There are many sweet potatoes out there, but the Okinawan sweet potato might be one variety with the most health benefits worth adding to your list of superfoods.
In this article, we’ll explore what makes the Okinawan sweet potato such a special ingredient and why it is considered to be among the world’s healthiest root vegetables.
What is Okinawan Sweet Potato?
The Okinawan sweet potato is a type of purple sweet potato that is native to the Ryukyu Islands, which are part of Okinawa Prefecture in southern Japan. The Okinawan sweet potato can also be found in other parts of East Asia, including China and Taiwan.
They are also grown in Hawaii, where they are sometimes called “Hawaiian sweet potatoes.”
It’s distinct from other types of sweet potatoes in its appearance, with light-brown or buff skin and violet-purple flesh. They are also smaller than other sweet potato varieties, with a slightly sweeter flavor and higher nutritional content than other types of sweet potatoes.
Their purple color is due to the high level of anthocyanins, which are plants that also offer antioxidant benefits.
In terms of nutrients, they are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other antioxidants. They are also a good source of iron and calcium.
When consumed regularly, they can improve digestion, lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease, and strengthen bones. Okinawan sweet potatoes can also help you lose weight and maintain a healthy weight.
Okinawan Sweet Potato Nutrition
According to the nutrient analysis by the University of Hawaii at Manoa, a medium cooked (171 grams) Okinawan sweet potato contains:
- Calories: 251 kcal
- Carbohydrates: 61.0g
- Fiber: 6.0g
- Vitamin A: 183% of the daily recommended value
- Vitamin C: 38% of the daily recommended value
- Vitamin B6: 29% of the daily recommended value
- Thiamin (B1): 18% of the daily recommended value
- Vitamin E: 7% of the daily recommended value
- Niacin (B3): 6% of the daily recommended value
- Riboflavin (B2): 5% of the daily recommended value
- Folate: 3% of the daily recommended value
- Potassium: 17% of the daily recommended value
- Zinc: 9% of the daily recommended value
- Magnesium: 7% of the daily recommended value
- Iron: 6% of the daily recommended value
- Calcium: 4% of the daily recommended value
- Phosphorus: 4% of the daily recommended value
Okinawan Sweet Potato Health Benefits
1. They are rich in antioxidants
The health benefits of Okinawan sweet potatoes are largely due to their high antioxidant content.
Antioxidants are molecules that help protect the body from damage caused by free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can damage cells and lead to chronic diseases.
The antioxidants in this sweet potato include beta-carotene, vitamin C, and anthocyanins.
Beta-carotene is a pigment found in plants that gives them their orange or yellow color. It is also an important nutrient for human health, as our bodies convert it into vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for vision, immunity, and cell growth. Sweet potatoes are one of the best sources of beta-carotene among fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin C is another important antioxidant found in these sweet potatoes. It helps protect cells from damage and boosts the immune system. Vitamin C is also necessary for the production of collagen, a protein that helps keep skin looking youthful and elastic.
Anthocyanins are a type of flavonoid, a class of compounds with numerous health benefits. They are responsible for the blue, purple, or red color of many fruits and vegetables, including sweet potatoes. Anthocyanins have strong anti-inflammatory properties and may help to protect against some chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.
2. Vitamin E benefits
Okinawan sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin E, with a single medium-sized potato providing nearly 20% of the recommended daily value.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays an important role in maintaining cell structure and protecting cells from oxidative damage.
The body also needs vitamin E for proper immune function and to help maintain healthy skin and eyes. Other good sources of vitamin E include seeds, nuts, and leafy green vegetables.
3. Fiber benefits
Okinawan sweet potatoes are rich in fiber, which has a number of health benefits.
It can help regulate digestion and prevent constipation.
Fiber also binds to cholesterol and helps remove it from the body, which can reduce the risk of heart disease.
Additionally, fiber helps slow sugar absorption into the bloodstream, which can help control blood sugar levels.
Furthermore, fiber is prebiotic, meaning it helps feed and promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.
4. Improved vision
Okinawan sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is essential for good vision and has been shown to protect against age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in old age.
Vitamin A deficiency can lead to a range of problems, including night blindness and poor vision, so incorporating Okinawan sweet potatoes into your diet could help to improve your eyesight.
5. Better immune system
The immune system is vital to the body’s defense against illness and infection. Sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin A, which is important for the health of the mucous membranes that line the respiratory and digestive tracts. This helps protect the body against bacteria and viruses.
Vitamin C is another important nutrient for immunity, and sweet potatoes are an excellent source of this vitamin. They also contain antioxidants that can help to protect cells from damage.
6. Fights inflammation
When it comes to fighting inflammation, Okinawan sweet potatoes are a powerhouse. These unique tubers contain a compound called Dioscin, which has been shown to inhibit the production of inflammatory cytokines.
In one study, rats given Dioscin had significantly reduced levels of inflammation markers in their blood and tissues.
This anti-inflammatory effect may be one of the key reasons why Okinawan sweet potatoes are so effective at protecting against chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.
The antioxidants in Okinawan sweet potato can also help fight against inflammation.
7. Promotes wound healing
Okinawan sweet potatoes are an excellent source of nutrients that can help boost wound healing. They are a good source of vitamin A, which is necessary for producing new skin cells.
