How Sweetpotatoes Can Help Heart Health
February 15, 2021
by Sarah Schlichter, MPH, RDN for the North Carolina SweetPotato Commission
February is American Heart Month and a great reminder to focus on our cardiovascular health and well being. Heart disease is the overall global leading cause of death. The most common cause of heart disease is atherosclerosis, or a buildup of plaque in the arteries, stemming from poor lifestyle choices, such as an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise.
How do sweetpotatoes and heart health relate? Sweetpotatoes are a very heart-friendly food! Most people recognize that sweetpotatoes are good for us, but they are more often appreciated for their immune-boosting properties. However, both the macronutrient and micronutrient breakdowns of sweetpotatoes make them an ideal food for managing blood pressure and preventing heart disease.
Here are 5 ways that sweetpotatoes can enhance heart health:
- Fiber – Sweetpotatoes are complex carbohydrates and offer fiber, a nutrient that many Americans aren’t eating enough of. A medium sweet potato with its skin has four grams of dietary fiber, providing nearly 20% of your dietary fiber needs. Fiber has several benefits in the body, such as slowing the rise in blood sugar after eating, satiety and helping to reduce blood cholesterol levels, both of which can help improve heart health.
- No Added Sugars– Processed foods and added sugars can contribute to more stress on the heart and arteries. Sweetpotatoes have no added sugars and can help reduce the rise in blood sugar after eating. Stable blood sugars after eating can help reduce stress hormones in the body and stress on the heart.
- No Saturated Fat -While dietary fats are necessary in our diets, high amounts of saturated and trans fats may increase LDL cholesterol (typically known as the “bad” cholesterol), so limiting intake also lowers the risk of heart disease.
- High in Micronutrients -Sweetpotatoes contain a variety of vitamins and minerals that positively impact blood pressure, cholesterol levels, muscle contraction, and more. Particularly, four micronutrients that are abundant in Sweetpotatoes—vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, and coenzyme Q10—have been associated with these benefits. Diets higher in potassium can help counteract the high effects of sodium, therefore contributing to improved heart health. Potassium and magnesium-rich diets are also correlated with other heart benefits.
- High in Antioxidants – The antioxidant profile in Sweetpotatoes help blood vessels remain flexible, allowing dilation and contraction to transport oxygen and other nutrients properly. Vitamin C’s antioxidant properties have also been widely linked to preventing aging and a variety of diseases, as well as decreases in blood pressure and LDL cholesterol.
How can you add more sweetpotatoes to your diet? For some inspiration on how to cook sweetpotatoes and include them in easy recipes, check out our recipe gallery.
Cheers to your heart health!