By: Jason Riley
- They contain up to 100% of your daily vitamin A intake
- Rich in fiber and help provide steady energy for prolonged periods of time
- Positively impact your immune system
- Anti-inflammatory food which can directly affect non-contact injuries
- Play an essential role in athletes fueling strategies
Not only do they taste sweet as pie, but they provide some amazing health benefits to athletes. Sweet potatoes are a very potent fueling option for athletes to consume, regardless of sport. They are rich in slow digesting carbohydrates, which will provide a steady energy state over a long period of time. The bright orange color displays its rich beta-carotene content, and sweet potatoes supply the body with fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C and even Vitamin B.
When describing other potential performance benefits, other exotic fruits and vegetables often steal sweet potatoes thunder. However, a large sweet potato can contain up to 100% of the daily intake of vitamin A, and are therefore one of the best foods to consume for vitamin A. Vitamin A found in fruits and vegetables is considered “pro-vitamin A”, and must be converted by the human body into the usable form of Vitamin A. Vitamin A is an antioxidant powerhouse and plays a vital role in bone growth, immune system health, and helps the skin and mucus membranes effectively repel bacteria and viruses. It is also critical in maintaining healthy eyesight. Some other sources of beta-carotene are carrots, spinach, kale, cantaloupe, pumpkin and butternut squash.
Among the other performance enhancing benefits of sweet potatoes are their anti-inflammatory properties and blood sugar regulating properties. In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that chronic inflammation is the root cause of many disease states as well as many non-contact injuries in sports. Inflammation is one of the cornerstones of the bodies healing processes, as seen in many injury states with redness, swelling and pain. These symptoms are the body’s way of flooding the site with more nourishment and more immune activity. Stress, too much exercise, injury states, poor food choices and exposure to environmental toxins can all create inflammation within the body, and if not rectified, will wreck havoc with your health and performance.
Carbohydrate foods also influence this inflammatory process. You can control inflammation by keeping blood sugar levels low and stable. Education on how foods impact the inflammatory process is the best strategy for containing it and reducing non-contact injuries and disease states. Eating less processed foods, breads, white potatoes, pastries, sweetened drinks and by avoiding fast foods and products made with high fructose corn syrup we can keep inflammation at bay.
The glycemic index measures how quickly certain foods release carbohydrates into the body. High glycemic foods cause blood sugar levels to spike, while low glycemic foods release glucose slowly into the bloodstream. A surprising fact about sweet potatoes is their ability to help regulate blood sugar levels. Research has confirmed that sweet potato extract can increase blood levels of adiponectin, a protein hormone produced by your fat cells, which regulates the way your body metabolize’s and even lower’s insulin levels. The truth is, carbohydrates play an essential role in an athletes fueling strategy because they are a key source of energy and provide the glucose necessary to replace the glycogen lost during training and competition. So if your looking for a super-food that you may have overlooked, try giving sweet potatoes another shot in your fueling strategy for performance and quality of life measures.
Here are 3 ways that you can enjoy this nutritious food in your meal plans:
Baked Sweet Potatoes Sweet Potatoes with Baked Sweet Potatoes with Rosemary & Garlic Fried / Scrambled Eggs with Greek Yogurt & Chives