on metabolic disorders
Anthocyanin and carotenoid rich extracts from orange and purple fleshed sweet potatoes act as useful as food supplements. These play a role in the treatment of obesity and related diseases. Several studies prove the anti-obesity effects of regular consumption of sweet potatoes or their extracts. Compounds in sweet potatoes help your body to reduce accumulation of fats in your adipocytes. They also help reduce weight gain as well as normalize blood fat levels. Sweet potatoes can also help you reduce risks of heart diseases by reducing or preventing atherosclerosis. And lastly eating sweet potatoes is good for your blood sugar levels. However, this is a curse for another day.
Sweet potatoes are an important food crop that is rich in nutrients as well as health promoting compounds such as anthocyanins, flavonoids as well as carotenoids. The concentration of nutrients in sweet potatoes as well as health promoting chemicals differs with variety and flesh colour. In recent years, sweet potatoes have changed from being a common food for the poor to healthful food for everyone. It is because many studies have shown proof that sweet potatoes have nutrients and phytochemicals that are good for your health. That’s why I decided to enlighten you with sweet potato benefits.