Sweet potato is not just only sweeten your taste buds but also good for your cardiovascular health! This underground tuber initially cultivated in the Central American region.
Botanically, this starch-rich tuber plant is a dicotyledon, belonging to the family of Convolvulaceae, and named botanically as Ipomoea batatas. Its crunchy, starch-rich flesh is rich source of flavonoid pigment anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber that are essential for optimal health.
Sweet potatoes should not be confused with yams, another starchy root widely grown in Western Africa. Yams are indeed larger in size and can weigh up to 120 pounds in weight and 2 meters in length. Yams are tropical crops and indeed never grow where the temperature dips below 68 degrees F. Important differentiating features that distinguish sweet potatoes from yams are:
- Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are dicotyledonous, relatively smaller and possess very thin peel.
- Whereas, yams are monocotyledons, larger, feature thick, rough, dark brown to pink skin depending upon the cultivar type.
Internally, sweet potato has starchy, sweet flesh which, depending upon the pigment concentration, ranges from white through yellow, orange, and purple.
Boniatos, also known as Cuban sweet-potatoes, feature dry, starchy flesh underneath the reddish-brown skin. They have mildly sweet in flavor and cooked in similar fashion like potatoes.
Sweet potato leaves (top greens) are also edible. In fact, the greens contain more nutrients and dietary fiber than some of the popular green-leafy vegetables.
- Sweet potato is one of the high calorie starch foods (provide 90 calories/100 g vis-a-vis to 70 calories/100 g in potato). The tuber, however, contains no saturated fats or cholesterol, and is rich source of dietary fiber, anti-oxidants, vitamins, and minerals than potatoes.
- Its calorie content mainly comes from starch, a complex carbohydrate. Sweet potato has higher amylose to the amylopectin ratio than that in potato. Amylose raises the blood sugar levels rather slowly on comparison to simple fruit sugars (fructose, glucose etc) and therefore, recommended as a healthy food item even in diabetes.
- The tuber is an excellent source of flavonoid phenolic compounds such asbeta-carotene and vitamin-A. 100 g tuber provides 14,187 IU of vitamin A and 8,509 µg of ß-carotene, a value which is the highest for any root-vegetables categories. These compounds are powerful natural antioxidants. Vitamin A is also required for the human body to maintain integrity of mucus membranes and skin. It is a vital nutrient for healthy vision. Consumption of natural vegetables and fruits rich in flavonoids protects from lung and oral cavity cancers.
- The total antioxidant strength of raw sweet potato measured in terms ofoxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) is 902 µmol TE/100 g.
- The tubers are packed with many essential vitamins such as pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5), pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), and thiamin (vitamin B-1), niacin, and riboflavin. These vitamins are essential in the sense that the human body requires them from external sources to replenish. These vitamins function as co-factors for various enzymes during metabolism.
- Sweet potato provides good amount of vital minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and potassium that are very essential for enzyme, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism.
- Sweet potato top greens are indeed more nutritious than the tuber itself. Weight per weight, 100 g of fresh leaves carry more iron, vitamin C, folates, vitamin K, and potassium but less sodium than its tuber.