The Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes:Eat Well

 How sweet it is….. to eat sweet potatoes! Not only are they delicious – they are versatile, full of fiber and nutritious. 
While sweet potatoes may be part of your holiday tradition, be sure to add these wonderful naturally sweet vegetables to your meals throughout the year – they are some of the most nutritious vegetables around.
 
The sweet potato has yellow or orange flesh, and its thin skin may either be white, yellow, orange, red or purple. Sometimes this root vegetable will be shaped like a potato, being short and blocky with rounded ends, while other times it will be longer with tapered ends. There is often much confusion between sweet potatoes and yams; the moist-fleshed, orange-colored root vegetable that is often called a “yam” is actually a sweet potato.
 
Sweet potatoes are one of the unsung heroes of a balanced diet. For a reasonable number of calories, you get loads of nutrients.
 
Sweet potatoes contain carotenoids that appear to help stabilize blood sugar levels and lower insulin resistance, making cells more responsive to insulin. This can ultimately help with your metabolism.
If a beta-carotene contest were held, sweet potatoes would tie carrots for first place. That may make them top-notch for fighting chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.
 
A sweet potato has four times the RDA for beta-carotene, which your body can convert to vitamin A, 42% of the RDA for vitamin C and if you eat the skin, more fiber than oatmeal. Other sweet potato health benefits include having the lowest glycemic index among root veggies because it digests very slowly, which helps you feel full longer.
 
Sweet potatoes contain unique root storage proteins that have been observed to have significant antioxidant capacities. As an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene) and a very good source of vitamin C, sweet potatoes have healing properties as an antioxidant food. Both beta-carotene and vitamin C are very powerful antioxidants that work in the body to eliminate free radicals.
 
*Free radicals are chemicals that damage cells and cell membranes and are associated with the development of conditions like atherosclerosis, diabetic heart disease, and colon cancer. This may explain why beta-carotene and vitamin C have both been shown to be helpful for preventing these conditions.
 
Since these nutrients are also anti-inflammatory, they can be helpful in reducing the severity of conditions in which inflammation plays a role, such as asthma, ulcers, inflammatory colon conditions, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
 
The problem is that most of us grew up linking sweet potatoes to mounds of brown sugar, marshmallows and butter. That candied version may be okay once a year, but sweet potatoes should find a home on your weekly menu. Consider mashed sweet potatoes, baked sweet potatoes, sweet potato fries coated lightly with olive oil and baked, and sweet potato casseroles.

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