Superfoods – The Sweet Side of Sweet Potatoes
You won’t believe the nutritional value of these squiggly pinkish potatoes.
One medium sweet potato (Spanish: camote) gives us more than 100% of our daily needs for vitamin A, an antioxidant powerhouse linked to anti-aging benefits, cancer prevention, and good eyesight maintenance. Adding some fat to your sweet-potato meal, like a tablespoon of olive oil, enriches its beta-carotene benefits. Sweet potatoes also contain notable amounts of vitamin B6 (16% of our daily needs), which helps reduce the chemical homocysteine, linked with degenerative diseases including heart attacks. High amounts of vitamin C (37%) help ward off cold and flu viruses, accelerate wound healing, and produce collagen to help the skin maintain its youthful elasticity. Vitamin D, also prevalent, is essential for the immune system and overall health by strengthening the bones, heart, nerves, skin, and teeth, as well as supporting the thyroid gland. Sweet potatoes are high in magnesium (28%), helping alleviate stress, and potassium (15%), helping to regulate the heartbeat and nerve signals. Also, although they are sweet, the natural sugars release in the bloodstream slowly, helping to ensure a balanced and regular energy source without the blood sugar spikes linked to fatigue and weight gain. Their consumption can result in a lowered glycemic index, important for diabetics to know.
Just like any other vegetable, you will get the most nutrition from the sweet potato if you steam or boil it. Steaming helps preserve certain nutrients (anthocyanins), and boiling, as opposed to roasting, brings better blood sugar effects. They are delicious roasted, puréed, steamed, baked or grilled. Keep the skin on to maximize your intake of fiber, potassium and quercetin the sweet potato offers. Add them to soups, grill them and place them atop a salad, or add them to smoothies and baked goods. Mix them with other potatoes for a healthy and flavorful new twist to your usual mash or hash. Use sweet potato flour, available locally at La Oliva in Brasilito and the Saturday Tamarindo farmers market, in pancakes and baking.
As a medical alert, if you’re taking beta-blockers or if your kidneys are not fully functional, you should minimize sweet potato consumption because of their high potassium levels, which may bring a host of problems better to not set off.