One would have thought that sweet potatoes can never be beneficial for someone living with diabetes because of the prefix ‘sweet’. A misconception many people think a fact. It might surprise you that the reverse is the case.
The sweet benefits…
What’s fascinating about sweet potatoes is their ability to actually improve blood sugar regulation. Apart from the fact that sweet potatoes contain a valuable amount of dietary fiber (about 3 grams per medium sweet potato), boiling or steaming it can bring the glycemic index (GI) rating to approximately 50 which makes sweet potato a reasonable food choice for a diabetic. Recent research have also shown that extracts from sweet potatoes can significantly increase blood levels of adiponectin in persons with type 2 diabetes. Adiponectin is a protein hormone produced by our fat cells (adipocytes), and it serves as an important modifier of insulin metabolism. Persons with poorly-regulated insulin metabolism and insulin insensitivity tend to have lower levels of adiponectin, and persons with healthier insulin metabolism tend to have higher levels. So, people with diabetes do have an ally in sweet potatoes. But the theme is always moderation, as with all foods as far as diabetes is concerned.
There’s even more…
Sweet potatoes contain large amounts of carotenoid pigments. Sweet potatoes have been shown to be a highly effective way of providing school age children with sizable amounts of their daily vitamin A. In some studies, sweet potatoes have been shown to be a better source of *bioavailable beta-carotene than green leafy vegetables. Because sweet potatoes are available in many countries on a virtual year-round basis, their ability to provide us with a key antioxidant like beta-carotene makes them a stand-out antioxidant food.
Note that it is important to have some fat in your sweet potato-containing meals if you want to enjoy the full beta-carotene benefits of this root vegetable. Studies have shown that a minimum of 3-5 grams of fat per meal significantly increases our uptake of beta-carotene from sweet potatoes. Of course, this minimal amount of fat can be very easy to include. Just add one tablespoonful of vegetable oil preferably olive oil to your sweet potato meal recipe!
When we eat sweet potatoes and they pass through our digestive tract, the cyanidins and peonidins and other color-related phytonutrients that it contains may be able to lower the potential health risk posed by heavy metals and oxygen radicals. This risk reduction is important for individuals at risk of digestive tract problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or ulcerative colitis and for all persons wanting to reduce the potential risk posed by heavy metal residues like mercury in their diet.
Apart from these array of benefits, sweet potatoes also contain storage proteins called sporamins with unique antioxidant properties. They are an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene) and a very good source of vitamin C and manganese. In addition, sweet potatoes are a good source of copper, vitamin B6, potassium and iron.
*bioavailable - easily absorbed by body cells or tissues