The sweet potato is one of the oldest vegetables known to man. Unbeknownst to many, the sweet potato is actually member of the morning glory family. It is one of the most nutritious vegetables on our planet, packed with nutritious vitamins and minerals providing significant levels of healthy antioxidants. Antioxidants are as precious as gold if we consider how important they are to our health, especially in the fight against disease. When we consider how beneficial the sweet potato is, it is likely we should consume this wonderful vegetable all year round. Indeed, the sweet potato should grace our tables all through the year and not make its sole appearance at the Thanksgiving meal.
Your body’s natural defense mechanisms are primed by the foods we consume. Hidden inflammation and immune system imbalance is a real concern for most Americans. Here is why. Simply stated, our bodies are made up of molecules. These molecules can become unstable when they lose an electron. Electrons can be lost through the result of metabolism or exposure to toxins, radiation and even secondhand smoke. When a molecule loses an electron, it becomes unstable and is called a free radical. Free radicals are unstable molecular structures that will swipe electrons from other molecules in an effort to become stable again. This creates a chain reaction with other molecules becoming harmful free radicals. The problem is that permanent cellular damage can occur during this chain reaction. This chain reaction is what makes free radicals such dastardly villains! Suppose this process was going on in your lungs or within your DNA. You may feel fine right now, but next year you could find yourself with a deadly disease. But there is good news, and this is where the foods rich in antioxidants such as the sweet potato, come into play. Here is why. Antioxidants can donate electrons without becoming free radicals themselves. The more antioxidants you can consume, the better off you are going to be. Consuming foods rich in antioxidants can reduce free radical damage thus slowing down the aging process, reducing cellular damage and improving your health.
The sweet potato is a rich source of vitamin A in the form of beta carotene. Our bodies need beta carotene to boost the immune system. Research has shown that this important antioxidant can help reduce the risk of cancer, cardiovascular problems and rheumatoid arthritis. Consuming one medium, cooked sweet potato will provide over 260% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A.
The sweet potato is also a good source of vitamin C, providing over 25% of the recommended daily allowance for this vitamin. Foods rich in vitamin C help protect your cells from the dreaded free radical damage that we spoke about earlier. Vitamin C rich foods may help reduce the risk of cancer, as well as improve iron absorption in the bloodstream.
Understanding the important role that antioxidants play in improving our overall health, it is no doubt that the sweet potato offers substantial health benefits for everyone. From baked sweet potatoes, to mashed sweet potatoes and everything in between, a wide variety of recipes can be found for this delicious vegetable. Alas, the sweet potato! It’s not just for Thanksgiving anymore!