Superfood Profile: The Sweet Potato

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"Those who have no time for healthy eating

will sooner or later have to find time for illness."

Edward Stanley

Superfood Profile: The Sweet Potato 

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While western cultures may associate sweet potatoes with holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas, Koreans have treasured sweet potatoes for centuries as an essential part of their childhood, culture, and cuisine! “Goguma”, the Korean name for sweet potato, quite literally saved Korea from mass famine. Now sweet potatoes have become a key ingredient that evokes comfort and nostalgia in Koreans with its deliciously sweet and satisfying flavor.  Koreans love and enjoy sweet potatoes in many forms whether it’s baked, boiled in classic soups and stews, mashed into porridge, and even pressed into traditional japchae vermicelli noodles! 

Saved by the Sweet Potato

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According to a study released by Indiana University, sweet potatoes are one of the oldest human foods with carbon dating and fossil evidence dating them back to the American continents over 35 million years ago! This amazingly diverse and resilient plant evolved into over 6,500 varieties of sweet potato according to the International Potato Center in Peru, where they maintain a massive gene bank. 

Back in Korea’s history, a mass famine struck the peninsula leaving people starving in countless villages. A man named Moon Ik-gong sent the seeds of his sweet potatoes to Busan-jin (now Yeongdo) in 1764 to abate the famine and help relieve the starving people. Moon sent along with the seeds detailed instructions on how to cultivate and store the strong, resilient sweet potato for the winter. The first village to grow the potato seeds became known as the “Sweet Potato Village” in Busan, Yeongdo-gu.  Sweet potatoes are extremely strong and durable plants able to grow in almost any climate and soil conditions.  The sweet potatoes saved the population from certain starvation as they are absolutely packed with nutritional vitamins, minerals, and key antioxidants. To this day Koreans love sweet potato as a diet food because it is rich in fiber and is quickly filling.

Super Gut Health 

The only thing better than the amazing flavor of the sweet potato is its nutritional health benefits! Populations that heavily incorporate sweet potatoes in their normal diet like Korea and Japan enjoy longer lifespans and fewer cases of chronic disease compared to Western diets. According to an article published by Food Revolution, locals from the Japanese island Okinawa are known to ingest 60% of their daily calories from just sweet potato! This could attribute to their extremely long lifespan and little to no deaths from chronic diseases such as heart disease and colon, breast, and prostate cancer.

The full-bodied sweet potato is brimming with healthy dietary fiber which promotes intestinal health, smooth digestion, and prevents serious diseases like colon cancer. High fiber content can even lower LDL cholesterol levels which help prevent cardiovascular diseases. In addition to fiber, sweet potatoes also contain resistant starch that improves digestive health by nourishing your body’s natural gut bacteria.

Sweet potatoes get their sweetness from a natural sugar component (polysaccharides) that are slowly absorbed by the body unlike refined monosaccharides such as sugar. This gives sweet potatoes a lower glycemic score despite their natural sweetness. 

The fiber and complex carbohydrates in sweet potatoes also contribute in stabilizing your blood sugar.

Eye Health 

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Sweet potatoes  are full of essential vitamins and minerals including Vitamin C, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, copper, niacin, manganese, magnesium, and potassium. They are also particularly rich in beta carotene that the body converts into Vitamin A which helps support the immune system, healthy skin, eyes, and vision. Sweet potatoes are amazingly high in Vitamin A, with one potato supplying over double the daily recommended value of Vitamin A!  The American Academy of Ophthalmology released a study showing that Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of blindness in children worldwide. 

Beta carotene is also a powerful antioxidant and responsible for the vibrant orange color found in certain types of sweet potato like the Garnet, Jewel, and Beauregard.

Sweet potatoes are full of powerful antioxidants (purple sweet potatoes have 150% more antioxidants than blueberries!) that help fight free radicals and oxidation of the cells. Antioxidants are essential for overall health as they basically stop the oxidation in your body that leads to cellular damage and serious degenerative diseases like cancer. 

Brain Health 

If all that wasn’t enough, sweet potatoes even help improve your brain health by releasing choline and manganese when ingested. Choline is a known nutrient responsible for brain growth and development while manganese helps move electrical impulses faster with neurotransmitters. Basically eat sweet potatoes and your brain will thank you. In addition to being fantastic for your brain health, sweet potatoes contain magnesium which according to Psychology Today, plays a key role in relaxation and brain health.

Overall, the sweet potato is a certified super food! It’s amazing flavor, consistency, and unbelievable nutritional benefits solidify it as an extremely versatile and well-loved food in Korean cuisine. If you’re craving some sweet potato in your life, nothing is better than trying our deliciously creamy and velvety smooth Real Porridge Collection or Sweet Potato Snacks featuring 100% fresh, all-natural sweet potato! 

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