By Naini Setalvad
The rotund sweet potato has a wealth of goodness hiding within its stout frame.
Sweet potatoes are among the unsung heroes of a balanced diet. For a reasonable number of calories you get loads of nutrients! My own acquaintance with it in childhood was restricted to religious festivals or when someone was on a fast. In Hindu fasts, vegetables and grains are eschewed in favour of fruits, dry fruits, nuts, seeds, milk and root vegetables like sweet potatoes, yam and potato.
But as I delved deeper into nutrition, its glories stood revealed!
The colour of the sweet potato varies from purple, red, pale yellow or white, depending upon the variety, soil type, climate and minerals. The red variety has a characteristic aroma which becomes more prominent on boiling. The redder or more orange the colour of the flesh, the stronger the aroma. Perhaps this is due to the presence of beta carotene whose concentration also increases with the colour.
Get rid of the myth that this fantastic food is fattening. It is low in glycemic index so it keeps you full for a longer time, automatically preventing binging.
Here are the other good things this wonder veg has going for it:
Increases your immunity
It is very rich in beta carotene which is a major anti-oxidant that prevents degenerative diseases. Remember that beta carotene plays a very important role in maintaining eye health as well as being a stout warrior in the fight against cancer. A champion anti-oxidant and anti-carcinogenic full of Vitamin C, the sweet potato is very beneficial in curing many types of cancer, mainly those of colon, intestines, prostrate, kidneys and other internal organs.
Like the common potato, the sweet potato also has anti-inflammatory properties, although it does not belong to the family of common potato. This is primarily due to the presence of beta-carotene, Vitamin C and magnesium. It is equally effective in curing internal and external inflammations.
The sweet potato is effective in curing congestion of nose, bronchials and lungs, thereby giving relief in asthma. Its aroma helps in this.
The concentration of Vitamin C, iron and other nutrients help bronchitis. It is believed to be capable of warming up the body (probably due to its sweetness and other nutrients), thereby helping manage bronchitis and also congestion.
Beta-carotene, magnesium, zinc and Vitamin B complex, among others, enable the sweet potato to lend a helping hand in the management of arthritis. The water in which it is boiled can be applied externally on joints too, to ease arthritic pain.
Its fibre content is higher than that of the common potato and it tastes good too. When these two qualities are supported by minerals like magnesium, it makes an excellent facilitator for digestion. Sweet potatoes are easy to digest too, since they mainly contain starch. They are soothing for the stomach and intestines too.
The fibre or roughage present in sweet potatoes helps retain water. This maintains water balance in the body.
The sweet potato has a soothing effect on the stomach and intestines. The vitamins (B-complex and C), beta carotene, potassium and calcium are very effective in curing stomach ulcers. Moreover, the roughage in sweet potatoes prevents constipation and resultant acid formation, thereby reducing the chance of ulcers. The anti-inflammatory and soothing properties of sweet potatoes also reduce the pain and inflammation of the ulcers.
Contrary to popular belief, the sweet potato is beneficial for diabetics. Amazingly, it regulates blood sugar levels by helping the proper secretion and function of insulin. Of course, that does not mean that diabetics should eat them indiscriminately. They could, however, replace their rice or carbohydrate intake with sweet potatoes.
Yes, you can gain weight too. The sweet potato is sweet and contains a good amount of complex starch, apart from healthy vitamins, minerals and some proteins too. It provides a lot of energy and is an excellent bulk builder. Those who have trouble gaining weight should avail of this option which has no side-effect, unlike the synthetic bulk building dietary supplements.
It is effective in helping quit addictions like smoking, drinking or drugs. It is good for the health of arteries and veins, as it protects their walls against hardening. The high concentration is excellent for cardiac health. Versatile, full of fibre and nutritious. Go for sweet potatoes all the way.
How do we use a sweet potato?
It can be steamed, baked, grilled, boiled; a freshly baked or steamed sweet potato is delicious and nutritious. Of course, come winter, there is no alternative to a delicious roasted tuber on coal!
Sweet potatoes in buttermilk
200 grams sweet potatoes
2 cups buttermilk
1 green chilli
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ghee
2 tsps chopped coriander
Salt to taste
Wash the sweet potato well and steam it till soft but firm. Chop it into medium-sized cubes. In a wok add one tsp ghee and splutter the cumin. Sauté for one minute before adding the sweet potato, green chili, buttermilk and salt. Cook for a while and garnish with coriander.
Naini Setalvad is a nutritionist specialising in lifestyle and immunity disorders. Her foundation, Health For You, throws light on healthy food habits.
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