Not only are sweet potatoes readily available, inexpensive, and delicious, there are many other reasons to love these yummy vegetables. Here are 9:
1. They are high in vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 helps reduce the chemical homocysteine in our bodies. Homocysteine has been linked with degenerative diseases, including the prevention of heart attacks.
2. They are a good source of vitamin C. While most people know that vitamin C is important to help ward off cold and flu viruses, few people are aware that this crucial vitamin plays an important role in bone and tooth formation, digestion, and blood cell formation. It helps accelerate wound healing, produces collagen which helps maintain skin’s youthful elasticity, and is essential to helping us cope with stress. It even appears to help protect our body against toxins that may be linked to cancer.
3. They contain Vitamin D which is critical for immune system and overall health at this time of year. Both a vitamin and a hormone, vitamin D is primarily made in our bodies as a result of getting adequate sunlight. You may have heard about seasonal affective disorder (or SAD, as it is also called), which is linked to inadequate sunlight and therefore a vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D plays an important role in our energy levels, moods, and helps to build healthy bones, heart, nerves, skin, and teeth, and it supports the thyroid gland.
4. Sweet potatoes contain iron. Most people are aware that we need the mineral iron to have adequate energy, but iron plays other important roles in our body, including red and white blood cell production, resistance to stress, proper immune functioning, and the metabolizing of protein, among other things.
Missing the trace mineral magnesium in your diet can lead to a host of chronic health disorders that are often misdiagnosed. Magnesium is required in over 350 different enzymes, plus hundreds of essential functions in the body. In her informative book, The Miracle of Magnesium, Dr. Carolyn Dean writes that there has been a gradual decline of dietary magnesium in the United States, from a high of 500 mg/day at the turn of the century to barely 175-225 mg/day in 2010. Recommended dose for women over 30 years of age can be 320 mg per day.
Much of the cause for this decline has been linked to industrial farming and food processing. If the soil we grow our food in is lacking essential minerals, than the vegetables, grains, fruits, beans, legumes, seeds, and nuts are lacking those minerals as well. A hefty percentage of magnesium is also lost when removing the bran from grains in the refining process.
According to the National Academy of Sciences, Americans are critically lacking in adequate amounts of magnesium with men receiving only 80 percent of the recommended daily allowance and women receiving only 70 percent. This lack of magnesium can lead to a list of common health disorders. The irony is that many of the pharmaceutical drugs used to treat these conditions only deplete magnesium and other essential minerals further. If you suffer from any of these health conditions or know of someone who does, consult your doctor and have your levels of magnesium checked. Taking supplemental magnesium and eating foods high in the mineral can help to reverse these conditions.
Great health can be as simple as balancing your body chemistry. Don’t let the word “chemistry” scare you. To balance your body chemistry, consider your pH levels. The pH scale is a measure of acidity and alkalinity in your body. Acid is on one side of the spectrum, starting at 0; alkaline is on the other side of the spectrum up to 14. Neutral is 7.0. Anything less than 7 is acid and anything higher than 7 is alkaline. You’re probably more familiar with the pH scale than you think. If you’ve ever cleaned with baking soda and vinegar you’re familiar with concept. Vinegar is acidic and baking soda is alkaline. When you put the two together (perhaps as a natural drain cleaner) the two bubble and fizz until they neutralize each other.
Your body works to maintain your blood’s pH at slightly alkaline (7.365). Most people eat an acid-forming diet of meat, dairy products, sugar and other sweets, wheat, processed white flour pastas and bakery items, coffee, tea, trans fats, and food additives that acidify their body.
Maintaining a stable blood pH is critical to life so the body has numerous mechanisms to help keep the balance: excretion from the kidneys, leaching calcium from the bones or magnesium from the muscles, among others. Over time, the burden on the kidneys and the elimination of alkaline minerals from critical areas of the body can lead to health issues.
One of the problems with the American diet seems to be that fresh, nutritious produce is unaffordable or not easily accessible to many segments of the population. However, research presented recently at the American Dietetic Association’s Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo demonstrates that one of the best nutritional values in the produce department, providing significantly better nutritional value per dollar than most other raw vegetables, is one that is easily accessible, practical, and loved by most: The white potato. Per serving, white potatoes were the largest and most affordable source of potassium of any vegetable or fruit.
Dr. Adam Drewnowski and colleagues from the University of Washington complied nutrient data from the USDA Food and Nutrition Database for Dietary Studies with the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion national food prices database. They found that potatoes were the least expensive source of dietary potassium, a nutrient identified by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines as lacking in the American diet. The cost of potassium-rich white potatoes was half that of most other vegetables.
Last week the results of a year-long study shocked many but confirmed my suspicion. Knowledge isn’t enough. In July 2008, New York became the first city in the U.S. to require fast food restaurants to post calorie information on their menus. The idea was that if you tell people how bad the food is, you’d get them to change their eating behavior. Last week, the initial results were released and guess what? Eating habits didn’t change.
We’ve all been told that knowledge is power and that knowledge is the secret to success. If you’re in the know, you’re part of an elite group. Who could argue against the truth behind this ancient maxim? Well, I could.
Power can be defined in different ways. There is a tremendous amount written about the power of influence and how to change other people’s behavior, but I think it is even more powerful to learn how to change your own behavior. When you master this, you can control your future. But when it comes to changing behavior, knowledge isn’t enough.