Why you should try the veg of the year

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It’s delicious, nutritious and a veggie that adds an impressive pop of colour to every meal. It’s no wonder the purple sweet potato has been crowned Vegetable of the Year.  

Google searches for “purple sweet potato“, also known as purple kumara, are on the rise, initially spiked by the popular Netflix documentary Secrets of the Blue Zones. The series focused on five areas of the world in which people live exceptionally long lives, including the Adventist community of Loma Linda in California.   

The secret of Okinawans’ longevity

The vibrant purple tubers are a staple in the Okinawan diet, one of the five Blue Zones, and have become an important part of the culture. The vegetable is rich in anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant that gives it the deep purple colour as well as anti-inflammatory properties. Because inflammation plays a role in a number of chronic diseases, these compounds may have the potential to help protect against diseases such as Alzheimer’s, heart disease and cancer.  

Purple sweet potatoes are also a good source of fibre and potassium, which can help lower blood pressure, and vitamin C to help support a healthy immune system.  

About 60 per cent of the calories in a traditional Okinawan diet comes from sweet potatoes with the rest of the diet emphasising other vegetables and soy products alongside low GI carbohydrates, some fish and only minimal amounts of meat. Much of the longevity advantage in Okinawa is thought to be related to this traditional diet.   

The goodness of the sweet potato family 

If you don’t have access to purple sweet potatoes, there are many other varieties more readily available around the world that offer wonderful nutritional benefits.  

Sweet potatoes of all colours—purple, reddish purple, orange, white, cream—offer a range of nutrients similar to the purple sweet potato like vitamin A, B and C, potassium and fibre.  

While the purple sweet potato’s violet hue offers the antioxidant anthocyanins, the orange sweet potato is richest in beta-carotene that similarly plays a role in overall health and disease prevention. 

The white sweet potato is less sweet and can be more easily switched for the standard potato. When picking your sweet potatoes in the supermarket, look for the versions that are most vibrant in colour.  

For more information and research references check out the full article on the Sanitarium website.

Looking for inspiration to cook these nutritional powerhouses? Download the new Sanitarium vegetarian cookbook Easy Eats that features an eggplant and sweet potato dahl recipe we think you’ll love.

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