The origin of sweet potatoes is said to be South or Central America. There were proofs that the crop was already domesticated 5,000 years ago in Central America. On the other hand, there are also remnants of sweet potatoes in South America that dates back around 8000 BC. The central origin of the crop is believed to be between Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and Venezuela’s Orinoco River. The local cultivated sweet potatoes and it spread throughout South America and the Caribbean.
The sweet potato is considered as a dicotyledonous plant. It has tuberous roots that are sweet and starchy. In some parts of the world, the shoots and young leaves are also eaten. There are over 1,000 species of Convolvulaceae. Sweet potatoes are distantly related to Solanum tuberosum or potato, but both are root crops. Oftentimes, the sweet potato is confused with the yam. The latter is native to Asia and Africa which belong to the Dioscoreaceae family.
The sweet potato contains simple starches, as well as complex carbohydrates, beta carotene, dietary fiber, calcium, iron, protein, and vitamin C. If you consume the green, yellow, and pink varieties, you can also get lots of carotene which is equivalent to the Vitamin A.
The most important product of the sweet potato is the tuberous root. However, the shoots and leaves are also edible. In tropical countries, the crop is considered staple food. In Africa, sweet potato is usually served during breakfast. In Egypt, the crops are sold as street foods, and in some homes, the sweet potatoes are baked and served with honey.
In China, you can find roasted sweet potato which is common during winter, as well as sweet potato soup or tong sui. Boiled sweet potato is commonly served in Japanese homes. It can even be cooked with coconut milk and yam to make bubur caca, a dessert. Aside from boiled sweet potatoes, you can also deep-fry it which is excellent for snacks.
The sweet potato has many culinary uses. Since most parts of the plant are edible, it has become very popular among impoverished families all over the world. It is not only cheap but easy to grow as well.
With regular consumption of sweet potatoes, you can enjoy the following health benefits:
• Prevents heart attacks because of the vitamin B6 content
• Helps in preventing flu viruses and common colds through its vitamin C content; also aids in the formation of blood cells, digestion, and tooth/bone formation
• Accelerate healing of wounds through the production of collagen; wards off toxins to prevent cancer
• Contains vitamin D that keeps the skin, teeth, nerves, heart, and bones healthy
• Rich in iron that provides a boost of energy and promotes proper functioning of the immune system
• Contains magnesium which fights stress and aids in relaxation
• Source of potassium and natural sugars
Indeed, sweet potatoes have many health benefits. It is one of the cheapest staple foods you can find, and can be cooked in different ways. There is a great supply of sweet potatoes in the market, so you can easily add it to your regular diet.