In recent months there’s been a lot in the British press, about the rapidly growing rate of obesity, especially in children.
So, being the health conscious (but also pizza and chip loving) being that I am, I decided to focus this post on something that we could all do with a bit more of in our diets, super foods; and one superfood in particular, deliciously gorgeous sweet potatoes.
But first, what are superfoods? Do they even exist? Their legitimacy has come in to question in recent years, and while I don’t personally believe there’s one group of foods that can cure all ills, obesity included, perhaps there are some foods, that when included in a colourful and varied diet of fresh ingredients, can help to boost our health and wellbeing.
If someone asked me what my favourite food is, I would have to answer “sweet potatoes”. Not only are they delicious to me, they are so versitile, sweet and savoury; Deliciously Ella even made brownies with them!
They are also one of the most nutritiously dense foods out there, and public health experts in Africa are even hailing the humble sweet potato as a living Vitamin A supplement. That’s a pretty glowing recommendation, but the benefits don’t end there…
- So let’s start with the vitamins, sweet potatoes contain vitamin A in abundance. Necessary for bone growth, along with keeping immune and reproductive systems healthy; one regular sized sweet potato contains more than 100% of our daily requirements. Vitamin A, and in particularly its precursor, carotenoids, are also especially important for women. Past studies on women in the early stages of breast cancer, found that those with the highest level of carotenoids in their blood, had the least likelihood of the cancer returning.
- Another vitamin required for keeping immune systems in top condition is Vitamin B6. But that’s not all, this particular vitamin stimulates co-enzymatic activities that have positive effects on metabolism, premenstrual pain and strain, hormone control and skin conditions. Perhaps most importantly though, vitamin B6 helps to reduce the chemical homocysteine in our bodies. Homocysteine has been linked with degenerative diseases including heart disease, kidney disorders and carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Next on the vitamin hit list is Vitamin C. Our bodies can’t store this particular vitamin, so we need to get it from our diets every day. Not just good at keeping colds and flus at bay, vitamin C is crucial in forming bones, teeth and red blood cells, aiding digestion, healing wounds, and producing collagen to maintain our youthful skin! Also, if you’re a keen exerciser, vitamin C is an important antioxidant that protects against the harmful effects of free radicals.
- The last vitamin on my list is D. Again important for healthy bone and teeth growth, it’s also necessary for maintaining energy levels and mood, along with protecting against diseases such as cancer, type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis. Let’s face it, with the below average sun levels here in the UK, we need all the help we can get with our vitamin D intake; eat up and don’t be S.A.D! After all these vitamins, as if there’s room for much else… But there is, minerals like Iron, Magnesium, Potassium.
- When I first started working behind a desk 4 years ago, my energy levels plummeted, so as a quick fix I started taking iron supplements. We all know we need iron to maintain adequate energy levels, but this isn’t all our bodies use iron for. It’s also needed for red and white blood cell production, stress management and metabolising proteins.
- Another anti-stress mineral is magnesium. Great for relaxation, but also necessary for healthy artery, blood, bone, heart, muscle and nerve function.
- When thinking of potassium, bananas immediately spring to mind, but sweet potatoes are a great source of this important mineral. Great for regulating heartbeat, relaxing muscles, reducing swelling and keeping our kidneys active and functioning.
- With the current war on “hidden” and added sugars looking to continue, sweet potatoes are great for people suffering with diabetes. They contain naturally occurring sugars, which are released slowly in to our bloodstream, and help to maintain regular blood sugar levels, preventing spikes that can cause tiredness and weight gain.
It is for these reasons that sweet potatoes are consumed in such vast quantities in third world countries such as Africa. Work is currently ongoing to grow more of the orange varieties, as their current white fleshed potatoes are not so nutrient rich.
Even within countries such as Japan, in areas where weather has made it almost impossible for rice to be grown, sweet potatoes (often purple fleshed!) are consumed by the poorer communities; give me sweet potatoes over rice any day!
Roast, boil, bake, grill, steam, mash, fry, purée; sweet potatoes are so versatile. As if you need much more persuasion, unlike their white potato counterpart, sweet potatoes are considered one of your five a day.
If ever there was a super food in existence, I believe this to be it, so consume away.
Check out my Instagram @My_Vegan_Kitchen for ideas on how to cook and consume more of these delicious vegetables 🍠.