The bright orange flesh of a sweet potato does more than add color to your plate. In both Eastern and Western perspectives, sweet potatoes are among the healthiest foods on Earth. Most Western cultures view foods for their tangible properties, such as nutritional index, vitamin percentages, and caloric intake. Those in the East look at the energetic essence of foods. Here’s a run-down of the sweet potato from a Western perspective.
- Beta-Carotene (Vitamin A): The unmistakable color of a sweet potato indicates a high level of carotenoids, like beta-carotene. Foods rich in beta-carotene are high in antioxidants, and may protect against colon and prostate cancers, while reducing the signs of aging. Beta-carotene is converted into Vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is important to bone growth and vision health. Beta-carotene also helps the body to produce white blood cells, which are used to fight off viruses and bacteria. One medium-sized sweet potato provides over 400% of your daily Vitamin A intake. Yes, you read that right—400%.
- Vitamins E and C: Orange-colored sweet potatoes are high in Vitamin E for healthy, smooth skin and hair. They’re also high in Vitamin C, which comes in handy during cold and flu season.
- Heart Healthy: With high levels of potassium, sweet potatoes help to regulate fluid in the body and lower blood pressure. The tubers are also high in Vitamin B6, which helps blood to flow freely through the arteries and blood vessels.
- Blood Sugar Regulator: While sweet potatoes are naturally sweet, they have a low glycemic index. These root vegetables break down slowly in the body and actually help to regulate blood sugar. In addition, they are rich in manganese, which helps the body metabolize carbohydrates.
- Fiber Rich: Sweet potatoes can provide some much-needed help in the digestion department. Keep the skin on when baking your next sweet potato. The skin is full of fiber to help keep your digestive system regular.
While sweet potatoes carry multiple health benefits from a Western perspective, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) delves a bit deeper into healing properties based on the essence of the food. According to the Five Element Theory, colors and tastes of foods are connected with the energetic functions of certain organs.
Sweet potatoes are traditionally good for healthy digestion. Their color (yellow/orange), taste (sweet), and essence (as root vegetables) benefit the Stomach and Spleen, the organs associated with Earth and digestion. The Late Summer is the time when the Stomach and Spleen’s energy is dominant. Eating sweet potatoes and other Stomach-loving foods at this time of the year will help support your body and align your energies with that of Nature.
From both a Western and an Eastern perspective, sweet potatoes are chock-full of beneficial properties. They’re also tasty and versatile. You can roast them, mash them, add them to soups and casseroles, bake them in pies, and enjoy them in many other ways—sweet or savory.
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