Sweet potatoes: a powerful source of nutrients

Vibrantly coloured with carotenoids and filled with fibre, sweet potatoes are one of the most nutritious vegetables. They can help prevent cancer, eye disease, depression and heart disease.

Sweet potatoes: a powerful source of nutrients

What’s in them

  • Beta-carotene:  Sweet potatoes are an exceptionally rich ­source of this plant pigment. Beta-carotene may help to prevent certain ­cancers (stomach, pancreas, mouth and gums) and macular ­degeneration.
  • Caffeic acid:  This phenolic compound shows promise in fighting cancer and the AIDS virus.Chlorogenic acid: Preliminary studies suggest this anticancer phytochemical may help detoxify harmful carcinogens and viruses.
  • Insoluble fibre:  When eaten with its skin, a sweet potato is an excellent source of insoluble fibre, which may help to prevent constipation, diverticulosis, hemorrhoids and weight gain. A medium sweet potato provides over two grams of insoluble fibre).
  • Lutein and zeaxanthin:  These two carotenoid pigments lend bright orange colour to sweet potatoes and may help to protect against atherosclerosis, certain types of cancer and eye diseases.
  • Pectin:  About half of the fibre in sweet potatoes is soluble pectin fibre, which may control cholesterol.
  • Plant sterols:  These cholesterol-lowering compounds may re­duce cancer risk by binding carcinogenic agents in the digestive tract.
  • Potassium:  This heart-healthy mineral, found in abundance in sweet potatoes (397 milligrams per potato), is associated with lower blood pressure and a lowered risk for heart disease, kidney stones and stroke.
  • Vitamin B6:  Sweet potatoes provide good amounts of B6, which may help to prevent heart disease, stroke, depression and insomnia.
  • Vitamin C:  Plentiful in sweet potatoes, vitamin C may help to bolster immunity and wound healing, as well as prevent degenerative eye conditions.

Maximizing the benefits

  • Eat sweet potatoes with their skin to get more beta-carotene and fibre.
  • Baking or broiling enhances beta-carotene and sweetens the potato as its starches turn to sugar.

Adding more to your diet

  • Mash sweet potatoes with maple syrup for an unusual dessert.
  • Make sweet potato chips. Thinly slice sweet potatoes, drizzle with olive oil and bake in a 200°C (400°F) oven until tender.
  • For a twist on mashed potatoes, use half sweet potatoes and half white potatoes.
  • Add slices of cooked sweet potatoes to savoury sandwiches.
  • Mash cooked sweet potatoes with grated Parmesan cheese and use in place of half the cheese in lasagna.
  • Substitute mashed sweet potatoes for pumpkin in pies.
  • Shred raw sweet potatoes and use in place of shredded carrots in cakes, muffins and tea breads.
  • Make a sweet potato salad. Cook sweet potatoes and while the potatoes are still warm, peel and cut into chunks. Toss in a dressing of lime juice, olive oil, minced scallions, curry powder and salt.

There you go -- a few tips for adding this delicious super-food to your regular diet!

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