Healthy Body

Get a load of these taters

Written by Healthy Living

The real sweetness of sweet potatoes is the health benefits.

Story: Joy Stephenson-Laws

Sweet potatoes, not to be confused with yams, have been cultivated for thousands of years. These root vegetables are believed to have originated in Central and South America. North Carolina, which is now the largest producer of sweet potatoes in the United States, claims the sweet potato as its state vegetable.

There are more than 400 varieties of sweet potatoes around the world. You are probably most familiar with the delicious, orange-fleshed sweet potato, but there is also a beautiful purple sweet potato that is worth trying.

Don’t limit eating sweet potatoes to Thanksgiving season. They are available all year and pack a lot of health benefits.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “[b]ioactive compounds contained in this vegetable play a role in health promotion by improving immune function, reducing oxidative stress and free radical damage, reducing cardiovascular disease risk, and suppressing cancer cell growth.”


Health benefits of sweet potatoes

Fighting inflammation

Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are a great source of beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant that helps fight inflammation by diminishing free radical damage. If we can reduce our amount of free radical damage, we may also be able to lower our risk of life-threatening diseases, like cancer. Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes have more than 400 percent of your daily vitamin A needs.

Make sure to eat them with a little bit of good fat, like olive oil. The fat helps your body better absorb the vitamin A. 

Protection from heavy metals

Purple sweet potatoes may be able to lower the potential health risks posed by heavy metals and oxygen radicals. They are rich in compounds called anthocyanins, which provide a lot of antioxidant activity and may bind to heavy metals, like mercury, and help remove them from the body.

Help with liver damage

Anthocyanins in purple sweet potatoes are also associated with improving liver damage from alcohol abuse, according to a study with mice conducted by the NIH. 

Regulating blood sugar

Sweet potatoes contain adiponectin, a protein made by fat cells that circulates in the bloodstream. Low levels of this protein have been found in people who have trouble metabolizing insulin.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) examined 14,598 people and found that “[h]igher adiponectin levels were monotonically associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.” Furthermore, “[t]his inverse association was consistently observed in whites, East Asians, Asian Indians, African Americans, and Native Americans and did not differ by adiponectin assay, method of diabetes ascertainment, duration of follow-up, or proportion of women.”

Sweet potatoes are also rich in fiber. Fiber helps pace digestion, which is good for regulating blood sugar levels.

Oven-baked sweet potato fries make a great, healthy snack or side to go along with your dinner. If you are looking to be a bit more innovative with these root vegetables, check out this recipe for sweet potato brownies at paleomg.com/sweet-potato-brownies/. They are just as delicious as a traditional brownie—maybe even more!

Learning about healthy food is empowering. Healthy food is medicine. Enjoy your healthy life!


Let’s take a look at other essential nutrients in just one cup of orange sweet potatoes:

Calcium, 40 mg. Of course, calcium is important for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth. This mineral is also important for maintaining hair and nail health in perimenopausal and menopausal women. Adequate calcium intake may also decrease your risk for colorectal cancer.

Magnesium, 33 mg. Magnesium helps with blood pressure regulation and also has antioxidant properties. Several studies have also shown an improvement in the severity of symptoms of depression when study participants were given 125-300 mg of magnesium with each meal and at bedtime.

Choline, 16.4 mg. Choline is a nutrient that was recognized as an essential nutrient by the Institute of Medicine in 1998. “The importance of choline in the diet extends into adulthood and old age. In a study of healthy adult subjects deprived of dietary choline, 77 percent of the men and 80 percent of the postmenopausal women developed signs of subclinical organ dysfunction (fatty liver or muscle damage),” reports the NIH.

Phosphorus, 63 mg. This mineral works with calcium to build strong bones and teeth. It is also needed to help balance and use other vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D, iodine, magnesium and zinc.

Sodium, 73 mg. If you have high blood pressure, your doctor has probably told you to cut back on salty foods. Reducing your sodium intake can help lower high blood pressure. What your doctor may not have told you is that a good balance of sodium and potassium can also help to reduce blood pressure. Studies show that the sodium/potassium ratio intake should be less than 1. Unfortunately, only 12 percent of the U.S. population has this adequate ratio. The American Heart Association recommends a maximum daily intake of 1,500 mg of sodium, but in reality 99.8 percent of the population consumes much more. Avoid processed foods, which tend to have alarming amounts of sodium per serving. Sweet potatoes are a great source of natural sodium.

Folate, 15 mcg. Folate (also called vitamin B9) is a very important nutrient, especially for pregnant women. Folate may help prevent cancer and heart disease and improve mental health. 

