Well well, how about we look at SWEET POTATO LEAVES TODAY!
When people grow sweet potatoes, the main interest is in the sweet tuber, relegating the leaves to animal feeds. But sweet potato leaves are very much edible and healthy for the human body. Sweet potato leaves botanically classified as Ipomoea batatas are medium to large in size and are cordate, or heart-shaped with pointed tips. The leaves grow in an alternate pattern and may be palmate or known as having multiple lobes depending on the variety. Sweet potato leaves range in color from dark to yellow-green or purple and tend to be darker on the surface and lighter on the underside. They grow on slender, green stems rising from long, creeping vines, and these vines can grow to four meters in length. The top ten centimeters of the leaves and stems are the most tender and most commonly consumed. Sweet potato leaves have a slight bitterness when raw, but when cooked the leaves take on a mild, delicately sweet flavor with a taste similar to spinach and water spinach. Sweet potato plants are grown mostly for their sweet, tuberous root vegetable, but the leaves, shoots, and flowers are also edible and used in culinary applications. China is the largest producer of the sweet potato, and it is one of the world’s main food crops. The leaves can be continuously harvested until the root vegetables are fully-grown, making sweet potatoes a good crop for times of scarcity. In fact, the sweet potato was known as a “famine food” during the Great Kyoho Famine in 1732, as well as in the post-World War II period.
• NUTRITIONAL VALUE
Sweet potato leaves contain niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, fiber, beta-carotene, and vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K. They also contain essential minerals such as sodium, potassium, calcium, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese.
• ANTIOXIDANT PROPERTIES
Sweet potatoes have been found to contain a high amount of antioxidants, making it suitable in combating inflammatory problems like asthma, arthritis, gout, etc. Also, vitamin C makes it great for fighting off free radicals thus preventing premature aging and disease.
• PROMOTE A HEALTHY GUT
The significant amount of dietary fiber, especially when eaten with the skin, helps to promote a healthy digestive tract, relieving constipation and also helps prevent colon cancer. Making a drink of the Sweet Potato Leaves really works wonders for GI distress.
• REDUCES INFLAMMATION
The high beta carotene content in sweet potato is the key anti-inflammatory compound that makes it a natural painkiller. You can eat it steamed, or juiced to benefit from its painkilling properties.
• REGULATES BLOOD GLUCOSE LEVELS
The leaves of sweet potato are suitable for diabetic consumption as it contains a very good blood sugar regulator that helps to stabilize and lower insulin resistance.
• MAINTAINS HEART HEALTH
Sweet Potato Leaves can lower blood pressure and also help with anxiety and stress. The dietary fibers present in these magical leaves regulate the flow of blood and prevent any fat deposition in arteries and veins.
According to Patrick Mutagubya, a nutritionist in Wakiso, sweet potato leaves are rich in potassium, Vitamin C, beta carotene, fibre, lutein and xanthine. He says lutein and xanthine are important for eyesight especially since they are the only reported carotenoids present in the eye lens and the retina.
Mutagubya adds that lutein is an antioxidant that prevents damage to the eye lens that initiates age-related cataracts. He notes that lutein is distributed in tissues.
“The dietary fibre found in sweet potato leaves helps to promote a healthy digestive tract,” says Christine Nabbuto, a nutritionist in Kampala. She explains that fibre relieves consumers of constipation and helps to prevent colon cancer.
Fibre allows more water to remain in stool, making it softer hence becoming easy to pass out. Fibre in sweet potato leaves is also used to regulate the flow of blood and prevent fat disposition in arteries and veins hence lowering blood pressure, explains Mutagubya.
Nabbuto says sweet potato leaves are natural painkillers. This is due to a high beta carotene content contained in these leaves which is anti-inflammatory. She says to benefit from its painkilling properties, you need to steam or make juice out of it to consume.
What sugar level is contained in sweet potato leaves?
Sweet potato leaves are good for diabetic consumption.
Mutagubya notes that these leaves contain a good blood sugar regulator which stabilizes and lowers insulin resistance.
HOW TO EAT SWEET POTATO LEAVES
You can boil or fry sweet potato leaves and eat them as a side dish.
However, Nabbuto says to be able to attain the required nutrients, steam the leaves and mix them with other ingredients like garlic and then eat. In other parts of the world, for instance Asia, sweet potato leaves are sometimes eaten raw if mixed in salads.
For those that cannot grow sweet potatoes, you can get the leaves from the market.
Sweet potato leaves can be consumed in both raw and cooked applications such as blanching, sautéing, or stir-frying. They can be used raw in salads, green smoothies, or in place of any leafy green, such as spinach or turnip greens. The simplest way to prepare Sweet potato leaves is to blanch them in hot or boiling water. They can also be sautéed with garlic and olive oil or cooked in coconut milk and served over rice or pasta. Wash Sweet potato leaves well and rough-chop into smaller pieces before cooking. If they are being boiled, the cooking water may be reserved for later use as a slightly bitter broth or as a health drink as the water will contain nutrients from the leaves. Sweet potato leaves pair well with savory flavor enhancers such as fish sauce or dried shrimp, aromatics such as garlic, onion, and ginger, meats such as chicken, beef, pork, or fish, red bell peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, and water chestnuts. Sweet potato leaves should be used as fresh as possible as they are prone to wilting.