Sweet Potato: Is it Really a Superfood?

Advanced Sports and Exercise Nutritional Advisor
Advanced Dietary Supplements Advisor

Of the thousands of vegetables available today, sweet potatoes are considered one of the most nutritious. The orange- (or sometimes purple) fleshed vegetables are loaded with minerals and A, B, and C vitamins. This has led to sweet potatoes being called a superfood by many.

What is a Superfood?

“Superfood” is layperson term coined in part by the media, which means that a food is purported to have particular benefits to health due to either its nutrient content or other molecules it contains (such as antioxidants). These are also commonly called “functional foods” in the scientific literature.

Nutrient Profile

Low in saturated fat and cholesterol, sweet potatoes are also a good source of dietary fibre; along with vitamin B6, potassium, and manganese. This “superfood” is also known to be a

superb source of vitamin A (as beta-carotene).

According to the USDA, a medium sized (2-inch diameter, 5-inch length), whole sweet potato contains:

• 103 calories

• 2.29g protein

• 23.61g carbohydrate

• 3.8g fibre

• Only 0.27g of fat!

A sweet potato is also rich in a number of vitamins and minerals, notably:

Vitamin or Mineral

Amount per Potato

% of Daily Intake

Vitamin A (as beta-carotene)

1096mcg

146.1%

Vitamin C

22.3mg

20.3%

Thiamin (B1)

0.122mg

10.2%

Riboflavin (B2)

0.121mg

7.6%

Niacin (B3)

1.695mg

10.6%

Pantothenic Acid (B5)

1mg

20%

Vitamin B6

0.326mg

19.2%

Iron

0.79mg

7.2%

Magnesium

31mg

8.9%

Phosphorus

62mg

11.3%

Potassium

542mg

15.5%

Copper

0.184mg

11.5%

Manganese

0.567mg

18.9%

 

Bear in mind that many sweet potatoes may be larger than this and provide even higher levels!

What Else is Inside?

Sweet potatoes are one of the best sources of beta-carotene (a molecule that is converted to vitamin A by our livers). This is why it’s a great source of vitamin A, particularly for vegans and vegetarians, as many other top vitamin A sources are animal based.

Although sweet potatoes usually have orange flesh, you can also encounter purple sweet potatoes. These potatoes are a special cross-breed which contain high levels of anthocyanins (which give the potatoes their distinctive purple hue). These anthocyanins are thought to be powerful antioxidants and may have a number of other beneficial health effects. This may mean that purple sweet potatoes are even more “super” than their orange cousins!

Benefits of Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes don’t just taste delicious, they can afford plenty of health benefits such as:

- Antioxidant Activity – Sweet potatoes contain high levels of carotenoids (including beta-carotene), which are good antioxidants. This antioxidant activity can reduce cell damage and impart protection against damaging chemicals from food or our environment.

- Anti-inflammatory Agency - The coloured pigments and anthocyanins found in these tubers can provide anti-inflammatory benefits.

- Blood Sugar Balance - Although starchy, the sweet potato has the potential to improve the regulation of blood sugar. This is because they contain high amounts of fibre. Bear in mind that boiled sweet potato has more benefit in this area than a baked sweet potato (because baking releases the sugars inside the potato).

How to Prepare Dishes with Sweet Potatoes

Make sure to scrub sweet potatoes well, as the tough skin can hold onto dirt. The skin is also usually tougher than a regular potato and may be less tasty. Bear in mind that by throwing away the skin you will also throw away some of the nutrients!

Also, keep in mind that the flesh of the sweet potatoes will oxidise quickly on contact with the air. So, make sure to cook with cut potatoes straight away to avoid this spoiling your meal!

As we already mentioned, boiled, rather than baked sweet potatoes may be better at controlling blood sugar (particularly important for diabetics). However, steaming may be an even better option, as it can reduce the amount of mineral and vitamins that are otherwise lost in the boiling water!

Because beta-carotene (vitamin A) is not soluble in water, but is in fat, consuming some dietary fat with your sweet potato can help you maximise your vitamin A intake. Don’t worry, it doesn’t take much. Only about 5g of fat consumed with the potato should be enough. Try having your steamed sweet potato pieces with a delicious piece of omega 3-rich fish like salmon!

Conclusion

The humble sweet potato’s antioxidant, vitamin, and mineral values make it a top contender as a “superfood”. Getting some in your diet could give your health a boost! But bear in mind that one single superfood on its own won’t make a balanced diet. Variety is the spice of life. Give a number of different fruits and veggies a go, plus complete protein sources (with all essential amino acids) and healthy fats.

