You might be surprised to discover that the sweet potato is not related to the potato, but is actually a member of the morning glory family. Regardless of their lineage, sweet potatoes are one of the oldest vegetables known to man, and there are many reasons to eat them regularly!
They are an excellent source of carotenes (a powerful antioxidant)—the darker the color of the sweet potato the greater the concentration of carotenes. Sweet potatoes are also a very good source of vitamins A, C, B2, and B6, potassium, manganese, copper, biotin, pantothenic acid, calcium, and dietary fiber. They have also been found to contain cancer-fighting properties. But the benefits don't stop there! Sweet potatoes contain phytochemicals like quercetin—which are powerful anti-inflammatory chemicals—and strong antioxidants such as chlorogenic acid. The great news is that you get all of these benefits from just a medium-sized sweet potato that has approximately 100 calories!
As mentioned above, sweet potatoes are a great source of antioxidants, partly because they have unique root storage proteins. According to some studies, these proteins are significant because they have about one third of the antioxidant activity of glutathione, which is one of the body's most potent and important internally produced antioxidants. So, when you combine these proteins with the vitamin C and carotene content in sweet potatoes, it makes for a great antioxidant-boosting food!
Remember when buying sweet potatoes to find ones that are firm and dark in color (the darker the color the higher the concentration of carotenes). Avoid wilted, leathery, or discolored sweet potatoes, especially those with a green tint. Green coloration indicates that the toxic alkaloid solanine may be present. Solanine has been linked to a number of health problems such as headaches, diarrhea, and circulatory and respiratory depression. Sweet potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark, and well ventilated place. And, as always, it's best to buy organic sweet potatoes to avoid pesticides, especially because much of the fiber is contained in the skin of the sweet potato.