One of the most nutritious foods on the traditional Thanksgiving menu is the sweet potato. These orange-skinned root vegetables offer a host of health benefits (especially when cooked without the unnecessary sugar and marshmallows). If you want to raise health consciousness around the dinner table this holiday season, try throwing some of these six sweet potato facts into the conversation:
1. High nutritional value
A 7-ounce (1 cup) serving of sweet potatoes contains 65% of the minimum necessary daily amount of Vitamin C. Sweet potatoes are also high in calcium, folate, potassium and beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant which converts to Vitamin A in the body: one serving of sweet potatoes can provide you with as much as 700% of the US RDA for Vitamin A. The Center for Science in the Public Interest rates sweet potatoes as the number one most nutritious vegetable because they such are so nutritionally rich.
2. Low glycemic index
If you are unfamiliar with this term, the glycemic index indicates the impact a food substance has on blood sugar levels. A high glycemic index means blood sugar levels can spike. Diabetes and others who monitor their blood sugar levels seek to avoid foods with a high glycemic index or load. Sweet potatoes have a glycemic load of only 17. (By way of comparison, a white potato has an index of 29.)
3. Accessing sweet potatoes’ nutritional benefits is easy
To gain the maximum health benefits from eating sweet potatoes, avoid discarding their skins — much of their healing potential resides in this portion of the tubers. Also, following the common dieters’ fallacy of avoiding all fats reduces your ability to access sweet potatoes’ benefits: beta-carotene absorbs more thoroughly into the body when consumed with a small amount of fat. Recent research seems to indicate that steaming or boiling sweet potatoes rather than roasting them helps preserve their low glycemic index.
4. Good for your skin
Their high levels of Vitamin A and beta-carotene means sweet potatoes are a skin superfood. The substances on many pricey skin-care products like retinol and retinoic acid are actually derived from Vitamin A. Plus beta-carotene combats the free radicals which result skin aging.
5. Sweet potatoes are like yoga
Their high potassium content means sweet potatoes can alleviate muscle cramps which are often related to potassium deficiency. During times of stress, the body uses more potassium, so eating sweet potatoes can help protect you from the negative health effects of tension.
6. Easy to grow in your garden
Starting a vegetable garden is a great way both to reduce your grocery bill now, and to reduce your dependency on grocery stores for the long-term. Sweet potatoes make a good beginner’s garden crop. Although originally native to South America, this type of tuber only requires 100 frost-free days in order to grow, so you do not have to live in the tropics to harvest some of these nutritionally valuable tubers. Sweet potato plants have fewer diseases than other types of potatoes, and they are relatively undemanding plants, requiring little in the way of water or fertilizer.
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