The sweet potato is a root vegetable that has been consumed by man since prehistoric times. Its shape is long with tapered ends but can also be round like a potato (although the sweet potato is not closely related to the potato).
Sweet potatoes come in a variety of colors. Skin colors include brown, red, white and purple. Flesh colors include orange, white, yellow and purple. The orange variety is commonly marketed in parts of North America as a “yam.”
These delicious vegetables are economical, low in calories, and highly nutritious. The two most abundant vitamins in sweet potatoes are vitamin A and vitamin C. Both offer many health benefits.
The Two Main Vitamins
Sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamin A, which comes in the form of beta carotene. One baked sweet potato with skin (77 grams) has 262 percent of the daily recommended value.
Vitamin A was the first fat-soluble vitamin to be recognized. It has many functions in the body. It is needed to form and maintain healthy skin, mucosal tissues, teeth, and bones. Vitamin A is a part of visual purple, a colored compound in the retina. Every time light falls on the retina, a little vitamin A is destroyed. If the body has insufficient amounts of vitamin A to replace the vitamin A that was destroyed, night vision may occur. Bad cases of vitamin A deficiency can lead to permanent blindness, a (preventable) problem with starving children.
Vitamin A in sweet potatoes are powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants can stop cell destruction caused by free radicals and is believed to slow down the aging process and help prevent age-related diseases such as macular degeneration, cataracts, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and cancer. Vitamin A also has anti-inflammatory properties and is helpful for conditions involving inflammation, including asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis.
Sweet potatoes with a dark orange flesh have the most beta carotene.
One baked sweet potato with skin (77 grams) has almost 30 percent of the daily value of vitamin C.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties. Vitamin C is needed to produce thyroxin (the hormone that regulates basal metabolic rate and body temperature), protect against infections, promote iron absorption, and produce and maintain collagen, which is the main protein of connective tissue.
A deficiency in vitamin C can lead to scurvy. Symptoms, of which most are attributed to the breakdown of collagen, include loss of appetite, growth cessation, anemia, weakness, bleeding gums, loose teeth, tenderness to touch, and swollen ankles and wrists.
Other valuable nutrients found in sweet potatoes include vitamin B6, manganese, copper, iron, potassium and fiber.
Now that you know about the two main vitamins found in sweet potatoes, enjoy the many health benefits with this delicious smoothie recipe:
Cook one small sweet potato the night before you plan to drink the smoothie. To microwave, prick it with a fork (after washing it well) and cook on high for 8 to 10 minutes, flipping it halfway through the cooking time. After it cools down a bit, store it in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day, peel the sweet potato and blend it with 1 1/2 cups of skim milk, 1 scoop of vanilla whey protein powder and 1 dash of pumpkin pie spice until smooth.
WHFoods: Sweet Potatoes - https://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=64
WHFoods: Vitamin A - https://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=106
WHFoods: Vitamin C - https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/plantanswers/vegetables/sweetpotato.html
RecipeZaar: Sweet Potato Smoothie - https://www.recipezaar.com/recipe/Sweet-Potato-Smoothie-300827
Image courtesy of National Cancer Institute’s 5 A Day Resources & Tools (in the public domain).