Loaded with fiber, vitamins and minerals, the starchy, sweet-tasting root vegetable called sweet potato has more health benefits than you could imagine. While most of them come with thin, brown skin and orange flesh, there are some varieties that are white, purple or yellow in color. You can eat sweet potatoes whole or peeled. The leaves of the plant are edible too. In fact, there are many health benefits to sweet potato leaves as well.
Scientifically known as Ipomoea batatas and kamote in some countries, sweet potatoes are among the most nutritious subtropical and tropical vegetables. Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, copper, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6. Potassium, dietary fiber, niacin, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, and phosphorus are some other nutrients found in this vegetable. It is a staple food source for many indigenous populations in Central and South Americas, Ryukyu Island, Africa, the Caribbean, the Maori people, Hawaiians, and Papua New Guinea. 1
Read on to know more about the goodness of sweet potato.
Keeps Cancer At Bay
Every part of the sweet potato plant is useful to shoo away cancer. Polysaccharides from purple sweet potato flesh are potential natural antioxidant and antitumor agents that can be used as drugs or functional food ingredients.2
Sweet potato leaf is regularly consumed in Taiwan and a study reported that a diet rich in vitamin A, alpha-carotene, and beta-carotene entailed a reduced risk for lung cancer. In conclusion, higher consumption of vitamin A-rich vegetables, especially sweet potato leaves might provide potential protection from lung cancer.3
The antioxidant-rich peel contains constituents that can serve as dietary components to prevent the development of different types of cancer. These include cancer cell lines of the head and neck, breast, colon, and ovaries. So next time you feast on sweet potatoes, don’t toss the peels in the bin.4
Good For The Heart
Sweet potato extract was examined for its relaxant activity on isolated rat vascular aortic preparations and the results were astounding. Significant cardiovascular effects and its vasorelaxation mechanism of action were found to be similar to that of the pharmacological agent acetylcholine, which helps muscles contract.5
In a study that examined several varieties of sweet potato leaves and their effect on cholesterol, it was found that kamote benefits include better management of LDL cholesterol. The leaves with high antioxidant abilities were able to prevent the oxidation of LDL or bad cholesterol, which in turn can produce tissue damage. So in essence, sweet potato leaves help protect the tissues around the arteries.6
Maintains Sensational Skin
Antioxidants are present in abundance in this root vegetable along with vitamin A and wrinkle-smoothing vitamin C. Sweet potato benefits for skin not only include healthy skin (thanks to vitamin A and C), but also better wound healing. Sweet potato fiber may be useful in combination with other therapeutic agents for skin wound therapy. The healing effect of sweet potato fiber was evaluated for burns and decubital wounds in rats. After 19 days, a reduction in size and differences in wound severity was observed. Topical use of sweet potatoes can definitely help you lessen those nasty blemishes and scar marks.7
Helps Manage Diabetes
Are there any sweet potato benefits for diabetes? How can something sweet be of any use to diabetics? Well, think again. Sweet potato has long been used in traditional medicine for diabetes. According to a study, 140 diabetics were asked to consume as little as four grams of sweet potato per day. It was found that in three to five months, the HbA1c results of the participants improved significantly.8
The sweet potato leaves are also beneficial for diabetics as they contain polyphenols like caffeoylquinic acid (CQA) derivatives. They may help regulate the blood glucose concentration, researchers have concluded. Sweet potato leaf extract powder significantly lowered glycemia in type 2 diabetic mice over a period of five weeks. It significantly enhanced glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) secretion that prevents blood sugar spikes after meals.9
Yet another advantage of eating sweet potato is better immunity. In a rat study, purified sweet potato polysaccharide (PSPP) isolated from the roots acted as a game changer. It modified the biological response of the rats. Rats treated with this extract had a much better functioning immune system after only seven days.
Guards Prostate Health
Sweet potato benefits for men include improvement in prostate health. Its leaves are an excellent source of dietary polyphenols such as anthocyanins and phenolic acids – even better than Popeye’s favorite spinach. Studies have found that the leaf extracts of sweet potato prohibit the multiplication activity in a panel of prostate cancer cell lines while sparing normal prostate epithelial cells.11
Protects Your Vision
Purple sweet potato has a bit of an edge over the regular varieties. It has anthocyanins that are mostly present in purple pigmented foods. One of the purple sweet potato health benefits is protection and growth of human retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells, which perform essential functions for the visual process. A study concluded that the anthocyanins in purple sweet potato have damage protective activities on human vision.12
Wards Off Ulcers
Sweet potatoes exert a protective effect on your stomach and are not only recommended for cases of stomach distress but also stomach cancer. The root vegetable showed antiulcer activity on gastric ulcers in rats. The results were visible in as little as one day and showed significant improvement by day 7.13
Trims Your Waistline
Believe it or not, there are health benefits of sweet potatoes for weight loss, too! Not only is it a great swap for white potatoes, it also has fewer calories. Since it is a complex carbohydrate, it also promotes satiety. According to a study, purple sweet potato extract was found to have anti-obesity and anti-inflammatory action on fat cells. It suppressed the growth of fats, aided the breakdown of fats and prevented the conversion of simple sugars into fatty acids.14 What more could you ask for?