Advanced Sports and Exercise Nutritional Advisor
Advanced Dietary Supplements Advisor

What If You Don’t Go To University

It’s August, which means it’s that time of the year again: A Level Results Day.

And whether it’s your friends or your grandma, there’s one question on everyone’s lips…

Are you going to university?

You might be heading back from college to the tune of ‘Did you get the grades?’

Or maybe you never wanted to go to uni in the first place.

Whichever boat you’re in; what happens when your friends are prepping for freshers’ week, but you’re not?

No fear – we’re here to help! The first thing you need to consider is:

Are you sure about your decision?

It’s difficult to aim for your goals if you don’t know what they are, or how to reach them. This means that if you have a particular career in mind, you might want to see a careers advisor or thoroughly research alternative routes into the field you’re passionate about before making a final decision.

But then what? Well, first, it’s important to know…

There are a ton of careers that don’t require a university degree

It’s true! You may have considered some of these options: hairdressing, beauty, personal training.

But those aren’t the only choices – many careers have a variety of pathways into them, from accountancy, to journalism, to nutritional therapy.

Read on to see what you can do instead of going to university:

Take a Gap Year

Fondly known as the ‘gap yah’ among millennials, many teens take a year out to decide what they want to do before continuing their education. This often takes the form of travelling, learning a language, and gaining lots of experience of different cultures – but it can also involve volunteering in a mix of industries to help you make a more informed decision about your future. While this kind of break provides a temporary solution, it’s common for people to head back to school once they complete their gap year, but many teens also open doors to careers they never knew existed!

(Pssst… Looking for the latest work experience opportunities? GoThinkBig is a good place to start).

Find an Apprenticeship

Becoming an apprentice is a great way to get straight into work AND gain a qualification while you earn. From farming, to hospitality, to law, you can choose your apprenticeship from a huge selection of fields and levels, from Level 2 (GCSE equivalent) right through to Level 6/7 (degree equivalent). Depending on the level, an apprenticeship can take between 1 and 5 years to complete, but you’ll be learning loads of job-specific skills along the way.

If you’re in the UK, you can click here to find an apprenticeship.

Get an Entry-Level Job

While a large number of entry-level jobs will attract applications from students and recent graduates, many employers offer roles aimed at school-leavers – including training schemes. The obvious benefit of heading straight into work is that you’ll be earning right away.

A great way to find entry-level jobs is to keep an eye on websites that advertise vacancies in specific fields. Mediargh is a great example for media-related careers (publishing, science – whatever).

Become an Entrepreneur

Ever wanted to start your own business? Now might be your chance! This can be an exciting option for those not looking to go to university, but it’s wise to first consider the funding, support, and advice you’ll need along the way. If you’re in the UK, check out these government guidelines for new businesses.

For an extra boost when it comes to marketing your business effectively, check out Google’s Digital Garage for free digital marketing training.

Study for an Online Diploma

A huge barrier for many prospective students is the possibility of getting in over £50,000 of debt for a qualification in an area they’re not entirely sure about, or wasn’t necessary for their preferred career.

Whether you’re looking to boost your entrepreneurial endeavours, or you want to get a feel for a subject before jumping into a degree, an online diploma can be a great way to go! Loads of platforms offer you the chance to study via the web and many don’t require specialist technology, so you can get going with just a laptop and a cup of tea.

If it’s nutrition you’re into, we at The Health Sciences Academy® have a whole host of certifications and short courses for you to explore.

Nutrition not your thing? Not to worry – there are loads of other great providers out there. Check out Coursera and Lynda for an array of online courses on a variety of subjects.

They’re called options for a reason…

It’s important to remember that choosing to not go to university isn’t something that sets your career in a permanent direction. You may try one of the above and decide you want to go to uni after all! Perhaps you want some work experience, maybe you’re looking to boost your know-how before embarking on a degree, or you might even decide to do both an online course and an apprenticeship – the point is: the sky’s the limit.

What you’re doing this September doesn’t necessarily define the rest of your life, but it CAN boost it. Do what’s best for you and remember: it’s quite natural to need a little bit of extra time to work out where you want your career to go.

The Health Sciences Academy® is the UK’s largest online educator in nutrition science.

We are home to a variety of Level 5 online diplomas, in addition to a range of accredited short courses in nutrition topics – ready to help you ignite your career.

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Advanced Sports and Exercise Nutritional Advisor