Sweet potato: Properties and benefits
As with celery, sweet potato is another of the most consumed foods in a balanced diet, along with potatoes. This is due to the fact that today, and from very old, we can find an interesting and good variety of completely nutritious and healthy recipes that count with this food as one of the main or outstanding ingredients.
Being a food that contains complex carbohydrates, it becomes an excellent choice to take care of our liver, while helping to maintain blood sugar level. And this is only a good example of many of the properties of the sweet potato, which we particularly find with this healthy food.
What is sweet potato?
The sweet potato is a tuber, in the same way as other foods such as potatoes, yams or cassava. It belongs to the family Convolvulaceae, and it is grown in a very large part of the world precisely because it is an edible tuberous root.
It is a food originating in South America and Central America. However, it was not until the late fifteenth century when it officially arrived in Europe from the hand of Christopher Columbus.
As regards the proper sweet potato, it is a tuberous root of characteristic shape and appearance, with the meat that depending on the variety may be white or yellow-orange, and whose flavor make it precisely a highly acclaimed food, be sweet. For this reason it is common use in different desserts, as for example could be the case of traditional sweet potato fritters.
Nutritive qualities of sweet potato
The sweet potato is rich in beta carotene (pro-vitamin A) and in a wide variety of vitamins, among which mainly vitamin C. But it is not the only one that brings because it also has interesting amounts of vitamin E and especially folic acid (Vitamin B9).
In addition, it is especially rich in minerals, most notably the presence of potassium, magnesium, calcium, sodium and iron.
It is surprising that it is high in complex carbohydrates, especially starch, and its contribution in fiber. On the other hand, it is low in fat and also in protein.
High antioxidant content
Due to its richness in antioxidants (especially beta-carotene and vitamins C and E), it is an ideal food to increase defenses, helping to boost the natural immunity of our body. In addition, it helps to prevent cardiovascular diseases, thanks to its content in useful nutrients in turn to prevent the risk of cancer.
It also provides glutathione, which naturally interferes with the elimination of free radicals and heavy metals (such as cadmium), as well as toxins that damage our body. Thanks precisely to its content in beta-carotene are an ideal food for eye, helping to prevent cataracts.
Benefits for the cardiovascular system
As indicated above, its high antioxidant content is an ideal food to prevent cardiovascular diseases, being especially useful in case of hypertension, high cholesterol and heart problems.
Among other important functions, beta-carotenes are suitable for maintaining the walls of blood vessels in good condition. While potassium, it becomes a fundamental mineral for the health of our heart. In fact, its fat content is very low.
Ideal against digestive discomfort
The sweet potato provides substances beneficial to the digestive and intestinal mucous. Therefore, it becomes a suitable food for all those people who suffer from some digestive problem. Of course, the most advisable in these cases is to consume it roasted or boiled, and never fried.
Among the different digestive conditions in which roasted sweet potatoes are adequate, we can mention the following: gastritis, gastroenteritis, constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome and ulcers.
On the other hand, it provides fiber, making it a very good option when it comes to improving intestinal transit, being suitable in case of constipation.
Suitable for pregnancy
Because of its high content of folic acid, it becomes an ideal food during pregnancy, since 100 grams of sweet potato provide about 80 mg of this very important vitamin.
As you are sure to know, folic acid or vitamin B9 is essential in preventing birth defects of the neural tube, such as spina bifida (defects of the spinal cord) or anencephaly (brain defects).
In addition, it is known that folic acid may also help reduce the risk of cleft palate, cleft lip, certain types of heart defects, and the development of preeclampsia in the pregnant woman.
On the other hand, by its content in complex carbohydrates, it is a food recommended to maintain the level of sugar in blood, providing energy.
Benefits of sweet potato
In summary, the following are the main benefits of the sweet potato:
- Helps maintain blood sugar levels.
- Prevents cardiovascular diseases in blood.
- Rich in antioxidants.
- It stands out for its content in beta-carotene and vitamin C.
- Useful to boost the immunity of our organism and increase the defenses.
- Beneficial for before and during pregnancy.
- Very good for the heart.
- Adequate in case of digestive affections.
- It helps to improve intestinal transit.
Is it okay to eat raw sweet potatoes?
There are certain foods that, despite being extremely healthy and adequate in a varied and balanced diet, it is essential to increase the precautions when cooking and consuming them.
A good example is the green potato, or more specifically and to be precise, those potatoes that have some areas of greenish color, since it is an indication of content in solanine, a toxic substance that the potato produces to defend against insects and fungi.
In the particular case of sweet potato, it is a food extremely rich in beta-carotene and other vitamins, such as vitamin C. It is useful as we have seen in increasing the defenses, while it is useful for preventing cardiovascular disease because of its high antioxidant content. As with the potato, it is a food with a high content of complex carbohydrates, which helps to provide energy to our body in a gradual way, recommended maintaining blood sugar levels.
However, it is not advisable to eat the sweet potato or raw potato because it contains dioscorine, an alkaloid-type plant toxin with action on the central nervous system, which can cause seizures, depression, and delusions, being in fact very toxic.
Therefore, before consuming it in the kitchen, it is necessary – and fundamental – to boil it well before. In fact its content dioscorine is so high that the toxicity is manifest even in the normal consumption of food.