Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes and Yams
Sweet Potato and Yam are Healthy and Nutritious
Caribbeans and Africans have enjoyed the delicious sweet potato and nutritious yam for generations. Usain Bolt swears by the Yellow Yams. As a young boy growing up in one of Jamaica's highest Yellow Yam producing districts, the world's fastest runner grew up on a diet of yams and hail the yellow yam as his secret weapon. No banned substances to enhance Bolt's awesome running ability, just a diet containing lots of the runner's favourite nutritious food.
These two root vegetables, Sweet Potatoes and Yams, are versatile and can easily be used in a variety of ways. Both are ideal for the best hearty filling soups and stews, souffle, curries and pies, to name just a few. Sweet Potato and Yam can be boiled, roasted, baked or mashed; they can help to provide much of the daily recommended vitamins, minerals and fibres our body requires to remain fit and healthy.
According to research, more than 70% of American adults are either overweight or obese. Many, are finding the weight impossible to control. Obesity is said to be one of the biggest medical epidemics we are facing today, second only to the damaging effects of smoking on the body.
Supermarkets and food production manufacturers In the Uk are told to put their houses in order or face laws to curb high levels of sugars and fats in our food, according to the Guardian, 5th January 2013.
A Study in 2005 estimated that around 112,000 deaths are associated with obesity each year in the U.S and rising. Obesity is still a major cause of preventable deaths worldwide, with an increasing prevalence in both adults and children. Experts say this is one of the most serious public health problems we are facing in the 21st century.
However, there is still controversy; a recent study suggests, being overweight can lead to a longer life. This report was widely criticised, with other experts questioning the research method used, and a prominent professor asking the rather pertinent question “ Have you ever seen a 100-years-old human being who is overweight?
Personally, I believe a healthy life is a matter of balance and common sense, most of us want a long, happy and healthy life and are prepared to take steps to achieve it.
The majority of people are aware of the fact that they need regular exercise and a less sedentary lifestyle. We need to think about what we eat and make the smart food choice, know how the food we introduce into our bodies impact our physical and mental health.
We are eating more fruits and vegetables, less red meat and animal fats, although we are making progress, there is many more highly nutritious food we could be enjoying.
Seasonal fruits and vegetables are usually fresh and can be an excellent source of vitamins. However, they can get rather dull, and as the saying goes, 'oranges aren't the only fruits.' There are other interesting alternatives to those versatile vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and cabbages, but for this article, we are going to look at sweet potatoes and yams.
Sweet potatoes are often confused with yams, but the two vegetables are quite different and not related. Although both are flowering plants, they are not related botanically. The sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is a dicotyledonous plant belonging to the Convolvulaceae family, related to morning glory family; it vary in size and the colour of the flesh. The darker the orange flesh, the higher the beta-carotene content.
The sweet potato is a tuberous root vegetable; it is starchy and sweet tasting, a better source of fibre than a bowl of oatmeal. One medium size sweet potato has just about 120 calories and is surprisingly filling.
Sweet potatoes are readily available, they are inexpensive, and taste good! But there are many more reasons why we should eat more of this delicious root vegetable. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamins and nutrients Including the following:
Vitamin B6, we'll find out more about this vitamin later
Fibre, there are two types of fibre, soluble and insoluble, each with different functions, and can be found in a variety of plant foods, both are important in the diet. Soluble fibres are found in many fruits and vegetables including sweet potatoes, an excellent source of soluble and insoluble fibres which plays a role in maintaining blood sugar balance. Getting sufficient amounts of this fibre can help to prevent type 2 diabetes. In some diabetes suffers, an increase of soluble fibre in the diet are thought to be able to reduce the need for medication.
Potassium belongs to the class of nutrients known as minerals, but it is also a vital electrolyte essential for the proper functioning of the heart, Kidney, muscle, nerve and digestive system.
One 5 inches raw sweet potato contain about 438 milligrams of potassium. A large cooked sweet potato in the skin contains over 850 milligrams, in comparison, a medium size banana contain about 440 milligrams of potassium and a cup of coconut water has about 600 milligrams.
Potassium and other electrolytes such as calcium, magnesium and sodium are crucial in helping the body to regulate fluid balance, muscle contraction and heart function.
A 5-inch sweet potato provides around 112 calories most of which are contained in its 26 grams of carbohydrates. A 5-inch sweet potato also contains about 4 grams of fibre, 2 grams of protein and virtually no fat. Sweet potatoes can supply a third of the daily requirements of vitamin C and greater than four times the daily requirements for vitamin A.
Release natural sugars slowly into the bloodstream
High levels of carotenoids in the form of beta-carotene. Recent studies have shown that the sweet potato is unsurpassed as a source of beta-carotene. This root vegetable has a superior ability to raise the blood levels of vitamin A.
In an African study, sweet potatoes were found to contain between 100- 1,000 micrograms of vitamin A in every 3.5 ounces, sufficient on average, to meet 35% of all vitamin A needs. A Recent study suggests that a minimum of 3-5 grams of fat per meal can significantly increase the uptake of beta-carotene from sweet potatoes.
Yams are edible tubers, similar to sweet potatoes, but are not as rich in vitamins and minerals as sweet potatoes. The yam was introduced to the U.S in 1676, the word Yam comes from the African word njam, myami, or djambi, meaning to eat. A member of the Dioscoreaceae or Yam family. Yam is closely related to lilies, and grasses.
True yams are native to Africa and Asia and come in a variety of sizes. Size can range from that of a small potato to a record 130 pounds, and are believed to be able to grow to over seven feet in length. Now that's a whopper!...There are about 600 varieties of yams, 95% of which are produced in Africa. Yam grows from a vine that creeps along the ground with alternate heart or arrow shaped leaves.
Compared to sweet potatoes, yams are starchier and drier in texture and a good source of Vitamins and Minerals Including:
Vitamin B6, Yams are high in vitamin B6. The body uses Vitamin B6 for breaking down homocysteine; a common amino acid mostly acquired from eating meat and can directly damage the blood vessel walls leading to atherosclerosis.
Individuals who have had Myocardial infarction (heart attack) are often discovered to have high levels of homocysteine that is often associated with low levels of B6, B12 and folate, with an increased risk of heart attack and strokes, even though they may have normal or even low cholesterol level. Therefore, a proper intake of vitamin B6 makes sense; B6 has shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Carbohydrates, yam, is a healthy source of carbohydrates in the form of vegetable starch and fibre. Carbohydrates from yam provide long lasting energy and are low on the glycemic Index. Excellent for weight loss and very nutritious.
Potassium, yam provide 25% of the daily recommended value of potassium. Since much of our diet contains high levels of sodium, it is more common to be deficient in potassium than sodium, a diet containing yam will help to maintain a healthy balance. The average daily amount of potassium for healthy adults is set at 4,700 mg/day, lower in children and higher in mothers who are breastfeeding.
When the levels of potassium in the blood are too high or too low, this can result in cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythm), a good reason potassium supplements are only available in small doses. However, potassium toxicity doesn't typically occur from dietary intake. Dietary supplements of potassium, are not usually needed since a diet rich in fruits and vegetables should provide the required amount necessary to maintain health.
Yams and The Menopause, Yams has been claimed to relieve some Menopausal and PMT symptoms, Mexican wild yam is available as a paste that can be applied to the fatty area of skin daily. However, the effectiveness of this treatment has not been proven.