Sweet Potatoes Are More Than Just An Ordinary Spud!
Did you know that studies now prove that the chemicals found in sweet potatoes can actually heal stomach ulcers?
And not just any type of ulcers –Peptic Ulcers!
These are the ulcers that so many people suffer from that begin as ‘casual’ heartburn. Though there are many causes for the development of peptic ulcers, I think we can all agree that the Standard American Diet (SAD) is certainly a major contributor, along with the unrelenting stress of today’s “hurry it up” lifestyle!
Typically, modern medicine prescribes Nexium (esomeprazole) or Prilosec for these conditions. Both have gained popularity since becoming available as over-the-counter (OTC) medications. (Read more about the dangers of Anti-Acids)
Don’t you just love the commercial with “Larry the Cable Guy”? He is certainly my choice as a “health adviser” (yep, said with sarcasm!). What does he say? Something like,
“Americans love their food, so treat frequent heartburn with Prilosec OTC to block the acid that causes it – so you don’t get heartburn in the first place.”
BUT….wouldn’t changing your diet be a better choice?!
A study published in Functional Foods in Health and Disease 2012 set out to find just how effective the anti-ulcer activity in sweet potatoes actually was against peptic ulcers. The results showed the following:
“The results of the present study showed that TE possessed gastro-protective activity as evidenced by its significant inhibition of mean ulcer score and ulcer index and a marked increase in GSH, SOD, CAT, GPx, and GR levels and reduction in lipid peroxidation in a dose-dependent manner.”
That translates to the sweet potato was very effective!
Their conclusion stated:
“This study demonstrates that the tubers of Ipomoea batatas possess a potent ulcer healing effect, which appears to be related to the free radical scavenging activity of the phytoconstituents, and their ability to inhibit lipid peroxidative processes. The present study, thus, aims to highlight the health benefits of sweet potato, establish it as a potent “functional food” and promote its use as a vegetable to enrich people’s diets.”
By the way, Ipomoea batatas is simply the fancy scientific name for Sweet Potato.
But I hear some of your questions now:
- “Aren’t sweet potatoes high in starchy carbohydrates?”
- “I am trying to lose weight, so how can I eat them?”
- “I am following The Paleo diet and they say “NO” to sweet potatoes”
- “I am diabetic, so I definitely can’t eat them”
- “I am on a low carbohydrate diet to lower my cholesterol and protect myself from heart disease. I don’t think sweet potatoes should be on my menu.”
Well, those are some awesome questions and I’d love to answer them!
Though sweet potatoes are indeed a starchy carbohydrate, they have something unique that those of you on a low carbohydrate diet AND diagnosed with diabetes will love!
The new buzz word regarding carbohydrates (sugars) that has been circling around for awhile now is the Glycemic Index (GI).
This refers to how fast blood sugar levels rise after eating a certain food. If a food is high on the GI, this means the carbohydrate breaks down quickly and releases high amounts of glucose into the bloodstream, triggering a surge of insulin. This can then quickly cause a drop in blood glucose making you feel fatigued and hungry again.
A major issue with this is that it can lead to obesity, diabetes, inflammation and other chronic health conditions.
The bottom line: The lower the GI level, the less of a blood glucose spike. When using a GI scale, the reference number is 0 – 100, so any food getting close to 100 is considered to have a high GI.
And guess what?
The sweet potato has a LOW GI! Ranging from 40-50, depending on what source you use. Whereas the white potato range averages from 60-90.
Even more good news! A recent study done at the University of Agriculture in Pakistan found the properties of the sweet potato may actually help those with diabetes. One of the contributing doctors, Dr. Jon Allen, CALS professor of Food Science said the following:
“With further research in this area, it may be possible to recommend that people with diabetes or insulin resistance consume sweet potatoes or use extracts of North Carolina sweet potato to help control blood glucose,”
“This therapy should cost less than conventional drugs, and it may have fewer side effects.”
And Dr. Allen concluded by saying:
“We’re hoping that diet, particularly the consumption of sweet potatoes, will become a more widely used tool in the treatment of diabetes…It has the potential to be more cost-effective than drugs.“
One of the issues surrounding white potatoes is that the high GI level can actually change depending on the cooking method. So what of the sweet potato?
Research shows that this is not the case with sweet potatoes.
In a study published in the The Open Nutrition Journal, 2012, researchers found:
“Sweet potato samples had Glycemic Indices that were low to medium despite different methods of cooking. This may prove beneficial for diabetic patients who consume sweet potatoes.”
And as if this weren’t enough to get you on the sweet potato train, more research published in Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2008 showed that sweet potatoes can decrease lipid peroxidation, which contributes to inflammation associated with conditions such as:
- Airway inflammation (E.I. asthma and bronchitis)
- High Cholesterol
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Atherosclerosis (plaguing of the arteries)
- Heart & Cardiovascular Disease
They concluded that:
“Polyphenols in plant foods may contribute to decreased risk of chronic diseases because of an array of their putative mechanism of actions, i.e., antioxidation, antiinflammation, and anti-proliferation.”
Now with regard to its inclusion or exclusion in The Paleo Diet, it depends on whose version of the Paleo diet you choose to abide by. It appears that sweet potatoes, though not part of the Paleo diet strictly speaking, has gotten the virtual green light by some, like Robb Wolf, who have developed a modified version of the diet.
So, for those who have difficulty gaining weight (yes, it can be as much of a problem as trying to lose weight) and maintaining enough energy to exercise moderately to extremely hard, Robb Wolf’s model may be more suitable.
Though I am in favor of the Paleo diet, as with anything, not one shoe size fits everyone. So my advice is to be smart and choose a diet (or I prefer dietary lifestyle) that suits you best. And you will know when you’ve found it because you will:
- Have increased energy
- Sleep well at night
- Maintain optimal weight for your body structure and constitution
- And boast a feeling of well-being!
So if you haven’t already, isn’t it worth revisiting this Amazing Spud- The Sweet Potato!
- Anti-ulcer activity of Ipomoea batatas tubers (sweet potato)
- Glycemic Index of Sweet Potato as Affected by Cooking Methods
- Consumption of purple sweet potato leaves decreases lipid peroxidation and DNA damage in humans
- Impact of sweet potato cultivars on blood glucose level in diabetic and healthy participants
- Glycemic index and obesity
- Heartburn, Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease (GERD), and Peptic Ulcer
- Lipid Peroxidation Induces Cholesterol Domain Formation in Model Membranes
- Lipid peroxidation is elevated in female patients with chronic fatigue syndrome.
- HDL, lipid peroxidation, and atherosclerosis
- Lipid Oxidation and Cardiovascular Disease: Introduction to a Review Series
- Timeline of the Standard American Diet