They are also a good source of vitamin C, which helps to repair tissue damage and promote collagen production.
Additionally, they contain high potassium levels, which helps reduce swelling and inflammation.
8. Lower blood pressure
One of the many health benefits of Okinawan sweet potatoes is that they help lower blood pressure.
This is due to the high levels of potassium and magnesium, which are both minerals that have been shown to lower blood pressure.
In addition, the antioxidants in Okinawan sweet potatoes can help to reduce oxidative stress, which has been linked to high blood pressure.
How to cook Okinawan Sweet Potato
When it comes to sweet potatoes, roasting them can help to bring out their natural sweetness. This is because the process of roasting helps to caramelize the sugars in the potato, making them more intense and flavourful.
Besides, roasted sweet potatoes are extremely versatile. They can be used in a variety of recipes or simply enjoyed on their own as a healthy snack.
If you’re looking for a delicious way to cook sweet potatoes, give roasting a try. You’ll be amazed at the difference in flavor and texture that this simple cooking method can make
To roast your sweet potato, start by preheating the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Wash the sweet potatoes, slice them into thin wedges, and toss them in olive oil and sea salt.
Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until they are soft and slightly browned.
Mashed sweet potato is a delicious and healthy alternative to mashed potatoes. This dish is creamy, flavorful, and perfect for a fall or winter meal.
Mashed Okinawan sweet potato has a unique sweetness that pairs well with savory dishes. Its natural sweetness enhances the flavors of other ingredients, making mashed sweet potato an ideal side dish for roasted vegetables and tofu.
Mashed sweet potato can also be used as a base for soups or stews. The sweetness of mashed sweet potato will balance out the spices in these dishes and create a more complex flavor profile.
To make mashed Okinawan sweet potatoes, boil or steam them until they are soft. Then, mash them with some butter, milk, and salt to taste.
You can also add some shredded cheese, green onions, or other herbs for extra flavor.
Serve alongside your favorite protein for a complete meal.
Baked Okinawan sweet potato fries
Baked Okinawan sweet potato fries are a healthier alternative to traditional french fries. They are lower in calories and fat, and they contain no unhealthy trans fats.
And in case you have kids, these fries are a great way to get to eat their veggies!
Cut the sweet potatoes into fry shapes, then toss with a bit of olive oil and sea salt.
Spread them on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with homemade ketchup or your favorite dipping sauce on the side.
Sweet potato pancake
Sweet potato pancakes are a delicious and nutritious breakfast option. They are packed with flavour and offer a host of health benefits.
The natural sweetness of sweet potatoes means that you can enjoy them without adding any sugar or other sweeteners. This makes them a healthier option than traditional pancakes which are often loaded with sugar.
Sweet potato pancakes are easy to make and can be enjoyed by the whole family and they’re perfect for satisfying your sweet tooth without overindulging.
For a vegan version, you’ll need a cup of mashed sweet potato, almond milk and flaxseed meal, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla.
To make the pancakes:
- Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl.
- In another bowl, whisk the wet ingredients together until well combined.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until everything is evenly combined.
Next, heat a large skillet over medium heat and add some oil to coat the bottom. Scoop 1/4 cup batter into the skillet for each pancake and cook for 2-3 minutes per side or until golden brown.
Serve warm with your favorite toppings. Enjoy!
Okinawan Sweet Potato Bowl
This recipe uses the Okinawan sweet potato as the base for a filling and flavorful bowl that is packed with nutrients and antioxidants.
The sweet potato is first roasted to bring out its natural sweetness, then it is topped with a variety of healthy ingredients like sautéed kale, quinoa, black beans, minced red onion, cilantro, and avocado. This bowl is perfect for a quick and easy meal or snack that will give you plenty of energy to power through your day.
Sweet Potato Soup
This creamy soup is perfect for a chilly day! Simply simmer roasted Okinawan sweet potatoes in vegetable broth with a bit of ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes.
Puree the soup until smooth, then garnish with green onions and chopped cilantro.
This soup can be easily customized to your liking. Serve it with a side of rice for a complete meal, or enjoy it as is for a lighter option.
Sweet Potato Curry
This Okinawan sweet potato curry is a hearty yet healthy dish that is perfect for a winter meal. The sweet potatoes are cooked in a curry sauce made with coconut milk, ginger, and other spices. The result is a flavorful and filling curry that will warm you up on a cold day. It goes well with rice or noodles.
This type of pie is similar to a traditional sweet potato pie but with a twist. The purple color of the Okinawan sweet potatoes gives the pie a unique and beautiful appearance, and the flavor is slightly different than that of a traditional sweet potato pie.
If you’re looking for something different to make for dessert or want to try a new type of sweet potato, give this purple sweet potato pie recipe a try!
Other Purple Sweet Potato Recipes
The Okinawan sweet potato is an incredibly nutritious and versatile vegetable with a wide range of health benefits.
Whether you’re looking to improve your overall health or simply want to boost your intake of vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants, adding this vegetable to your diet is a great way to do so.
With their delicious taste and easy-to-prepare nature, there’s really no excuse not to give them a try.
So what are you waiting for? Give Okinawan sweet potatoes a chance and see how they can benefit your health!
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