Sweet potato is a root vegetable with origin in the South America; from there it spread to Polynesia, Australia, Hawaii and thence to the rest of the world. It is called yam in some parts of the world although the real yam and sweet potato are quite different.
Sweet potato and Irish potato are only very distantly related, they are different though both have their origins in South America. The leaves of sweet potato are edible while those of Irish potato are toxic; the seeds of Irish potato are also toxic and are not for human consumption.
In terms of energy content, sweet potato has more energy per 100 grams but Irish potato has more water. Irish potato has less fibre but quite rich in Potassium and Vitamin C; on the other hand Sweet potato is very rich in Vitamin A and Beta-carotene and so very protective of the eyes.
Sweet potato grows very well in tropical and warm temperate climates where there is enough rain to nourish it; the tubers mature in two to nine months.
Of the carbohydrate sources available in Nigeria and most of the tropics, sweet potato is the best. It has about 21 percent of carbohydrate comprising starch, sugars and fibres; more importantly it has only 86Kcals of energy in every 100gram weight, it is therefore difficult to obtain excess energy even if you consumed 1000grams of sweet potatoes in one day.
Sweet potato has 2 percent protein, lots of Vitamin A, B5, B6 and C and minerals; 3 percent of sweet potato is fibre.
Sweet potato is therefore a very healthy source of carbohydrate.
The biggest producer of sweet potato in the world is China followed by Uganda and Nigeria
1. Helps in the management of type 2 diabetes
Sweet potato contains low glycaemic carbohydrates, they increase the blood sugar when eaten, very slowly; this is very good in the management of diabetes mellitus. It is only 21percent carbohydrate and has only 86 Kcals of energy per 100grams; about the lowest among the common sources of carbohydrate, consequently it can help in weight control.
Diabetics can eat sweet potato as a source of energy
2. Prevents Constipation
Sweet potato contains fibre (about 3 percent) which is known to ease constipation and also reduces the risk of colon cancer. Fibre also helps to reduce blood pressure but cannot be used on its own to control blood pressure.
3. Protects Your Eyes, Helps in Night Vision
Sweet potato contains carotenoid which is converted to Vitamin A in the liver and some vitamin A. Vitamin A is necessary for proper development of the eyes, prevents dryness of the eyes and also ensures night vision, it prevents night blindness. In fact low Vitamin A level in the body can destroy the eyes. Vitamin is anti- macular degeneration and reduces the risk of premature cataract.
4. Help in weight control/ Prevent Obesity.
Eating fibre–rich foods like sweet potato helps in weight control and therefore prevents obesity. Fibre-rich foods are bulky and fill the stomach easily and there is therefore the feeling of fullness and satisfaction. More importantly it has only 86Kcals of energy in every 100gram weight; it is therefore difficult to obtain excess energy even if you consumed 1000grams of sweet potatoes in one day. Note that excess energy is converted to fat and stored in the adipose tissue leading to obesity.
5. Helps to regulate your blood pressure
Sweet potato contains a lot of the mineral called Potassium which is known to help the heart and reduces blood pressure. Low potassium can cause Constipation, lack of appetite and poor working of the heart. Potassium appears to relax the blood vessels.
6. Fights against cancer
As said earlier, sweet potato very rich in fibre; many studies in the last three decades have shown a link between increased fibre in-take and a decrease in colon cancer. This could be due to the fibre itself or the nutrients that are usually in fibre-rich foods such as vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and essential fatty acid.
7. Reduce Risk of Heart Disease/Stroke
Sweet potato contains fibre (about 3 percent of sweet potato); soluble fibre reduces absorption of cholesterol and bile acid (which are also rich in cholesterol) from the small intestines, thereby reducing blood cholesterol level. When soluble fibres are broken down by bacteria in the intestines, some fatty acids released are said to reduce the production of cholesterol by the liver. By lowering blood cholesterol, fibres help to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke; both are associated with high blood cholesterol Level. Stroke results from narrowing/blockage or rupture of blood vessels supplying blood to the brain.
8. Freshens your skin.
Sweet potato contains a lot of Vitamin C, an anti-oxidant which is known to fight free radicals in our body. Free radicals are partly responsible for the accelerated aging of the cells in our body including the cells of the skin.
Eating sweet potato regularly can therefore can slow down the aging of the skin, making the skin fresh and healthy.