Why Switch To Sweet Potatoes?


Sweet potatoes are one of the most nutrient dense foods available, providing over five times your daily vitamin A requirement in the form of betacarotene, an antioxidant carotenoid which you can convert into vitamin A when needed.

Sweet potatoes are also a good source of vitamins B2, B6, C, minerals such as potassium plus trace elements such as manganese. Their most important health benefits, though, come from their high level of a lesser known type of plant hormone known as lignans.


Lignans have a weak oestrogen-like action which is beneficial for both men and women, helping to lower the risk of breast and prostate cancers. As an additional bonus, lignans are also able to inhibit an enzyme, 5-alpha-reductase, which converts testosterone hormone into a stronger form (dihydrotestosterone) which is associated with male and female pattern hair loss.

High intakes of lignans may reduce the rate of hair loss and, potentially, promote hair regeneration. As DHT is also associated with increased oil production and acne, eating sweet potato may help to protect against these.

Breast cancer

The combined results of 21 studies showed that, in postmenopausal women, a high lignan intake was associated with a 14% reduction in the risk of breast cancer compared to those with the lowest intakes.

Women already diagnosed with breast cancer also appear to have a higher likelihood of beating the disease and surviving for longer than those with low intakes – even after taking other factors into account such as weight, smoking status and their level of exercise suggesting this was not just due to following a healthier lifestyle overall.

Prostate cancer

A study involving over 900 men in Scotland found that those with the highest blood levels of lignans were 60% less likely to develop prostate cancer than men with the lowest levels.

Good for glucose control

Because sweet potatoes have a lower starch content than white potatoes, they have less effect on your blood glucose levels. This makes them particularly useful for people with diabetes and those who are watching their weight (bowel sweet potato GI 44 / GL 11 versus boiled Maris Piper white potato GI 85, GL 25).

Start mashing!

Sweet potatoes are eaten in a similar way to normal potatoes and can be baked, mashed or added to soups and stews. Try using them in salmon fishcakes, or cut them into wedges, brush with olive oil and bake for a healthy alternative to chips.

Unlike white potatoes, you can also eat sweet potatoes raw – grate them and add to salads. See my website for some good recipes!

Other good sources of dietary lignans include ground flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and lentils. Useful amounts are also present in curly kale, broccoli, wholegrains, stone fruits (eg avocado, peaches, apricots, plums, nectarines), pumpkins, asparagus, courgettes/zucchini, carrots, oranges, berries as well as green and black teas plus red wine.

Image credit: ribeiroantonio



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