Are Sweet Potato “Yams” Good For You?

Sweet Potatoes: More Than Just Food for the Holidays

Photo: Raw Sweet Potato

When consumed in moderation, sweet potatoes can provide a rich concentration of nutrients. This makes them an ideal addition to your meals throughout the year. A substantial amount of research has proven that these naturally-sweet root vegetables possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and disease-fighting components.1, 2, 3

Especially in light of their high sugar content, a surprising fact about sweet potatoes is their ability to help regulate blood sugar, even in type 2 diabetes patients. Research has verified that sweet potato extract can increase blood levels of adiponectin, a protein hormone produced by your fat cells, to regulate the way your body metabolize insulin, and even lower insulin levels when needed.

Orange-colored sweet potatoes owe their appearance to the carotenoid beta-carotene. Carotenoids are natural pigments responsible for the colorful appearances of some fruits and vegetables.

As an antioxidant, beta-carotene can help ward off free radicals that damage cells through oxidation, which can speed up aging and make you vulnerable against chronic diseases. This antioxidant can help support your immune system, as well as lower your risk of heart disease and cancer.14

Beta-carotene can be converted into retinol or vitamin A by your body,15 and vitamin A contributes to optimal eye health and vision. While taking vitamin A in large doses can be toxic, receiving it from beta-carotene is considered safe due to your body’s ability to regulate its vitamin A production.16

Sweet potatoes can also contribute to skin health. Vitamin A, which is a natural anti-inflammatory, can help get rid of acne-causing bacteria.17

Purple sweet potatoes, on the other hand, contain anthocyanins, another type of natural pigments. Anthocyanins are associated with reduced cancer risk. Studies show they help suppress stomach, colon, lung, and breast cancer cell proliferation.18 They also prevent blood clots by stopping platelets from clumping together – a function that may help fight heart disease.19

Other Beneficial Compounds Found in Sweet Potatoes

While orange sweet potatoes have anti-carcinogenic properties, it was found that purple sweet potatoes have better cancer-fighting abilities because they have cyanidins and peonidins, which have a positive effect against cancer cell growth.

These cancer-fighting compounds, which are more prevalent in the flesh than in the skin,20 are found to help reduce the potential dangers of heavy metals, such as mercury, cadmium, and arsenic. This is beneficial to individuals diagnosed with digestive problems like irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis, as well as to those who wish to reduce their exposure to metal toxins.21

Sweet potatoes also contain two important antioxidant enzymes: copper/zinc superoxide dismutase and catalase. According to one study, purple sweet potatoes have more than three times the antioxidant activity than that of one blueberry.22 In addition to sweet potatoes’ antioxidant content, these vegetables are also great sources of vitamins C and B5, copper, dietary fiber, niacin, potassium, and iron.23

Sweet Potatoes Can Address Inflammation, Too

One study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food report that sweet potatoes have anti-inflammatory potential because of their concentration of nutrients. Sweet potato extract is said to help reduce inflammation in brain and nerve tissue throughout your body.24The phytonutrients within sweet potatoes also influence fibrinogen, an important glycoprotein required for blood clotting. Together with thrombin and fibrin, balanced amounts of fibrinogen are important for wound healing and blood loss prevention.

Are Sweet Potatoes Safe for Diabetics and Pre-Diabetics?

According to research conducted in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, sweet potatoes are a low-glycemic index (GI) food, which release glucose very slowly into the bloodstream.25 Low-glycemic foods also benefit the pancreas by not overworking it and make you feel satiated longer.26

Other research shows that sweet potatoes can help regulate blood sugar because of their ability to raise blood levels of adiponectin, a protein hormone created by your fat cells, to help regulate how your body metabolizes insulin.27

Even if these findings exist, sweet potatoes should still be consumed in moderation. Keep in mind that the sweet potato is a naturally sweet food and its varieties differ with their sugar content. An example is the American sweet potato, which is grown because of its sweetness. It contains 6.5 grams of sugar per 100 grams.28

If you’re a diabetic or are suffering from problems related to insulin resistance, consult your doctor to know whether it’s safe for you to consume sweet potatoes.

Studies Done on Sweet Potatoes

Studies show that heat processing methods for sweet potatoes, such as steaming, baking, or boiling as opposed to raw, not only releases beta-carotenes, but also makes them more accessible to the body,1 possibly because heat causes a disruption in the microstructure of the tissue.

Other studies have demonstrated that sweet potato extract has anti-obesity and anti-inflammatory potential, reducing inflammation in brain tissue and nerve tissue throughout the body.2

Anthocyanidins, responsible for the pigmentation of deeply-hued vegetables like purple sweet potatoes, contain flavonoid and antioxidant wound-healing properties. Studies have attributed anthocyanidins for suppressing stomach, colon, lung, and breast cancer cell growth. Because they also prevent platelets from sticking together, they prevent blood clots, which may in turn help fight heart disease.

Other polyphenols in purple sweet potatoes include cyanidins and peonidins, which studies indicate have strong counter effects on cancer cell growth. Interestingly, these anti-cancer compounds are more concentrated in the sweet potato itself than the skin,3 and may also lower the dangers posed by heavy metals and oxygen radicals, including mercury, cadmium, and arsenic.

Research in another study showed both benign and cancerous colorectal tumors to multiply in the presence of substances such as pyridine, (structurally related to benzene and ammonia) and dimethylhydrazine (a rocket propellant), but these toxins were inhibited by introducing purple sweet potato.4 The results “clearly demonstrated” that purple sweet potato has the capacity to reduce colorectal carcinogens.

For more info, see: Dr. Mercola’s “What Are Sweet Potatoes Good For?” & “Sweet Potatoes: A Tasty Treat for Your Health”

Is Sweet Potato Good For My Blood Type?

A Secretor:  AVOID: Secretory insufficiency. Induces dysbiosis. Inhibits proper gastric function or blocks assimilation.
A Non Secretor:  NEUTRAL

B Secretor:  BENEFICIAL: Contains component which positively influences known disease susceptibility.
B Non Secretor:  BENEFICIAL: Contains component which positively influences known disease susceptibility.

Introductory Food: Type B children should have this solid food introduced at about between 9 and 12 months of age. (Eat Right 4 Your Baby)

AB Secretor:  BENEFICIAL: Contains component which positively influences known disease susceptibility.
AB Non Secretor:  BENEFICIAL: Contains component which positively influences known disease susceptibility.

Introductory Food: Type AB children should have this solid food introduced at about 6 months of age. (Eat Right 4 Your Baby)

O Secretor:  BENEFICIAL: Contains component which positively influences known disease susceptibility.
O Non Secretor:  NEUTRAL

Introductory Food: Type O children should have this solid food introduced at about 6 months of age. (Eat Right 4 Your Baby)

For more info, see: Dr. D’Adamo’s Typebase 4: Sweet Potato & Dr. D’Adamo’s Typebase 5: Sweet Potato

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