Wednesday, 6 Jul 2022

How to live longer: A sweet potato may be ‘the healthiest of all vegetables’ says study

Michael Mosley discusses the improved quality of liquid diets

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Harvard Health Nutrition Source sweet potatoes are one of the top sources of beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. It adds boiling sweet potatoes retains more beta-carotene and makes the nutrient more absorbable than other cooking methods such as baking or frying.

A meta analysis published in the National Library of Medicine looked at healthy diets, such as the Okinawan Diet.

The analysis says: “Although some dietary patterns are well known to be associated with the prevention of chronic age-associated diseases, such as the traditional Mediterranean diet, the focus of this manuscript will be to explore other, less well known, dietary patterns that have also been linked to decreased risk for chronic age-associated diseases, such as the Okinawan Diet.”

It states: “The traditional diet in Okinawa is anchored by root vegetables (principally sweet potatoes), green and yellow vegetables, soybean-based foods, and medicinal plants.”

The research suggests a sweet potato may be “the healthiest of all vegetables”.

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It notes the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and other organisations that recognise the value of a healthy diet for reducing risk for chronic disease have “heartily endorsed” the sweet potato for its nutritional properties that may aid in decreasing risk for chronic age associated diseases such as cancer or cardiovascular disease.

The meta analysis says prior research has also confirmed the beneficial effects of sweet potato on cholesterol levels (total cholesterol and LDL) in patients with type 2 diabetes.

It adds: “Finally, despite their sweet taste, the Glycemic Index of the sweet potato is not high.

“It ranges from low to medium, depending upon the specific variety of sweet potato, as well as the method of preparation.”

The NHS says: “As you get older, you may start to lose weight, either through illness or loss of appetite.”

The health body says you can take steps to improve your diet and get the energy and nutrients you need.

It adds: “Physical activity is particularly important for older people. It can help you stay healthy, mobile and independent.

“Being active helps keep your heart healthy and lowers your risk of heart disease and stroke – even if you’re underweight. You may also feel hungrier the more active you are.”

The UK Government says evidence suggests that malnutrition causes significant and long-lasting health conditions.

It adds: “Research shows that many older people have difficulty with food preparation.

“The weight, packaging and opening mechanisms of food containers and the ability to physically prepare and cook healthier food can be problematic.

“Mobility and other physical impairments such as arthritis are seen to be factors that affect ability to prepare food. It is estimated that at least 80 percent of older people have some form of arthritis.”

A guide by NHS England and Age UK says: “Wholesome soups make a warming snack. Include a good range of foods in your diet (for example wholegrain cereals, milk and cheese for calcium).

“Aim for five portions of fruit and vegetables each day, so that you’re getting plenty of nutrients and vitamins. Remember that frozen vegetables are as good as fresh. It’s important to eat enough, especially in winter.

“Having a glass of water within reach during the daytime will remind you to keep up your fluid intake.

“Having a hot drink before bed and keeping one in a flask by your bedside can be good ideas too. If you’re worried about a poor appetite or losing weight, speak to your GP.”

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