Sweet potato is one of the nutrient dense foods that supply a very high concentration of Vitamin A, beta carotenes and other high quality antioxidants that are required for healthy functioning of the body. However, individuals who follow a low glycemic diet may not be aware of the fact that sweet potatoes rank fairly high on the list of high glycemic foods, but if cooked and consumed properly, the glycemic index can be reduced many folds making it an ideal diet food.
Glycemic Index of Sweet Potato
High glycemic foods refer to the nutrients that significantly increase blood sugar levels after ingestion. High glycemic foods are generally considered hazardous for health since rapid metabolism and massive release of glucose leads to a high insulin response that may lead to type 2 diabetes. However, latest research suggests that cooking style plays a significant role in determining the glycemic index of sweet potatoes. Ideally boiling reduces the glycemic index of 150 g sweet potato to just 46, which is fairly reasonable; however, if same potato is baked for 45 minutes, the glycemic index increases to 94 (almost the double due to transformation of starches). Similarly, the skin of sweet potatoes supplies a lot of micronutrients and can also be used to decrease the glycemic index further.
Sweet Potato for Weight Loss
Healthcare providers strongly believe that if used properly, sweet potatoes can serve as a great weight loss diet. Sweet potatoes make an ideal diet food that is both wholesome and low in calories. A standard 150 g sweet potato supply only 135 calories (via 31 g of carbohydrates). In addition to low calories, it is very high in nutritional quality, with a total fiber content of 3.8 grams that can stimulate gastrointestinal system and also helps in lowering down the serum cholesterol concentration many folds. Unlike other diet foods, sweet potatoes also supply ample micronutrients like Vitamin A (in a dose of 28,827 IU) and a lot of precursor elements that helps in maintaining normal metabolic processes in individuals. This amount corresponds to 4 times the daily requirement of Vitamin A.
1. High Fiber
Sweet potatoes are high in fiber content that keep you full for a longer duration, increase your basal calorie expenditure and improves the functioning of your digestive system. Research suggests that consumption of sweet potatoes with its skin supply more fiber than oatmeal and other high fiber diets. In addition to fiber content, the starches present in the sweet potatoes takes up a lot of space in your gut that limits over-eating and unnecessary snacking.
2. Low Calorie
In lieu of a number of benefits that make sweet potatoes a nutrient- dense diet, it is suggested by dietitians to increase the portions of sweet potatoes for maximum satiety with minimal calories. One serving of sweet potato furnishes only 135 calories as opposed to one serving of white potato that supply over 400 to 500 calories. In order to lose 1 pound of weight/ week, you have to essentially eliminate 500 calories from your diet (or increase your calorie expenditure by 500 calories) that can be easily achieved with sweet potatoes.
One of the primary goals of weight loss strategies is to increase the portions of nutrients that supply a lot of water with food. Sweet potatoes are composed primarily of water that keeps your stomach full for a longer period of time. Human body is composed largely of water and foods that contain high hydration content are helpful for great skin and optimal functioning of digestive tract.
Sweet Potato for Diabetes
Despite all the potential weight loss benefits of sweet potatoes, it is a common misconception that sweet potatoes are generally not recommended for diabetics. According to the recommendations of American Diabetic Association, the high fiber content and nutrient density (attributed to high concentration of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals like zinc, magnesium and potassium) makes sweet potatoes an ideal food for diabetic individuals. Unlike potatoes, sweet potatoes are 50% less in its glycemic index (80 versus 44 in sweet potatoes).
However, it has also been observed that cooking methods play a significant role in the post-meal blood sugar concentration. Boiled and meshed sweet potatoes are quickly metabolized and digested by the body leading to a moderate spike in serum sugar levels but if consumed after roasting in olive oil, the starches offer more resistance to the blood sugar levels leading to a better blood sugar profile.
Due to its cholesterol lowering properties, sweet potatoes are also helpful in decreasing the risk of cardiac complications in chronic diabetics.
Other health benefits of sweet potatoes include high concentration of powerful antioxidants like Anthocyanins (a purple pigment that is known to counter-balance free radicals and reactive oxygen species produced as a result of biological processes). In addition, the research suggests that 100 g sweet potato can suffice almost 50% of the recommended daily requirement of Vitamin C and is also preventive against high blood pressure.
Tips and Suggestions for Maximum Health Benefits
In order to gain maximum health benefits from sweet potatoes, a lot of factors should be considered; for example:
- Always choose sweet potatoes that are deeper in color (with a more orange-ish hue) that indicates the amount of beta-carotenes contained in the sweet potato.
- It is better to consume sweet potatoes with skin that contains most of its nutrients, vitamins and other healthy dietary constituents.
- Instead of using sugar or artificial sweeteners to your recipes involving sweet potatoes, it is recommended to consume nutmeg, seasonings and other herbal spices to add flavor and taste
- A perfectly nutritious sweet potato dish is the one that contains unpeeled, boiled and meshed sweet potatoes with seasonings. Adding unnecessary agents like marshmallows and sweeteners adds to the glycemic index of your food.