Superfood of the Month

February 05, 2019

Nutrition

Bake, steam, boil, microwave, fry, juice, puree or even eat them raw - sweet potatoes are as versatile as they are nutrient-rich.

Sweet potatoes are native to Central and South America, and have been grown for at least 10,000 years. When Columbus brought the potato back to Europe from his visit to the New World in 1492, it would likely have been the sweet potato not the white.

Sweet potatoes and white potatoes are botanically different - potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) are tubers, in the Solanaceae family, relatives to tomatoes, peppers and aubergines along with deadly nightshade. Plants in this family produce solanine, a poison, and so leaves and stems must not be eaten, nor potatoes that have gone green. Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are a root, in the Convolvulaceae family along with flowering morning glory vines. The leaves can be eaten and are rich in fibre and highly nutritious.

Sweet potatoes have soared above the white potato in popularity over recent years, mainly because in spite of their 'sweet' label, they actually produce a lower glycaemic response as they have a higher amylose to amylopectin ratio. Amylose raises blood sugar levels slowly (low GI), so are a healthy slow-release carbohydrate choice for runners. The calorie cost is very similar, but whilst white potatoes reign in potassium content (even higher than bananas), sweet potatoes (which can be white, orange, magenta or purple) are packed with vitamin A. This vitamin is on the front line of our antioxidant defences, and plays a key role in vision, immune function, skin and cellular health. In the developing world sweet potatoes are a nutritional saviour: farming projects have been established to grow sweet potato in sub-Saharan Africa where 43 million children are vitamin-A deficient, leading to blindness, high infection rates and increased mortality. Just one ice-cream scoop of sweet potato a day provides a child with 100% vitamin A needs.

One sweet potato also provides 50% vitamin C requirements plus vitamins B5, B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, and minerals iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese and potassium. It is fat and cholesterol free and low sodium. 

Sweet Potato

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