Most of the listings of the best anti-aging products for men include sweet potatoes somewhere near the top, pointing on the high significance of this product for the human (and especially male) health, well-being, and longevity.
"Sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A, vitamin B5, B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, and, due to their orange color, are high in carotenoids," said San Diego-based nutritionist Laura Flores. Plus, they're fat-free, relatively low in sodium and have fewer calories than white potatoes — although they do have more sugar.
Sweet potatoes are one of the best sources of vitamin A; a large one contains more than 100 percent of the daily recommended intake, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Vitamin A is an antioxidant powerhouse, and is linked to anti-aging benefits, cancer prevention and the maintenance of good eyesight, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Although the orange variety is the most common in the United States, sweet potatoes also come in white, yellow, pink and purple varieties, according to the Library of Congress. While the orange and yellow types contain the most vitamin A, the purple sort is an excellent way to get antioxidants, the Cleveland Clinic reports.
Here are the nutrition facts for sweet potatoes, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates food labeling through the National Labeling and Education Act:
For serving size 1 cup (200g):
Prevention of Vitamin A deficiency
Vitamin A plays an important role in our body, and deficiency in this essential nutrient is a major public health issue in many developing countries. Deficiency can cause both temporary and permanent damage to the eyes and even lead to blindness. It can also suppress immune function and increase mortality.
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of highly bioavailable beta-carotene that is transformed into vitamin A in our bodies. The intensity of the yellow or orange color of the sweet potato is directly linked to the beta-carotene content. Orange sweet potatoes have been shown to have a superior ability to increase blood levels of vitamin A compared to other beta-carotene sources, as they contain the “trans” variety of beta-carotene, which is highly bioavailable.
Heart health and sexual health
Sweet potatoes are a great source of B6 vitamins, which are brilliant at breaking down homocysteine, a substance that contributes to the hardening of blood vessels and arteries, according to the Harvard University School of Public Health. Sweet potatoes' potassium content is also helpful for your heart, as it lowers blood pressure by maintaining fluid balance, as explained by the American Heart Association. Potassium is also an important electrolyte that helps regulate your heartbeat.
What’s blood pressure go to do with sexual health? Well, high blood pressure is one of the most common causes of erectile dysfunction. Lowering blood pressure is a direct road to the sexual health improvement.
Controlling blood sugar and maintaining energy
For as sweet as they are, sweet potatoes have a low glycemic index (which means they release sugar slowly into the bloodstream). "Sweet potatoes — unlike other starchy foods that elevate blood sugar rapidly after [they're consumed] due to their metabolism into sugar — will help steady the levels of blood sugar," Flores said. This means you won't get blood-sugar spikes, but you will get a steady amount of energy. Flores noted that this regulation occurs even in people with type 2 diabetes.
Furthermore, the Beauregard sweet potato, an orange-skinned variety grown in North Carolina, is similar to a white-skinned variety used in Japan to make a dietary supplement called Caiapo, which is marketed to control blood glucose in people with diabetes, according to an article in Perspectives, the magazine of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University.
Researchers have found that the Beauregard "has essentially the same protein patterns" as Caiapo. Therefore, consuming sweet potatoes, or extracts from sweet potatoes, may help control blood glucose, and may someday provide a less expensive treatment with fewer side effects, said Jon Allen, a professor of food science at North Carolina State University.
As if that weren't sweet enough, sweet potatoes are a terrific source of manganese, according to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. Manganese helps the body metabolize carbohydrates and thus maintain healthy blood sugar levels, and it can even stabilize your appetite. It also helps the body utilize antioxidants.
According to the Los Angeles Department of Public Health, sweet potatoes contain magnesium, the go-to mineral for destressing. It promotes relaxation, calmness and a good mood, as well as artery, blood, bone, muscle and nerve health, according to Psychology Today.
Immunity and anti-inflammatory properties
"Due to the color-pigmented vitamins, sweet potatoes are high in anti-inflammatory benefits," Flores said. One sweet potato contains about half of the daily recommended intake of vitamin C. Vitamins A and E also support a healthy immune system and are powerful disease-fighting antioxidants. While orange sweet potatoes contain more vitamin A, purple sweet potatoes are packed with the antioxidant anthocyanin, which is responsible for red, blue and purple colors in fruits and vegetables. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, pigment-related antioxidants have anti-inflammatory properties, which are beneficial to overall health and help mitigate inflammatory disorders.
Skin and hair
Vitamin A may help protect against sun damage, according to a 2004 study in the journal Clinical Cancer Research, and vitamins C and E are well-known for their beauty benefits. They encourage healthy, glowing skin and collagen growth.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, sweet potatoes are a good source of dietary fiber, which helps the body maintain a healthy digestive tract and regulates digestion.
"Orange sweet potatoes have been shown to have anti-carcinogenic properties,” Flores said, and the NIH reports that some studies have suggested that beta-carotene may reduce the risk of breast cancer in premenopausal women and ovarian cancer in postmenopausal women.
