The sweet potato, scientifically known as Ipomoea batatas, belongs to the family Convolvulaceae. The most consumed part of the sweet potato is its edible tuberous roots, which is starchy, large and has sweet flavor. Commonly, sweet potatoes’ flesh has orange color while other varieties of it get other colors like red, pink, yellow, white and purple. Sweet potatoes can be prepared in various ways, including being boiled, steamed, baked and fried.
Although sweet potatoes have similar appearance and name with common potatoes, it doesn’t mean that they belong to the nightshade family. In fact, sweet potatoes only have distant relation with potato, also known as Solanum tuberosum. In some English-speaking countries, people call sweet potatoes with different names like kumara and yam.
Sweet Potato’s Nutrition
Basically, sweet potato’s nutrition includes water (75%), carbohydrate (20.4%), fiber (3%) and protein (1.6%). In detail, with a medium-sized sweet potato (133g), you can get approximately 114.38 calories, 2.1 grams of protein, 27 grams of carbohydrate and almost no fat (0.1 gram), along with a large amount of water.
The content of protein in sweet potatoes is relatively low, in which 80% of it is sporamins produced when the plant gets physical damage and needs healing.
Despite the low content of protein, sweet potatoes are still one of the essential sources of protein in various countries, especially developing ones (1).
As mentioned, when you consume a boiled medium-sized sweet potato, you get 27 grams of carbohydrate, in which the main components of it is starches (53%). Other components of carbs in a sweet potato include simple sugars like fructose, glucose, sucrose and maltose. All of these sugars make up for 325 of the content of carbs.
Accordingly, with a serving of sweet potatoes in a meal, your blood sugar level in the body will immediately increase due to high glycemic index. This makes sweet potatoes not suitable for diabetics (2).
The fiber content if sweet potatoes are really high, especially the cooked one. A medium-sized sweet potato offers approximately 3.8 grams.
There are 2 forms of fiber, which are soluble fiber (pectin) and insoluble fiber (cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin). The soluble fibers can make you feel full and slow down the digestion of starches and sugars, which in turn reduces food intake and blood sugar spikes. At the same time, the insoluble fiber can benefit human, particularly diabetics and enhance gut health.
There are 3 main categories of starches in sweet potatoes, including:
- Rapidly digested starch, which makes up for 80% of starches content. The substance can be easily and instantly converted and absorbed in the digestive system, leading to an increase of the glycemic index value.
- Slowly digested starch, which accounts for 9% of starches content. This substance is broken down more slowly but have the same impacts on the glycemic index value.
- Resistant starch, which accounts for 12% of starches content and functions like fiber. Specifically, the substance help feed the friendly bacteria in the gut.
Vitamins and Minerals
Sweet potatoes are packed with an array of vitamins, including:
- Vitamin A, which is converted from beta-carotene. With 100 gram of sweet potatoes, you can get enough amount of vitamin A for daily requirement (3).
- Vitamin C, which acts as a powerful antioxidant used to promote immune system to fight back ailments and diseases (4).
- Vitamin B6, which is essential for the conversion of nutrients in the body (5).
- Vitamin B5, which is also called pantothenic acid (6).
- Vitamin E, which is an antioxidant used to stave off damages from free radicals (7).
Besides vitamins, sweet potatoes also contain many beneficial minerals, such as:
- Magnesium, which is needed for growth and development as well as metabolic activities.
- Potassium that is beneficial for blood pressure and heart health.
Other Compounds in Sweet Potatoes
Aside from all nutrients mentioned, sweet potatoes are a complex made from many other compounds that are good for our health. The more the color intensity of the flesh is, the stronger the antioxidant activity supposes to be. Such antioxidants in sweet potatoes consist of some prominent substances like beta-carotene, anthocyanins, coumarins and chlorogenic acid.
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