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This September, The Cochrane Library published a review of the sweet potato and its therapeutic effects on blood sugar. (1) While more research into the matter is necessary, a handful of studies show that the sweet potato can improve blood sugar control.
Roughly 10 years ago, a group of studies were published that investigated the effect of sweet potato in diabetic patients. (2)(3)
As it turns out, an extract of the white-skinned sweet potato can lower both blood sugar and cholesterol in patients with type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes affects adults and children alike. In industrialized countries, 300 million people or more will be affected by diabetes by the year 2025.
In 2011, the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition published research suggesting that the sweet potato can lower blood sugar because of its ability to suppress inflammation and oxidative damage. (4)
Plant chemicals found in the sweet potato—or Ipomoea batatas—also increase the cell’s sensitivity to insulin. Greater sensitivity to insulin means lower blood sugar. (5)(6)
Insulin is the hormone that shuttles sugar into your cells. When you are insulin resistant, you have overloaded your body with sugar so much and so often that your body’s cells have grown indifferent to the constant surge of insulin. Your cells do not respond to insulin, and blood sugar remains high. Type 2 diabetes is often a result of insulin resistance.
The Sweet Potato in Chinese Medicine
While modern science is unraveling the benefits of the sweet potato, ancient medicine has known of its benefits for millennia. (7)
According to Chinese medicine, many root vegetables—and sweet potato in particular—can enhance Qi (pronounced chee) when consumed on a regular basis. One interpretation of Qi is “breath.” Qi is the animating principle of all life and of all objects. In Chinese medicine, the Qi of the digestive system is most often expressed through the Earth element.
The delicious sweet potato may help to lower blood sugar by suppressing inflammation and oxidative damage. Ancient Chinese medicine has long supported the benefits of the sweet potato to ease fatigue, congestion, bloating, and poor concentration.
When the Earth element is weak from Qi deficiency:
- Your limbs feel heavy.
- You feel tired, especially first thing in the morning.
- Posture is collapsed.
- You feel congested.
- There is a tendency to bloat after meals.
- Stools may be loose, or sometimes hard.
- Concentration is poor.
According to Chinese medicine, the sweet potato supports the Earth element and the digestive force of the body. (8) Most starchy root vegetables are warming and nourishing to the body, helping to eliminate fatigue from the limbs, poor concentration, and congestion.
Because the Earth element plays such a pivotal role in energy levels and digestive function, its dysfunction is common in people with insulin resistance.
One hallmark of insulin resistance is excess fat, especially around the middle. The Earth element is responsible for the transformation of food and how food is used in the body. When this system is weak or deficient, you may find it difficult to lose weight and have low energy, in spite of eating.
Improve Your Metabolism with Body Ecology
According to Chinese medicine, a diet that enhances Qi contains mostly vegetables and fruit with a small quantity of protein.
Complex carbohydrates, such as starchy vegetables and grain-like seeds, are valuable because they slowly release energy into the body, providing a stable source of fuel that does not spike blood sugar. Chinese medicine also tells us to eat only until moderately full, so as not to overwhelm the Earth element and your digestive force.
At Body Ecology, we take these principles a step further.
We explain that the body produces certain enzymes along specific points of the digestive process. For this reason, we suggest that you fill 80% of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, fermented vegetables, and ocean vegetables. This helps you to digest the remaining 20% of your plate, which may be an animal protein, grain-like seeds, or a starchy vegetable. Animal proteins do NOT food combine well with starchy vegetables or grain-like seeds.
The Body Ecology Principle of 80/20 also tells us to only eat until 80% full. This ensures that you have enough enzymes available to digest your meal. It also protects against the stagnation of food in the small intestine. When food gets stuck in the small intestine, it ferments, generating gas and causing intestinal pain.
Ferment your sweet potatoes! Sweet potatoes are not recommended on Stage 1 of the Body Ecology Diet, unless they are fermented. Sweet potatoes can be easily fermented with the Vegetable Starter to enhance digestion and absorption.
What To Remember Most About This Article:
The sweet potato may benefit blood sugar control in diabetics. Some research has proven that white-skinned sweet potato extract can actually help to lower blood sugar and cholesterol in type 2 diabetic patients. Type 2 diabetes is a growing health concern that affects both adults and children in industrialized countries especially. Type 2 diabetes is often related to insulin resistance after the body has been frequently overloaded with sugar.
Even Chinese medicine supports the use of the sweet potato to enhance Qi and alleviate fatigue, poor posture, congestion, bloating, poor concentration, and more.
You can use the principles of Chinese medicine along with the Body Ecology Principle of 80/20 to greatly improve your health. The Body Ecology Principle of 80/20 encourages you to eat 80% non-starchy vegetables, fermented vegetables, and ocean vegetables at each meal and eat only until 80% full to provide ample enzymes to digest. We also strongly recommend using the Vegetable Starter to ferment sweet potatoes before you eat them to provide the best digestion and absorption possible.
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- Ooi, C. P., & Loke, S. C. (2012). Sweet potato for type 2 diabetes mellitus. status: New., (2).
- Ludvik, B., Waldhäusl, W., Prager, R., Kautzky-Willer, A., & Pacini, G. (2003). Mode of action of ipomoea batatas (caiapo) in type 2 diabetic patients. Metabolism, 52(7), 875-880.
- Ludvik, B., Neuffer, B., & Pacini, G. (2004). Efficacy of Ipomoea batatas (Caiapo) on diabetes control in type 2 diabetic subjects treated with diet. Diabetes Care, 27(2), 436-440.
- Niwa, A., Tajiri, T., & Higashino, H. (2011). Ipomoea batatas and Agarics blazei ameliorate diabetic disorders with therapeutic antioxidant potential in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Journal of clinical biochemistry and nutrition, 48(3), 194.
- Oki, N., Nonaka, S., & Ozaki, S. (2011). The effects of an arabinogalactan-protein from the white-skinned sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas L.) on blood glucose in spontaneous diabetic mice. Bioscience, biotechnology, and biochemistry, 75(3), 596-598.
- Kusano, S., & Abe, H. (2000). Antidiabetic activity of white skinned sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas L.) in obese Zucker fatty rats. Biological and pharmaceutical bulletin, 23(1), 23-26.
- Zhao, H. L., Tong, P., & Chan, J. (2006). Traditional Chinese medicine in the treatment of diabetes.
- Leggett, D., & Trenshaw, K. (1999). Recipes for Self-healing. Meridian. p 142.
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