When you think of one of the major popular staple crops that is being consumed in almost every part of the world, then think of sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas). This is an important vegetable crop that plays distinctive role in both developing and developed countries due to its richness in nutrients, low input requirements and popularity. Sweet potato is a dicotyledonous plant that belongs to the Convolvulaceae family. The tuberous roots are starchy and taste very sweet while the shoots and leaves can equally serve as vegetables.

Ipomoea batatas is originally from the tropical parts of America before spreading to other parts of the world. Although they both have similar name but the sweet potato is not closely related to the potato (Solanum tuberosum). Sweet potato plant bears alternate palmately lobed or heart-shaped leaves and the edible tuberous root is tapered and has a smooth skin.

Sweet potato skin has different colours such as brown, purple, beige, yellow, orange, white or red while the inner flesh has colours such as orange, beige, purple, red, pink, violet, white or yellow. Although certain people refer to the sweet potatoes as yam yet they are totally different from a real yam Dioscorea. Sweet potatoes thrive well in warm temperate and tropical parts of the globe especially where there is enough moisture to facilitate their growth.

Nutritional Values of the Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potato, which is also known as kelang or boniato is an excellent source of dietary fiber, manganese, copper, carbohydrate, biotin (vitamin B7), vitamin C, vitamin A (carotenes), folate, vitamin B2, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, vitamin E, iron, selenium, sodium, potassium, pantothenic acid, magnesium, flavonoids, especially phenolic acids and anthocyanins. Sweet potatoes are equally low in sugar and calories..

Benefits of Sweet Potatoes

1. Aids Digestion
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of dietary fiber thus facilitate easy digestion of food in the digestive tracts. Studies reveal that consuming sweet potatoes with the skin is essential for maintaining healthy digestive system, preventing constipation as well as for preventing colon cancer.

2. Anti-oxidizing Properties
Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) contain anti-oxidants thus very essential for tackling inflammatory problems such as gout, arthritis, asthma.

3. Aids Fetal Development
Sweet potato contains a high amount of folate thus essential for healthy fetal development.

4. Maintains Healthy Heart
Sweet potatoes contain potassium which is essential for maintaining healthy heart by preventing stroke and heart attack.

5. Prevents Muscle cramps
Due to the potassium content of sweet potatoes, studies reveal that including these root vegetables in someone’s diet is essential for preventing muscular cramps.

6. Anti-diabetic Properties
Sweet potatoes contain anti-diabetic properties thus act as a good blood sugar regulator. Some studies reveal that sweet potatoes help to stabilize and lower the insulin level.

7. Energy Booster
Sweet potatoes contain carbohydrates thus act as a good energy booster.

8. Culinary Purposes
Both the leaves, shoots and starchy tuberous roots are edible thus can be used for preparing assorted dishes.

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Cheng, S., Huang, C., Chen, K., Lin, S. & Lin, Y. 2015, “Exploring the benefits of growing bioenergy crops to activate lead-contaminated agricultural land: a case study on sweet potatoes”, Environmental monitoring and assessment, vol. 187, no. 3, pp. 1-7.

Laurie, S., Faber, M., Adebola, P. & Belete, A. 2015, “Biofortification of sweet potato for food and nutrition security in South Africa”, Food Research International.

Maloney, K. P., Truong, V. and Allen, J. C. (2012), Chemical Optimization of Protein Extraction from Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas) Peel, Journal of Food Science, vol. 77, no. 11, pp. 307-310.

Mbaeyi-Nwaoha, I. E. and Emejulu, V. N. (2013), Evaluation of Phytochemical Composition and Antimicrobial Activity of Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas) Leaf”, Pakistan Journal of Nutrition, vol. 12, no. 6, pp. 575-580.

Zhang, Z., Fan, S., Zheng, Y., Lu, J., Wu, D., Shan, Q. & Hu, B. 2009, “Purple sweet potato color attenuates oxidative stress and inflammatory response induced by d-galactose in mouse liver”, Food and Chemical Toxicology, vol. 47, no. 2, pp. 496-500.

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