Plants contain a plethora of beneficial properties and sweet potatoes, specifically, the purple varieties, which are high in the phytonutrients anthocyanins, have been found to contain anticancer properties .
Rich anthocyanin content has been shown to suppress the growth of colon cancer stem cells. A 2009 review in the Cancer Letters Journal found that these phytonutrients were able to inhibit the growth of colorectal cancer cells by as high as 48 percent . These were in vivo animal studies, so its hard to know if the same effect would be true in humans. A more recent 2016 review in The British Journal of Pharmacology highlighted the antioxidant, anti-tumor, and apoptotic effects of the anthocyanidin compounds in sweet potatoes .
Sweet potato also contains a particular protein, called (you guessed it) Sweet Potatoe Protein (SPP). It has been found to reduce the proliferation and metastasis of colon cancer cells, as published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology . Since SPP has such positive effects on inhibiting colon cancer, success with animal research findings suggest that the same effects may benefit the lungs. In the future, this could translate to an application for lung cancer for humans as well .
Supporting Our Immune System
Lastly, a study by the College of Food Science and Engineering found that a type of starch in purple sweet potatoes enhances the production of butyric acid, a short-chain fatty acid which is also found in butter. This fatty acid plays a role in gut health and immune function, working to decrease inflammation and support a healthy microbiome .
The Bottom Line?
While these studies don’t definitively tell us that sweet potatoes, purple or otherwise, will prevent certain types of cancer, incorporating a variety of these potatoes (and other whole foods) into our diets seems like a no brainer. Looking for the best and most amazing ways to incorporate sweet potatoes into your diet? Read on.
Best Practices for Utilizing Sweet Potatoes
A finding in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry states that baking purple sweet potato is one of the best methods for retaining the beneficial properties . Save yourself the work, and keep the skin on. Many of the beneficial antioxidants are found within the peel or skin.
Sweet potatoes provide more than just phytonutrients, they are also a source of plant-based vitamin A, vitamin C, and B-vitamins. They also contain a balance of minerals and high fiber, which helps them to score low on the scale of the glycemic index.
Enjoy baked sweet potatoes as is, with a little spread of grass-fed butter or coconut oil, make sweet potato toast, or puree them and add a dash of honey and a sprinkle of seeds and other superfoods for a grain-free breakfast bowl.
-  Anthocyanin-containing purple-fleshed potatoes suppress colon tumorigenesis via elimination of colon cancer stem cells https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26383537
-  Anthocyanins and their role in cancer prevention https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2582525/
-  Effects of anthocyanins on the prevention and treatment of cancer https://bpspubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/bph.13627
-  Effects of polysaccharides from purple sweet potatoes on immune response and gut microbiota composition https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29322139
-  Anticancer effects of sweet potato protein on human colorectal cancer cells https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23745032
-  Anti-Inflammatory and Anticancer Activities of Taiwanese Purple-Fleshed Sweet Potatoes https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26509161
-  Potential Chemopreventive Properties of Extract from Baked Sweet Potato https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf049368w?journalCode=jafcau
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