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Facts on the Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes

By Contributor

Sweet Potatoes Are Highly Nutritious

Sweet potatoes contain vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, fiber, B vitamins, potassium and even iron. In fact, Whole Foods considers sweet potatoes one of the healthiest vegetables we eat. A medium sized sweet potato contains more than your daily requirement of vitamin A, nearly a third the vitamin C you need, almost 15 percent of your daily dietary fiber intake and 10 percent of the necessary potassium. Sweet potatoes may even protect cigarette smokers and those who live with them from emphysema by virtue of its vitamin A, as cigarette smoke creates a deficiency of this vitamin. This deficiency may be one of the causes of emphysema. Quitting smoking would be best, but eating plenty of sweet potatoes while you work on it may save your life.

Healthy Antioxidants Abound in Sweet Potatoes

Antioxidants abound in sweet potatoes, which also have anti-inflammatory properties. The beta-carotene and vitamin C in these tubers work together to rid the body of cancer-friendly free radicals. Free radicals are necessary for some biological functions, including vascular tone control. However, free radicals can also cause damage in reactions with DNA, and antioxidants work to lessen and then repair damage caused by these free radical exchanges. Vitamins A and C are also anti-inflammatory, making sweet potatoes an excellent food for those suffering from either form of arthritis or asthma.

Take Advantage of a Low Glycemic Index

Diabetics can eat sweet potatoes without worry as these tubers have a low glycemic index. The glycemic index of a food reflects the food's effects on a person's blood glucose level. Fast glucose absorption, a rise in blood sugar and its resulting dive happens with high-glycemic foods and is not desirable. It's better for the body to slowly absorb any gluclose, sustain a moderate rise in sugar levels and experience a gradual return to the regular level. Since white potatoes, rice and flour have a high glycemic rating, diabetics will benefit from eating sweet potatoes instead.

Select Organic Sweet Potaotes

Choose organically-grown sweet potatoes whenever possible and eat them with their skin, which contains nutrients. Conventionally-grown sweet potatoes are often treated post-harvest and should be peeled before eating. Organically grown sweet potatoes are free from the harmful effects of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and inorganic sprays. Consider growing your own sweet potatoes if you have a garden plot or even large containers for small-space food growing.

Watch Out for Oxalates

If you suffer from kidney or gallbladder ailments, talk with your doctor or health care professional about a recommended intake of sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes contain a small amount of oxalates, which in high concentrations can cause kidney damage. Those with a healthy digestive tract will be better able to absorb the nutrients of sweet potatoes without suffering ill effects. As always, doing research on your specific condition and a consultation with your medical provider are recommended.

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