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Sweet potatoes, properties, benefits and cooking methods

March 02, 2022
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Sweet potatoes, properties, benefits and cooking methods

Complete food from the point of view of nutrients, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, gastroprotective, cardioprotective and neuroprotective properties, help in case of gastric ulcer, protect the intestinal microbiota, promote a good functioning of the immune system

A bright orange pulp and a buttery taste, what a delicacy these sweet potatoes! Today we are talking about a tuber that with the potatoes that are commonly eaten as a delicious side dish shares only the shape and color of the peel, the sweet potatoes, scientific name Ipomoea batatas. There are different types of sweet potato, here today we will talk about the orange-colored potato, the most common on supermarket shelves. So let's try to understand the properties of sweet potatoes on the basis of the most recent scientific research.

Sweet Potatoes, nutrients

Sweet potatoes can be considered a three in one. In fact, by eating this tuber, it is as if we were eating at the same time cereals, thanks to the high content in carbohydrates, fruit, for the high values of vitamins, especially of groups B, C, E and A, and of pectin, and vegetables, thanks the important contribution of mineral salts, such as potassium, manganese, iron and copper (Amagloh et al, Molecules, 2021). In short, sweet potatoes are a real superfood, also considering that they are characterized by a high content of antioxidant substances such as beta carotene, very abundant in the orange pulp variety, chlorogenic acid, which is characterized by a powerful anti-inflammatory action, flavonoids but also fibers and proteins (Tsai et al, Foods, 2021).

Sweet potatoes and heart

Thanks to the beneficial substances contained in them, sweet potatoes contribute to reducing cholesterol and triglyceride values (Naomi et al, Int J Mol Sci, 2021). Not only that, sweet potatoes are also antidiabetic, thanks to the presence of fibers that limit the absorption of carbohydrates and thus help to control glycemic peaks. These properties make them protective for heart health (Amagloh et al, Molecules, 2021).

Sweet potatoes and inflammation

Sweet potatoes help reduce the levels of chronic inflammation, reducing the presence of pro-inflammatory substances in the blood with benefits for the whole organism (Amagloh et al, Molecules, 2021). In fact, ever-present inflammation increases the risk of weakening the immune system, cell degeneration, obesity, cardiovascular disease and depression.

Sweet potatoes and the immune system

Sweet potatoes stimulate the immune system (Amagloh et al, Molecules, 2021). In fact, the substances contained in them help to counteract inflammation, which weaken our natural defenses, and to stimulate the activity of white blood cells.

Sweet potatoes and brain

Sweet potatoes protect good intestinal functioning thanks to their prebiotic action (Amagloh et al, Molecules, 2021). A healthy gut also means a brain that functions at its best thanks to what experts call the gut brain axis. But sweet potatoes are also neuroprotective thanks to their content in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant substances (Amagloh et al, Molecules, 2021).

Sweet potatoes and gastrointestinal tract

As mentioned, sweet potatoes support the healthy microbiota since they are prebiotic. Not only that, the presence of fibers improves intestinal transit. But that's not all, in fact, sweet potatoes also heal and prove beneficial in case of gastric ulcer thanks to the presence of carotenoids (Bae et al, Pharmaceuticals, 2021).

Sweet potatoes, what happens with cooking

When sweet potatoes are roasted their antioxidant content can even increase, while the amount of sugar present is reduced (Tsai et al, Foods, 2021). In general, any type of cooking, such as steaming or microwave cooking, increases the antioxidant content of the sweet potato. However, this effect was not observed in boiling (Amagloh et al, Molecules, 2021). Among all types of cooking, it is always better to avoid frying as even sweet potatoes, if subjected to this cooking process, develop acrylamide, which is a carcinogen (Atuna et al, Front Nutr, 2021).

The perfect combination

We can therefore see that sweet potatoes are a precious source of substances that are beneficial for our health. But is there a way to maximize the absorption of beta carotene, the antioxidant that is present in high quantities in orange sweet potatoes? Studies have observed that the beta carotene contained in vegetables is better absorbed when combined with foods and condiments containing monounsaturated fatty acids, such as extra virgin olive oil.

Then try cutting the sweet potatoes into slices and steaming them.

Then, leaving the skin, you can blend them until you get a puree, add extra virgin olive oil and mix. However, sweet potatoes have also been found to be low in some types of essential amino acids, such as histidine and methionine. Histidine is a precursor of various hormones and substances essential for the proper functioning of the kidneys, gastrointestinal system, immune system and neurotransmission. Methionine contributes to regulating metabolic processes, defenses against external attacks and digestion. To overcome this lack and offer a truly complete dish, it is possible to associate the sweet potato puree just seen with a portion of chickpeas, which instead also provide the missing amino acids (Lewandowski et al, Foods, 2021).

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