Sweet Potatoes Baked Or Boiled?
Sweet potato is cooked in many ways with baking and boiling as the top favorites. Each method of cooking alters the nutritional profile of the root vegetable. So the benefits of eating raw sweet potatoes can differ from boiled or baked sweet potato benefits. The β-carotene contents of baked and boiled sweet potatoes are reported to be lower than those of fresh sweet potatoes. However, the quantity of total phenolic and ascorbic acid is higher in baked and boiled sweet potatoes as compared to fresh samples.15
|↑1||Bovell‐Benjamin, Adelia C. “Sweet potato: a review of its past, present, and future role in human nutrition.” Advances in food and nutrition research 52 (2007): 1-59.|
|↑2||Wu, Qiongying, Hongsen Qu, Junqiang Jia, Cong Kuang, Yan Wen, Hui Yan, and Zhongzheng Gui. “Characterization, antioxidant and antitumor activities of polysaccharides from purple sweet potato.” Carbohydrate polymers 132 (2015): 31-40.|
|↑3||Jin, Yi-Ru, Meei-Shyuan Lee, Jang-Hwa Lee, Hon-Ki Hsu, Jau-Yeong Lu, Shin-Shin Chao, Kow-Tong Chen, Saou-Hsing Liou, and Luo-Ping Ger. “Intake of vitamin A-rich foods and lung cancer risk in Taiwan: with special reference to garland chrysanthemum and sweet potato leaf consumption.” Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition 16, no. 3 (2007): 477-488.|
|↑4||Oluyori, Abimbola Peter, Arun Kumar Shaw, Gabriel Ademola Olatunji, Preeti Rastogi, Sanjeev Meena, Dipak Datta, Ashish Arora, Sammajay Reddy, and Saidha Puli. “Sweet potato peels and cancer prevention.” Nutrition and cancer 68, no. 8 (2016): 1330-1337.|
|↑5, ↑7, ↑10, ↑13||Mohanraj, Remya, and Subha Sivasankar. “Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas [L.] Lam)-A valuable medicinal food: A review.” Journal of medicinal food 17, no. 7 (2014): 733-741.|
|↑6||Nagai, Miu, Mariko Tani, Yoshimi Kishimoto, Maki Iizuka, Emi Saita, Miku Toyozaki, Tomoyasu Kamiya, Motoya Ikeguchi, and Kazuo Kondo. “Sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas L.) leaves suppressed oxidation of low density lipoprotein (LDL) in vitro and in human subjects.” Journal of clinical biochemistry and nutrition 48, no. 3 (2011): 203-208.|
|↑8||Ooi, Cheow Peng, and Seng Cheong Loke. “Sweet potato for type 2 diabetes mellitus.” Cochrane Database Syst Rev 9 (2012).|
|↑9||Nagamine, Rika, Shiori Ueno, Masahito Tsubata, Kazuya Yamaguchi, Kinya Takagaki, Tohru Hira, Hiroshi Hara, and Takanori Tsuda. “Dietary sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas L.) leaf extract attenuates hyperglycaemia by enhancing the secretion of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1).” Food & function5, no. 9 (2014): 2309-2316.|
|↑11||Karna, Prasanthi, Sushma R. Gundala, Meenakshi V. Gupta, Shahab A. Shamsi, Ralphenia D. Pace, Clayton Yates, Satya Narayan, and Ritu Aneja. “Polyphenol-rich sweet potato greens extract inhibits proliferation and induces apoptosis in prostate cancer cells in vitro and in vivo.” Carcinogenesis 32, no. 12 (2011): 1872-1880.|
|↑12||Sun, Min, Xiaoling Lu, Lei Hao, Tao Wu, Huanjiao Zhao, and Chao Wang. “The influences of purple sweet potato anthocyanin on the growth characteristics of human retinal pigment epithelial cells.” Food & nutrition research 59, no. 1 (2015): 27830.|
|↑14||Ju, Jae-Hyun, Hong-Sup Yoon, Hyun-Joon Park, Mi-Young Kim, Hyeun-Kil Shin, Kun-Young Park, Jin-Oh Yang, Min-Shik Sohn, and Myoung-Sool Do. “Anti-obesity and antioxidative effects of purple sweet potato extract in 3T3-L1 adipocytes in vitro.” Journal of medicinal food 14, no. 10 (2011): 1097-1106.|
|↑15||Dincer, Cuneyt, Mert Karaoglan, Fidan Erden, Nedim Tetik, Ayhan Topuz, and Feramuz Ozdemir. “Effects of baking and boiling on the nutritional and antioxidant properties of sweet potato [Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam.] cultivars.” Plant foods for human nutrition 66, no. 4 (2011): 341-347.|