Potassium, 448 mg. This mineral works with sodium to balance the fluid and electrolytes in the body. Potassium also helps keep blood pressure under control and may help reduce kidney stones and bone loss as you age. It may even reduce your risk of stroke. Most adults need about 4,700 mg of potassium per day. So, sweet potatoes are a great place to start.


Baked sweet potato zucchini tots

Veggie skeptics will be converted. These bite-size, low-carb, high-fiber tots are perfect to dip in your favorite condiments.

Difficulty: Easy | Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, steamed and cooled
  • 1½ cups finely shredded zucchini (about 2 large zucchini)
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes, or more if needed
  • ½ tsp garlic powder, or more if needed
  • ½ tsp onion powder, or more if needed
  • ½ cup almond flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper and set aside. In large mixing bowl, mash sweet potatoes. Remove excess liquid from shredded zucchini. Add zucchini to sweet potatoes. Add spices and mix very well. In small mixing bowl, add almond flour and some extra spices. Using your hands, form small tots with the vegetable mixture. Roll the mixture into the almond flour mixture until evenly coated. Arrange on tray. Bake for 20 minutes before flipping; continue to bake for another 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool briefly.

For ultra-crispy tots, bake on high heat for the last 2-3 minutes. Tots are freezer-friendly and can keep for up to one month.

Nutritional information per serving:
Calories, 153; protein, 5 grams; fat, 7 grams; fiber, 5 grams, carbs, 19 grams.

Excerpted from “Clean Snacks.” Copyright 2019 Arman Liew. Reproduced by permission of The Countryman Press. All rights reserved.


Sweet potato pizza crusts

Veggie-based pizza crusts are super-versatile. Add your favorite toppings and enjoy.

Difficulty: Easy | Makes: 4 crusts

Ingredients

  • 2 cups baked and mashed sweet potatoes
  • ½ cup coconut flour
  • ¼ cup tapioca starch (can sub for arrowroot powder, if not strictly paleo)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Toppings of choice

Directions

Combine all of the ingredients in large mixing bowl. Mix/knead well to form ball of dough. Divide into 4 equal-sized balls. Roll out each bowl into about half an inch thickness. Coat a large nonstick pan with cooking spray or oil and heat it on the stove on medium heat. Once hot, cook each pizza crust for 4-5 minutes before flipping and continuing to cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. It will stick slightly at first, but it will loosen up, which is when you it is ready to flip. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Top each crust with pizza sauce and toppings of choice. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the toppings have cooked and the edges of the crust are slightly brown. Cool briefly.

*Pizza crusts can be prepared in advance and frozen for later consumption. You don’t need to bake them twice in the oven—they can be heated in a toaster oven or microwave oven.

Nutritional information per serving:
Calories, 123; protein, 3 grams; fat, 2 grams; fiber, 7 grams, carbs, 23 grams.

Excerpted from “Clean Snacks.” Copyright 2019 Arman Liew. Reproduced by permission of The Countryman Press. All rights reserved.



Baked veggie chips

This colorful savory snack uses up all those delicious root vegetables. Ready in less than 45 minutes, they can be seasoned any way you like.

Difficulty: Easy | Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 medium golden beet
  • 1 medium beet
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 medium turnip
  • 1tb avocado oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper and set aside. Using a mandoliner or knife, slice the root vegetables into thin slices. Place them in a large mixing bowl, add the avocado oil and seasonings and mix to coat the vegetables. Spread the vegetables in a single layer, minimizing any overlap. Bake for 10-12 minutes before flipping and baking for another 10 minutes or until crispy. Remove from oven and let cool completely. 

*You can change any of the root vegetables but cooking times will differ. Sweet potatoes will need a longer cooking time than beets.

Nutritional information per serving:
Calories, 63; protein, 1 gram; fat, 4 grams; fiber, 3 grams, carbs, 8 grams.

Excerpted from “Clean Snacks.” Copyright 2019 Arman Liew. Reproduced by permission of The Countryman Press. All rights reserved.


About the writer Joy Stephenson-Laws is founder of Proactive Health Labs and author of “Minerals—The Forgotten Nutrient: Your Secret Weapon for Getting and Staying Healthy.”

About the author

Healthy Living

Healthy Living is unique in a sea of health magazines that only present information on nutrition and exercise. Published by Akers Media Group, Healthy Living goes much farther by focusing on the four pillars of a true wellness — physical, mental, spiritual and financial health.

Healthy Living promotes a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle with easy-to-read features, try-it-at-home exercise programs, and expert advice from financial planners, mental health professionals, and a variety of other leaders in their respective fields.

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