Sweet Potato: the facts

The must-have complex carb

If there's one must-have complex carb you should stock in your pantry and include in your fitness nutrition plan, it's the seemingly humble sweet potato. Depending on how they're prepared, sweet potatoes can satisfy your craving for something savoury or sweet without derailing your diet plan.

Image titleOriginally native to Central and South America, they are one of the oldest vegetables known to man. They have been consumed since prehistoric times as evidenced by sweet potato relics dating back 10,000 years that have been discovered in Peruvian caves.

They're a great slow-digesting fuel for nearly any fitness goal. These orange-colored powerhouses promote stabilized blood glucose levels and are rich sources of vitamin A, B, and C, manganese, copper, and pantothenic acid.

Glycemic index, or GI, is a measure of how quickly a food raises your levels of blood sugar. Eating lower-GI foods tends to sustain your energy levels as these foods digest more slowly. Since sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic index and glycemic load than white potatoes, they're a better choice for your pre-workout meal to help give you that boost needed to push through a hard session.

Sweet potatoes are loaded with fiber. Ignore fiber at their peril - fiber is essential for helping to control appetite, burn fat, maintain healthy digestion and build muscle. A 1-cup serving of sweet potatoes contains about 8 grams of fiber.

Potassium is a mineral that plays a big role in muscle control, electrolyte balance and nerve function. Athletes and others involved in intense training generally need more potassium than an average sedentary person, according to the Colorado State University Extension service. The average adult needs 4,700 milligrams of potassium daily; one large sweet potato provides around 694 milligrams, which amounts to roughly 15 percent of the minimum intake.

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