The Okinawan sweet potato is native to South America and was brought to Japan at some point between 1492 and 1605 (1). After arriving in Japan, the plant’s hardy nature allowed it to become one of the only vegetables that could withstand the typhoons that would crash into Japan– thus making it a staple in many Japanese dishes. The Polynesians eventually brought it to the Hawaiian Islands, where it flourished in the nutrient-rich volcanic soil.
What’s so sweet about sweet potatoes?
Sweet potatoes of all colors have a variety of wonderful nutritional benefits to them. They are high in vitamin A–just one serving will give you about 400 percent of the amount of vitamin A that your body requires daily (2). They are also rich in vitamin B, vitamin C, magnesium, copper, iron, dietary fiber, and potassium. Sweet potatoes are known to help improve the regulation of blood sugar, and may even have antifungal and antibacterial properties (1). Even though sweet potatoes have higher amounts of sugar and fat than white potatoes, the vitamins and minerals found in sweet potatoes help better regulate blood sugar, blood pressure, and metabolism. Sweet potatoes also fight inflammation better than white potatoes, through the antioxidants that are found in them.
The purple-headed monster…
if your mind automatically went into the gutter when you read this headline, I apologize (even though we have more in common than you probably think!) The Okinawan sweet potato is a purple MONSTER. It is loaded with antioxidants, which is the main reason why it is colored purple. The antioxidant known as anthocyanin is what is responsible for the brilliant purple color that this sweet potato possesses. This is the same antioxidant that is found in blueberries, raspberries, red grapes and red cabbage, which is also responsible for the coloring in their pigment. Blueberries are a well-known source for high levels of antioxidants, but the Okinawan sweet potato has 150 percent MORE antioxidants than blueberries!! The purple potato is an antioxidant monster, a powerhouse that can help guard against diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer (1).
What do purple potatoes and blue zones have in common?
If you read my blog post from Monday, you know I had written about our world’s blue zones. There are five blue zones that make up the areas of the longest living people on this planet (if you missed the post, go back and read it by clicking here). One of the five blue zones is in Okinawa. Okinawan’s have one of the longest average lifespans of anyone on the planet. The traditional Okinawan diet is made up of only 1 percent fish, 1 percent meat, and the majority of the rest being vegetables and beans. The majority of the calories consumed in a traditional Okinawan diet are made up of, you guessed it, purple sweet potatoes! The traditional Okinawan diet is highly anti-inflammatory and highly rich in antioxidants, which is a direct result of filling their diet with a majority of purple sweet potatoes. Okinawans who eat a traditional Okinawan diet live one of the longest, and healthiest lives on the planet. They have 6-12 times fewer heart disease deaths, 2-3 times fewer colon cancer deaths, 7 times fewer prostate cancer deaths, and 5.5 times lower risk of dying from breast cancer than people in the United States (3).
As much as I would like to think that Prince was singing about the Okinawan purple potato, I would think that if he was, it would be more of a staple in our diets. The facts speak for themselves, the purple potato is one of the most highly nutritious foods on the planet. If I could make it rain, I would make it rain purple potatoes into everyone’s kitchens. These should be a staple of most diets, and can easily replace the carbohydrates that are found on most American’s dinner plates. The next time that you are at the supermarket, look for these purple potatoes instead of reaching for the orange or white potatoes. If you cannot find them in your local supermarket, you can always order Hawaiian grown purple sweet potatoes on Amazon using this link.