The Power of the Sweet Potato

Isabel Hulkower, Columnist

Welcome to the hottest new column in the sports section. I have a degree from Internet University in health fads with a minor in home remedies, and I want to put my hard-earned knowledge to use to provide some commentary on all the big and little issues affecting student health.

Of course, it’s important to mention that the concept of “health” is personal, relative, and completely culturally determined. Standards of what is healthy change all the time, and many things are unnecessarily pathologized or go unacknowledged by the medical community. Basically, all mass medical advice is pretty suspect, and this column aims to remind everyone that there isn’t any one proper conceptualization of health.

Now let’s move on to a truly relevant and topical subject: sweet potatoes. It’s the tail end of Black History Month, and though you might only know BHM all-star George Washington Carver as a guy who loved peanuts a little too much, sweet potatoes were his original food-crush. During World War I, when there were extreme crop shortages, Carver researched alternative uses for this starchy wonder, subsequently pioneering a massive array of sweet potato-based products. Some standouts include shoe blackener, synthetic silk, chocolate, 73 types of dye, instant coffee, yeast, rubber and something called “breakfast food #5.”

Sweet potatoes are useful even beyond their transformative powers — they are also really healthy. They are comically dense with nutrients, providing vitamins A and C as well as potassium, calcium, copper, dietary fiber, niacin, iron and magnesium. The bright orange color comes from carotenoid beta-carotene, which is a powerful antioxidant that wards off free radicals that damage cells through oxidation. So, sweet potatoes support your immune system and lower your risk of heart disease and cancer.

A study from the Journal of Medicinal Food found that sweet potatoes help reduce inflammation in brain and nerve tissue throughout your body, and a separate study confirmed the anecdotal knowledge that they can also stabilize hormones. On top of all that, they are just so tasty, and that, dear friends, is because they are packed with sugar. However, sweet potatoes are a low-glycemic index food, which means they release glucose very slowly into the bloodstream instead of spiking your blood sugar like cake.

Clearly, sweet potatoes are your buddy, so whether you’re fighting for them in a co-op line or delicately weighing them against some fries in Stevie, please give them the respect they so obviously deserve.