Disease-fighting power of this humble vegetable…

By: Dr. Victor Marchione | Blood Pressure | Monday, September 08, 2014 - 05:00 AM

health benefits of sweet potatoAlthough fall means the days will get cooler and shorter, those harvest vegetables are now in season – and they have so many health benefits to offer.

One vegetable, in particular, packs a punch when it comes to providing you with your daily intake of vitamins and keeping you healthy right through the winter. This superstar food is the humble sweet potato.

Although potatoes in general get a bad reputation for being high in starch and a poor food choice when they’re dumped into the fryer for French fries, they do have a lot to offer.

An average sweet potato will provide you with over 100 percent of your daily requirement for vitamin A. This is hugely beneficial because vitamin A is the key contributor to your vision, especially when it comes to seeing in the dark. In fact, a deficiency in vitamin A can lead to blindness.

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Vitamin A also supports healthy skin and boosts your immune system, so your body is better at resisting infections.

As well as providing vitamin A, sweet potatoes also provide high amounts of vitamins C and B6, potassium and manganese – along with a list of other nutrients, including calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin and folate…

Yes, this is an overall healthy food choice that should not be relegated to holiday mealtimes only.

What sweet potatoes can do for your diabetes

White potatoes are higher in carbohydrates which quickly get turned into sugar, which is not great for diabetics who have trouble managing sugar in the bloodstream. Sweet potato’s carbohydrates have more fiber which makes them friendlier for diabetics because the fiber prevents spikes in sugar from happening. The glycemic index for sweet potatoes is much lower than white potatoes, so eating these in moderation will keep your glucose levels in check.

The American Diabetes Association recommends diabetics have no more than 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per meal. A medium-sized sweet potato has about 22 grams of carbohydrates, leaving you plenty of room for added carbohydrates from protein and vegetables.

Sweet potatoes also pack a high amount of vitamin C. You may not think that vitamin C is useful when it comes to blood sugar levels, but its antioxidant properties protect your arteries from damage caused by blood sugar spikes. Vitamin C can help protect against other common diabetic illnesses, such as vision loss and nerve damage, and it’s an essential nutrient for immune health.

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Sweet potatoes great for blood pressure, too

When it comes to maintaining healthy blood pressure, watching your sodium intake can be such a killjoy! It seems impossible to enjoy a meal without adding salt for flavor.

Sweet potatoes, though, have such full flavor that you really can use healthier alternatives to dress them. Cinnamon and nutmeg are delicious, and roasting them with olive oil and herbs works well, too. This will cut back on your sodium, making it easier to manage your blood pressure.

Increasing potassium is equally important. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that less than 2 percent of American adults are consuming the recommended 4,700 mg of potassium a day. So instead of stocking up on bananas, why not have a sweet potato which will boost your potassium by offering 542 mg per serving! Potassium is great for people with high blood pressure because it assists the kidneys in pushing out sodium to keep those levels, as well as the blood pressure levels, low and in the healthy range.

Now, what can’t the humble sweet potato do?

Although you may have enjoyed your sweet potatoes (who could forget grandma’s secret Thanksgiving recipe?) you may not have known all the benefits they have on your health.

My tip? Try them more often, just leave out the brown sugar, syrup and marshmallows, and stick with steamed or baked varieties of the tuber, dressed with more natural, wholesome ingredients – these will not only enhance the flavor but make them better for you.

There’s no need to fear the spud. Just eat the orange-colored variety more often. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, I suggest you stock your root cellar from the fall harvest and have sweet potato every week. You can’t lose!

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