Are Sweet Potatoes Really Worth the Hype?
Over the past few years, you’ve probably noticed there are quite a few more “sweet potato offerings” out there.
Whether that’s in grocery stores, fancy restaurants, or even in fast food establishments, sweet potatoes are all the rage (kind of like kale was a few years ago).
But, is the attention warranted?
I mean, come on. Sweet potatoes have been around for hundreds of years…so why are they all the sudden exploding in popularity?
A lot of that has to do with people becoming wise to the fact regular old white, yellow, and red potatoes are thin…nutritionally speaking.
i.e. regular old potatoes are just carbs and not much else.
Which is why people started switching over to sweet potatoes, because they thought they were healthier.
Well I’m happy to report this is 100% true. Sweet potatoes are actually an amazing food to include in a daily diet. Of course, if you’re eating them with marshmallows on top that’s not true…
Sorry, I can’t be all things to all people.
Take a look at why sweet potatoes are worth the hype.
4 Reasons to Start Eating Sweet Potatoes Today.
1. Incredibly high in beta-carotene: You’re probably already aware a plant’s color generally reflects certain health properties it contains. Can you guess what the orange in sweet potatoes might represent?
Well yeah, the title gave it away.
The deep orange color means there are loads of beta-carotene inside. Beta-Carotene is a powerful form of the antioxidant Vitamin A. What I think is interesting is the sweet potato might be one of the best sources of beta-carotene on the planet. A small 3.5 oz portion of sweet potato is estimated to contain anywhere from 35%-90% of your DRV.
An interesting thing about the beta-carotene in sweet potatoes is it’s been shown to have a higher bio-availability than what’s found in many darker, green vegetables. So, not only do they have more beta-carotene than most other vegetable sources, that beta-carotene is also incredibly easy for your body to absorb.
One other thing. Beta-carotene found in the sweet potato is more easily absorbed when you eat it with fat.
So, if you enjoy sweet potatoes slathered in butter then you now have license to continue the practice.
Please make sure it’s grass-fed butter or ghee though. Anywhere from 3-5 grams of fat alongside your sweet potato is enough to get the full availability of beta-carotene.
2. Can help keep blood sugar levels balanced:
Which isn’t what most people think is what happens when you eat a food high in carbs.
Now this might seem counter-intuitive. Sweet potatoes are medium on the Glycemic Index, which means they should cause your insulin levels to rise and send your blood sugar levels up as well.
However, because sweet potatoes are loaded with heart healthy fiber and have a special effect on blood sugar regulation, the opposite is actually true.
Take a look at what The World’s Healthiest foods wrote:
What’s fascinating about sweet potatoes is their ability to potentially improve blood sugar regulation—even in persons with type 2 diabetes— in spite of their glycemic index (GI) rating of medium. (Sweet potatoes are one of four WHFoods vegetables that have a GI ranking of medium. The other three vegetables are beets, corn, and leeks.)
The 6.6 grams of dietary fiber in a medium sweet potato are definitely a plus in terms of blood sugar regulation, since they help steady the pace of digestion. But recent research has also shown that extracts from sweet potatoes can significantly increase blood levels of adiponectin in persons with type 2 diabetes.
Adiponectin is a protein hormone produced by our fat cells, and it serves as an important modifier of insulin metabolism. Persons with poorly-regulated insulin metabolism and insulin insensitivity tend to have lower levels of adiponectin, and persons with healthier insulin metabolism tend to have higher levels.
While more research is needed on much larger groups of individuals to further evaluate and confirm these blood sugar regulating benefits, this area of health research is an especially exciting one for anyone who loves sweet potatoes but is nevertheless concerned about healthy blood sugar regulation.
3. They’re Anti-Inflammatory:
Another thing you’re able to tell from sweet potatoes' orange color is their anti-inflammatory properties.
The rich, burnt orange hue represent all kinds of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients.
It’s been shown in animal studies, once they eat sweet potatoes, notable inflammatory markers are all greatly reduced.
Following sweet potato consumption, nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kB) is reduced; activation of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2); and formation of malondialdehyde (MDA) are also reduced as well.
It’s the anthocyaninins and other phytonutrients in sweet potatoes producing this effect.
Other studies have shown (again in animals), after sweet potatoes are consumed, inflammation in both brain tissue and nerve tissue are markedly lower.
It’s even been shown that sweet potato has a positive effect on reducing fibrinogen in the body.
Fibrinogen is a key component to making blood clot. It’s produced when fibrin interacts with thrombin and can help to ensure blood coagulates and makes a scab after the formation of a wound.
However, when elevated levels of fibrinogen are present in the body (because this signals there’s also too much fibrin and thrombin in the body) it can damage the sensitive myelin sheath in nerve cells.
Some research has shown certain phytonutrients in sweet potatoes can help reduce excess fibrinogen which has the possibility of helping fight diseases.
4. They’re high in many macro nutrients:
Take a look at the image below and you’ll see sweet potatoes are rich in a variety of nutrients essential for good health.
Most foods can’t even come close to competing with sweet potatoes in these respects.
Try and find artificial foods that stack up like this.
You might make the case many other foods can do what sweet potatoes do, but when you take into account those foods typically are made in a laboratory and sweet potatoes are au-naturel…well now it’s an entirely different story altogether.
The Best Way to Enjoy Sweet Potatoes?
In your mouth.
That’s only because sweet potato face wash isn’t a thing yet :)
In all honesty, you really should either steam, boil, or stir-fry on low heat.
When you do this, you preserve many of the nutrients. It also affects the relative glycemic index of the potato. Options like baking, or roasting increases the GI roughly 100%, meaning, if you boil or steam instead of roasting or baking, it has less of an effect on your insulin levels.
The bottom line is sweet potatoes are an invaluable food to add to your diet.
And, yes, you can have them with marshmallows. Provided that’s on Thanksgiving day only. :)