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Nutrition facts about Sweet potato

Sweet potato, not only is just sweet to your taste buds but also good for your cardiovascular health. This starchy root vegetable is rich source of flavonoid anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber that are essential for optimal health. Botanically, this tuber belongs to the family of Convolvulaceae, and named botanically as Ipomoea batatas. It is grown throughout the tropical and warm temperate regions. The crop requires just sufficient water and attention for their cultivation. The tuberous root has oblong/elongated shape with tapering ends and has smooth outer skin whose color ranges from red, purple, brown, and white, depending up on the variety.                                    Sweet potatoes Sweet potatoes should not be confused with yams, another starchy root commonly grown in Western Africa. Yams are indeed larger in size that can grow up to 120 pounds in weight and up to 2 meters in length. Yams are the tropical crops and never grow where the temperature dips below 68 degrees F. Important differentiating features that distinguish sweet potatoes from yams are:
  • Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are dicotyledonous, relatively smaller and possess very thin peel.
  • Whereas, yams are monocotyledons, larger, features thick, rough, dark brown to pink skin depending up on cultivar type.
Internally, it has starchy flesh which, depending upon the pigments concentration, ranges from white through yellow, orange, and purple. Boniatos, also known as Cuban sweet potatoes, feature dry, starchy flesh underneath the reddish brown skin. They have mildly sweet flavor and coked in a similar way like potatoes. Sweet potato leaves (top greens) are also edible; in fact, the greens contain more nutrients and dietary fiber than some green leafy vegetables like spinch (for example, 100 g sweet potato leaves provide 1028 IU of vitamin A). Health benefits of Sweet potato
  1. Nutritious sweet potatoes are low in calories (provide just 90 cal/100 g, on comparison with starch rich cereals) and contains no saturated fats and cholesterol; but are rich source of dietary fiber, anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals.
  2. They are storehouse of starch, a complex carbohydrate, which raises the blood sugar levels slowly on comparison to simple sugars; therefore, recommended as a healthy food supplement even in diabetes.
  3. They are excellent source of flavonoids like beta-carotene and vitamin A (provides 14187 IU of vitamin A and 8509 mcg of β-carotene). The value is one of the highest among root vegetables category. These compounds are powerful natural antioxidants. Vitamin A is also required by the body to maintain integrity of healthy mucus membranes and skin. It is also vital nutrient for vision. Consumption of natural vegetables and fruits rich in flavonoids helps to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
  4. The tubers are packed with many essential vitamins such as pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) and thiamin (vitamin B-1), niacin, and riboflavin. These vitamins are essential in the sense that body requires them from external sources to replenish. These vitamins function as co-factors for various enzymes during metabolism.
  5. They also contain good amounts of minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and potassium that are very essential for body metabolism.
See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients: Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas), raw, Nutrition value per 100 g. (Source: USDA National Nutrient data base) Principle Nutrient Value Percentage of RDA Energy 86 Kcal 4% Carbohydrates 20.12 g 15.5% Protein 1.6 g 3% Total Fat 0.05 g <0.5% Cholesterol 0 mg 0% Dietary Fiber 3 g 8% Vitamins Folates 11 µg  3% Niacin 0.557 mg 3.5% Pantothenic acid 0.80 mg 16% Pyridoxine 0.209 mg 15% Riboflavin 0.061 mg 5.5% Thiamin 0.078 mg 6.5% Vitamin A 14187 IU 473% Vitamin C 2.4 mg 4% Vitamin E 0.26 mg 2% Vitamin K 1.8 µg  1.5% Electrolytes Sodium 55 mg 3.5% Potassium 337 mg 7% Minerals Calcium 30 mg 3% Iron 0.61 mg 7.5% Magnesium 25 mg 6% Manganese 0.258 mg 11% Phosphorus 47 mg 7% Zinc 0.30 mg 3% Phyto-nutrients Carotene-α 7 µg  -- Carotene-ß 8509 µg  -- Crypto-xanthin-ß 0 µg  -- Selection and storage Although sweet potato leaves are being eaten in some parts of the world, the root that is the toast of sweet potato lovers. In the store, buy fresh tubers with intact smooth skin and firm to woody consistency. Go for organic varieties for best taste and nutrition levels. Avoid soft, flabby, or wilted roots. In addition, sprouting make them loose flavor. Wash them in clean running water to remove sand and soil. They should be stored in a cool, dark, and well-ventilated place. Preparation and serving methods To prepare, wash the root in cold water. It can be eaten raw with skin. However, for baking preparations, its skin may be peeled off before or after cooked.

Sweet potato pie! Photo courtesy: andycoan Delicious sweet potato soup. Photo courtesy: exfordy Here are some serving tips:
  1. Fresh sweet potatoes can be eaten raw.
  2. Baking in water with a pinch of salt would give rich taste to them. Peel off the skin before eating.
  3. It sweet flesh used in soups, curries, stews, and in confectionary to make cakes, pie...etc.
  4. The tuber also used to prepare different kinds of baby foods.
  5. Sweet potato chips are enjoyed as favorite snacks.
Safety profile Sweet potatoes contain oxalic acid, a naturally occurring substance found in some vegetables that may crystallize as oxalate stones in the urinary tract in some people. It is, therefore, individuals with known history of oxalate urinary tract stones may have to avoid eating them. Adequate intake of water is therefore advised to maintain normal urine output in these individuals to minimize stone risk. 

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