A Nutritious Vegetable - The Sweet Potato
The American Heart Association (AHA) certified in November 2010 that sweet potatoes (U.S. grown, orange, flesh varieties) to be low in saturated fat and cholesterol. This certification enables our Council and Council Members to use AHA's Heart Check Mark in their packaging and promotion materials to increase consumption.
The sweet potato is very highly regarded among health professionals. Due to its reputation as the most nutritious vegetable and increasing consumer interest in healthy eating, as well as increasing positive publicity about the nutritional benefits of sweet potatoes, both production and consumption of this nutrition-filled vegetable are increasing. (See Table 1, below).
Sweet potatoes are loaded with carotenoids, especially beta-carotene. Apart from its provitamin A function, data continues to accumulate supporting a role for beta carotene as an important nutrient in its own right. Consumption of goods rich in beta-carotene is being recommended by scientists and government organizations such as the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Epidemiological studies consistently indicate that as consumption of beta-carotene rich fruits and vegetables increases, the risks of certain cancers (i.e. lung and stomach) and cardio vascular diseases decreases. Visit vitamin-basics.com
The Center for Public Interest (CSPI) ranks the sweet potato as one of the most nutritious vegetables. The sweet potato is also an important source of vitamin B6, iron, potassium and fiber.
Sweet potatoes contain virtually no fat and are low in sodium. Sweet potatoes help to promote a healthy digestive tract. They are also a substantial source of dietary fiber, especially when eaten with the skin. There is more fiber in one sweet potato than in a bowl of oatmeal.
Fiber may also lower your risk of colon cancer, says Peter Greenwald, MD, director of the division of Cancer Prevention and Control of the National Cancer Institute. Experts believe that fiber may increase bulk in the colon, thereby "diluting" possible cancer promoting substances (carcinogens) that are found in food or formed during digestion.
The sweet potato is a complex carbohydrate that provides twice the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A and more than one-third of the requirements for vitamin C.
Vitamin A in sweet potatoes is necessary for strong tissues and is required to maintain a healthy immune system function and develop resistance to infection. It also protects the body form cardiovascular disease and lowers the risk of stroke.
Potassium in sweet potatoes helps maintain fluid and electrolyte balance in the body cells, as well as normal heart function, nerve function and blood pressure. Source: Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements.
Positive publicity for sweet potatoes
Op-ed columnist, Nicholas D. Kristof, wrote an article in the New York Times entitled "Bless the Orange Sweet Potato." Mr. Kristof states that "our hero,... is a high tech and heroic version of the vitamin packed, orange flesh sweet potato." He goes on to discuss how the orange flesh sweet potato, with its high beta-carotene content might save hundreds of thousands of lives of small children.
Renee Schoof wrote a similar article for McClatchey Newspapers entitled "Sweet potato a key ingredient in world malnutrition fight."
The sweet potato is well known for its nutrition. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has provided a list of "best foods". This list has sweet potatoes as Number One on the best foods list.
An article at DietsinReview.com entitled "Sweet Potato Ranked First in Nutrition", and discusses how CSPI ranked the sweet potato the most nutritious vegetable of all.
An article in the Nutrition Action Healthletter, a scoring system was used to rate the most nutritious vegetables, and sweet potatoes received the highest score.
In an article entitled "5 Best (and Worst) Holiday Foods", Katherine Brooking places sweet potatoes in the #1 position, again. According to Ms. Brooking, "Sweet Potatoes are a nutritional powerhouse. An Excellent source of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant, they're also a good source of Vitamin C, dietary fiber, and potassium. Best of all, they taste like a dessert! The sweet in these potatoes comes from an enzyme that converts most of the root's starches to sugars as it matures. This sweetness intensifies during storage and as the potato is cooked. This is one holiday favorite worth adding to your meals year round."
Sweet potatoes contain no fat, no saturated fat, no trans fat, and no cholesterol. However, it does contain a large array of important beneficial nutrients. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) has established a rule that, to be a "significant source" of a nutrient, a food must contain at least 10 percent of the United States Recommended Daily Allowance (USRDA) of that nutrient. Sweet potatoes contain four such nutrients - Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium and fiber - four nutrients that exceed 10 percent of the USRDA. Other important and beneficial nutrients in sweet potatoes are: Vitamin B6, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Calcium, Copper, Iron, Folate, and beta-carotene. Visit the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion website