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The Health Secrets of Sweet Potatoes No One Told You About

The Health Secrets of Sweet Potatoes No One Told You About

“I basically have the diet of a 19th century Irish navy, apart from the liter of stout a day. It’s meat and potatoes and bread and cheese: those are my four food groups.” – Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter)

As I grew up in Ireland, we ate a lot of potatoes. They were generally boiled, I remember. That certainly made them healthier than having them as French fries which makes up about 33 percent of the total amount of traditional spuds eaten in the USA!

I guess we were eating a pretty healthy diet. But sweet potatoes (Convolvulaceae, and named botanically as Ipomoea batatas) were a whole new ball game for me, so I began to wonder if they were as good. Certainly, they have been around for more than 10,000 years and have been found in ancient settlements in Peruvian caves.

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Just to get your taste buds going, here is a great recipe for sweet potato fries (and they are baked in the oven, so really healthy).

As I did more research, I discovered lots of health secrets. This is where my investigation led me.

1. A great source of Vitamin A

I soon learned that both the normal type of potatoes (white or red skinned) have very similar nutrients to the sweet potato (American potato).  But in regards to Vitamin A, the sweet potato wins hands down. For each 100 gram portion, the sweet potato contains 19,218 international units of Vitamin A, while the traditional potato only has 10 of these units. Vitamin A is crucial for maintaining healthy eyesight and boosting our immune system. Other sources are orange, yellow and green vegetables.

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2. Lots of antioxidants

Antioxidants fight off the free radicals which can damage our cells. These are the toxic byproducts of oxidation which is vital for cell formation.  They are a pretty nasty lot as they are linked to all sorts of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and even certain types of cancer. The most effective way to counteract these is to ramp up your supply of antioxidants. Sweet potatoes are ideal as they contain beta-carotene, chlorogenic acid and polyphenols. Go for the more colorful purple ones as they contain many more antioxidants.

3. Stop those sugar spikes

If you eat simple carbs and not much protein, your blood sugar levels rise and give you a burst of energy. The only problem is that it will lead to a sugar crash later on. This results in lethargy and a bad mood. In order to keep blood sugar levels fairly steady, one of the best solutions is to eat sweet potatoes. They are low on the glycemic index which reduces the load on the pancreas. This can help to prevent diabetes in the long run.

4. No cholesterol

The big issue in keeping your cholesterol levels healthy is to reduce the amount of bad fats in your diet. Baked, steamed or boiled sweet potatoes are ideal in that they contain about 100 calories (medium sized potato), two grams of protein and only .17 of fat. There is no cholesterol. The secret is, of course, not to add sour cream, mayonnaise, butter or other tempting delights. Much better to add spices and /or chiles.

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5. Vital vitamin B6

We have already mentioned the fact that there are lots of vitamins, nutrients and minerals in sweet potatoes. One of these vitamins is B6 which plays a vital role in helping you to digest protein, maintain brain function and also the nervous system.  This vitamin also helps to keep the deadly homocysteine chemical at bay which can lead to heart disease and other conditions such as osteoporosis and dementia.

6. Vitamin C for great skin

The wonderful benefits of vitamin C are well known. But it is also useful for making collagen which helps to bind skin cells together and keep skin smooth and supple. In addition, it helps to heal wounds, and may be a preventive agent against cancer.  Just to give you an idea, take a 200 grams sweet potato and 52 percent of that will be Vitamin C.

7. Don’t forget the top greens

The actual green leaves from the sweet potato are also a marvelous source of essential nutrients. In fact, they contain more vitamins C, K, iron and potassium than the potato itself.

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You can find them in the markets alongside the other greens such as kale, spinach and collards. A good way to cook them is to braise them with onion. The great advantage is that they are not bitter and are more tender. They are not only highly nutritious but may prevent cancer cell growth.

8. Color is important

We mentioned above that the more colorful varieties (orange and purple) have more antioxidants. But there is also another reason why this is important for feeding the planet in the future. The actual color extract when used to add to other foods is remarkably stable. That would remove the necessity of using synthetic coloring for future food production.

Not sure whether sweet potatoes are really worth all the hassle? Just think that the nutritional value of a sweet potato is far more than broccoli. In fact, just 4 ounces of this great tuber provides 20 mg of magnesium, 348 mg of potassium plus calcium, folic acid, 25 mg of vitamin C and of course tons of vitamin A. To get the same amount of nutrients from broccoli, you would have to prepare 16 cups!

Featured photo credit: Sweet Potato Hummus/ Vegan Baking via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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