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The Amazing Benefits of Sweet Potatoes

sweet potato plant

Sweet potatoes are so easy to grow and they give so much! They are an important staple for millions of people across tropical and subtropical Asia and Africa. They are the 7th most grown food crop in the world. As a nutrition, they compare very well to other starchy tubers and grains and they have some unique advantages as well.

Carbohydrate Profile

Sweet potato tubers are high in carbohydrates (87g/100g, that’s more than potatoes), and in fibre (13g/100g, more than potatoes again) which is important for proper digestion and detoxification.  Some of the sweet potato carbohydrates are resistant starches, which are not digested by you, they feed your friendly gut bacteria in your large intestine instead.

Sweet potato tubers are sweet because they contain relatively high amounts of simple sugars, such as glucose, fructose, sucrose, and maltose. This could make you think that this could be a problem for your blood sugar. Maybe. It depends on how you prepare them. Boiled sweet potatoes have glycaemic index of 44, while baked ones can have value up to 93. Compare this to potato (78), white rice (73) or wheat bread (70).

Low Allergy Food

Sweet potatoes are blessed with some advantages. While many people are allergic or sensitive to wheat or other foods, sweet potatoes are very well tolerated even by the irritated or confused immune systems on high alert. Mind you, it is always good to find out why they are so, instead of only retreating into narrower and narrower food range, as some people do.

Orange Colour

Another special thing about sweet potatoes is their beta carotene content. Sweet potatoes have by far the highest content of beta carotene of all the 10 major world food staples (37 mg/100g) and are a savings grace for people in sub-Sahara countries. The yellow-coloured beta carotene antioxidant is a precursor to vitamin A and is therefore important for eye health, healthy immunity and cancer prevention.

Great Mineral, Vitamin and Phytochemical Content

Sweet potatoes are packed with other beneficial vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.

The phenols and flavonoids in sweet potatoes improve insulin sensitivity in diabetics in multiple ways.

The tubers contain good amounts of vitamins A, B5 and K1), as well as Potassium (comparable to bananas), Copper and other minerals.

The purple colour of sweet potatoes is caused by their high anthocyanins content. Anthocyanins reduce inflammation in the body. They reduce the risk of heart disease, protect the liver and improve eyesight apart from other benefits.

You Can Eat the Leaves Too!

Try to do it with wheat, corn or potatoes. You can’t! What a versatile plant it is!

The leaves are very prolific – as long as the weather is good and the soil is moist, they just keep expanding, covering the ground like a green carpet.

They are very easy to harvest. Just cut off a few runners that dare to cross the garden path and pluck the leaves off.

They taste great. To you, to the rabbits, deer, kangaroos and others. We live in a suburban situation and had no damage whatever. Our country property is a different story, though. I did not observe snails munching on them, and only an occasional caterpillar. No fungal spots either. It’s a very robust plant.

Nutritional Benefits of the Leaves

Many edible green leaves (such as our good old english spinach) have higher content of oxalic acid, which is not good for your kidneys. Luckily, the content of oxalic acid in the sweet potato leaves is negligible.

Sweet potato leaves have higher antioxidant content compared to many other vegetables.

The purple leaf varieties contain anthocyanins (2.5x more than spinach), which are liver-supportive antioxidants.

Sweet potato leaves are also rich in lutein antioxidant, which is good against inflammation and for eye health, beta carotene (like in the tubers) and quercetin, which is an anti-inflammatory antioxidant. 

Sweet potato leaves are also high in Potassium (4% of dry weight), Magnesium (6%) and vitamin K.

Sweet potato leaves are rich in chlorogenic acid, which is protective against cancers, high blood pressure, bacteria, diabetes, and heart disease.

Sweet potato leaves also help to bring down elevated blood pressure due to the caffeoylquinic acid content.

According to the scientific research, sweet potato leaves protect you against cancer, support your liver, reduce inflammation, prevent diabetes and support the good microbes in your gut. If you ask me, that’s plant worth growing!

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