However, purple sweet potatoes may be even more effective than orange sweet potatoes in staving off cancer. "Purple sweet potatoes have been shown to have better cancer-fighting abilities, with a positive effect on cancer cell growth," Flores said.
Sweet potatoes are also a great food to help you lose weight because they are:
· Lower in calories
· Low on the glycemic index (which means that they won’t spike your blood sugar)
· High in fiber
· High in potassium
And, according to the Mayo Clinic,
“Because low glycemic index foods are absorbed more slowly, they stay in your digestive tract longer. This is why these foods are sometimes called slow carbs. These foods may help control appetite and delay hunger cues, which can help with weight management. Balanced blood sugar also can help reduce the risk of insulin resistance.”
According to Duke ophthalmologist Jill Koury, MD, vitamin A deficiency causes the outer segments of the eye's photoreceptors to deteriorate, damaging normal vision. Correcting vitamin A deficiencies with foods high in beta-carotene will restore vision.
Also of note, the antioxidant vitamins C and E in sweet potatoes have been shown to support eye health and prevent degenerative damage.
The root provides exceptional storage proteins, that exert major anti-oxidant as well as anti-Aging benefits in our body. These proteins are powerful free radical destroyers that ward off impairment to the cells’ DNA and consequently, prevent various illnesses and also halt the process of Aging.
Laboratory investigations say, these proteins demonstrate about 1/3 rd of glutathione’s activity, (a relatively vital anti-oxidant). Storage proteins, carotenes, and vitamin C found in abundance in the root, have a decidedly favorable impact on the skin. Together, they enhance the body’s anti-oxidant levels; and thus halt the assault of Aging.
If eaten in moderation and prepared in a healthy way (that means not just indulging in sweet potato fries), sweet potatoes are a nutritious, delicious food that should pose no significant health risks. But for a vegetable, they are high in carbohydrates (about 23 grams per medium sweet potato) and calories (about 100 calories). For comparison, one serving of broccoli has about 45 calories.
They may also cause some interesting skin-related side effects. "While there aren't any severe health problems associated with sweet potatoes, they are high in vitamin A, which the body stores," Flores said. "When levels get too high, you may notice your skin and nails looking a little orange." This side effect should decrease if you cut down on sweet potato consumption.
According to the Mayo Clinic, people with a history of kidney stones may want to avoid eating too many sweet potatoes, as the vegetable contains oxalate, which contributes to the forming of calcium-oxalate kidney stones.
Yams vs. sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes and yams are often used interchangeably in recipes, but they are quite different and are not even related botanically. Sweet potatoes are members of the morning glory family, while yams are closely related to lilies and grasses. Yams are native to Africa and Asia, and there are more than 600 varieties. Compared to sweet potatoes, yams are starchier and drier.
Why the confusion? According to the Library of Congress Website Everyday Mysteries, sweet potato varieties are classified as either "firm" or "soft." In the United States, the firm varieties came first. When soft varieties were first grown commercially, there was a need to differentiate the two kinds. African slaves had been calling the soft sweet potatoes "yams" because they resembled the yams they knew in Africa. Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires labels with the term "yam" to be accompanied by the term "sweet potato." Unless you are specifically searching for yams, which can be found in international markets, you are probably eating sweet potatoes!
Sweet potatoes have more powerful nutritional benefits than yams do. Sweet potatoes and yams are both healthy foods, and they look similar. Sweet potatoes, however, have higher concentrations of most nutrients and more fiber.
Avoid buying sweet potatoes with soft skin or wrinkles, cracks or soft spots. Store in a cool, dry place for up to 3-5 weeks.
Roast sweet potatoes to bring out their natural flavor. There is no need to add in marshmallow topping or loads of butter, sweet potatoes have a naturally sweet and creamy taste that can be enjoyed all on their own. To add a little spice without extra calories, try sprinkling on cinnamon, cumin or curry powder.
The fastest way to prepare a sweet potato is in the microwave. Prick the potato with a fork and then microwave on high until soft. Make sure to let it cool for several minutes, and then drizzle with olive oil or top with fat-free plain Greek yogurt.
Roast sweet potatoes to bring out their natural flavor. To add a little spice without extra calories, try sprinkling on cinnamon, cumin or curry powder.
Try adding roasted sweet potatoes and pecans to a salad and top with balsamic vinegar. You also can try adding sweet potato to your favorite pancakes or hash browns.
The following recipes are easy to make and can be incorporated in to your daily diet:
ü Slice 2 sweet potatoes, and dab on some olive oil. Toss in your favorite seasoning: oregano, parsley, pepper, or basil. Bake till the slices turn gold-brown. This is a yummy easy to make, nutritious snack.
ü You may add sweet potatoes to sandwiches. Take about 2 sweet potatoes, boil them, and then mash them. Put in some salt and desired seasonings. Use multi-grained bread for the sandwich; stuff the sweet potatoes between the 2 bread slices. Grill.
ü You can add diced sweet potatoes to a stir-fry.
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