By Natasha M
Sweet Potatoes and yams are one of the most nutritionally dense foods on the planet. Did you know that the rich orange color provides one of the highest sources of beta carotene in the form of Vitamin A? However, not all sweet potatoes are orange as there are over 400 varieties of sweet potatoes found around the world. The best way to reap all of the health benefits of sweet potatoes and yams is to consume steamed or baked. One of my personal favorites are the beautiful purple variety. Science has identified the exact genes in sweet potatoes that get activated to produce the purple anthocyanin pigments responsible for the rich color. These anthocyanin’s have important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Some of the benefits of sweet potatoes and Yams are as follows:
- Antioxidants: one serving provides a 90% increase in Vitamin A. Beta carotene scavenge the body for free radicals. (fat soluble best when coconut oil is added). Antioxidant anthocyanin is highest in purple variety.
- Anti inflammatory: sweet potatoes contain compounds that target inflammation at a cellular level. Phytonutrients in purple sweet potatoes have the ability to reduce inflammation in both nerve and brain tissue according to a study done by Neurochemistry International in 2010.
- Blood sugar: sweet potatoes are a slow burning starch that increase blood levels of adiponectin, an important modifier of insulin metabolism.
- Potassium: helps regulate blood pressure, sweeps sodium and fluid out of the body and regulates heart rhythm.
- Magnesium: helps alleviate symptoms of insomnia, anxiety and depression. Neutralizes stress adrenaline, protects brain from trauma, calms nerves, relaxes muscles and balance cognitive function.
- Heavy metal removal: purple sweet potatoes contain compounds that can bind to heavy metals such as lead, mercury, copper, & cadmium when passing through the gut.
- Sporamin: a storage protein founded in 1930 that helps the plant heal any damage makes up 80% of the sweet potato. Numerous studies have shown this proteins healing effect against leukemia, colorectal, tongue/oral, colon, skin, breast and pancreatic cancers.
- Vitamin C: over 50% of a sweet potato contains vitamin C. It is also found in high concentrations in the ovaries and is essential for hormone production/ regulation, when absorbed in ovaries, it then stimulates the production of the Progesterone hormone.
Even though all of these are reason enough to integrate sweet potatoes and yams to a daily regimen, one of the biggest benefits of eating them is their Progesterone delivery. Both sweet potatoes and it’s cousin the Yam contains what is most referred to as the “happy hormone” or the “fountain of youth”.
Progesterone is a natural hormone produced by the ovaries after a woman ovulates. It plays a big role in getting and maintaining a pregnancy amongst many other hormonal functions in the body.
When progesterone hormone levels are low (usually between the age of 30-50) in the body it may:
- be difficult to get pregnant. (Progesterone helps thicken uterus in anticipation of a fertilized egg. If the uterus isn't thick enough, implantation may not occur).
- raises the rate of miscarriage during pregnancy, Progesterone protects the egg from the body absorbing it.
- cause estrogen dominance which may lead to the buildup of tissue in the inner lining of the womb.
- increase premenstrual symptoms of fluid retention, breast pain and cramping. It also may play the same roll in uterine and endometrial disease pain.
- increase weight gain, hair loss, brittle nail and dry skin. (Progesterone increases collagen, reduces androgen that hinders hair/nail growth)
- play a roll in postpartum depression. (The ovaries make progesterone but are turned off during pregnancy while placenta makes it. Once the placenta is removed it takes a few months for hormones to kick back in again and normalize, hence placenta therapy helping with PPD ).
- cause uterine bleeding.
- cause irregular and missed periods.
- cause low sex drive and hot flashes.
- affect blood clotting process which hinders wound healing and increases blood loss.
When progesterone hormone levels are normal in the body it may:
- prevent muscle contractions from happening in the uterus that would cause a woman's body to reject an egg.
- prevent low breast milk production as the progesterone is made by the placenta about 8 weeks into pregnancy which prepares the breast to create breast milk. Consumption of sweet potatoes and yams after birth may help continue ample milk production.
- balances estrogen and testosterone
- promotes fertility (iron in sweet potato promotes fertility).
- protects from Breast Cancer according to a study done in 1981 by John Hopkins School of Epidemiology.
- help better assimilate thyroid hormones.
- increases brain serotonin.
- build new bone alongside magnesium, vitamin D & K
- increases your metabolic rate by increasing your appetite and energy levels.
- protect against endometrial diseases.
- prevent nerve cell damage.
- relieve depression, anxiety and insomnia (Increases GABA in the brain).
- nourish hair, skin and nails, hence the “your glowing” affect in pregnancy due to high amounts of vitamin A, C, E & collagen builders.
- protect from auto immune disease caused by estrogen dominance according to article published in 2014 by Nature Reviews.
- lightens painful and heavy periods.
Estrogen dominance is one of the biggest health issues affecting women today when it comes to Progesterone health. The focus on balance between the two can be a powerful tool in combatting estrogen dominance. For example, estrogen increases body fat, while Progesterone helps use fat for energy. Because they work hand in hand, when one is off, another function may suffer. Introducing a diet high in sweet potato and yams may help balance this hormonal relationship.
Other helpful tools to combat estrogen dominance and help balance hormones may be:
- eating organic, grass fed beef, pasture raised eggs and chickens (free of antibiotic & hormone feed)
- consuming wild fish while avoiding farmed and large mouthed fish.
- eliminating xenoestrogens such as pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides.
- improve liver function/health (milk thistle, artichoke, dandelion root) The liver is responsible for eliminating metabolized or “used up” estrogens.
- daily bowel movements aid in removal of estrogen from the body.
- avoiding all soy (raises estrogen).
- avoiding wheat and gluten. (Inflammatory)
- avoiding GMO and processed foods.
- consuming cruciferous veggies (steamed or cooked is best), raw broccoli sprouts as a form of DIM (a metabolic I3C).
- dry skin brushing to help circulation
- avoid plastic and BPA. (raises estrogen)
- find alternatives to birth control pills. (BC pills are synthetic estrogen)
- eat more fiber.
- proper daily intake of magnesium, iron, zinc and selenium rich orange and green fleshed foods.
- Antioxidant rich foods, (750mg Vitamin C a day for 6 months can considerably increase the progesterone production).
- eat healthy clean fats.
- drink clean water and stay hydrated.
- manage stress (medical medium suggests sweet potatoes neutralize damaging stress adrenaline).
- look into anti inflammatory supplements such Turmeric w/black pepper.
- consume organic bone broth.
- detox heavy metals and reduce exposure to heavy metals (see HMD blog).
- maintain healthy weight.
- eliminate toxic cosmetics and beauty products.
- balance gut microbe and digestive enzymes, consume raw dairy, pre & probiotics may be beneficial. Digestive issues may inhibit the estrogen detoxification process in the liver and overproduce cortisol which blocks progesterone receptors.
- focus and repair sacral chakra which interacts with relationships, expressions of sexuality, creativity and human connection.
- work through past trauma, resentment, fear, anger, emotional attachment and other negative energy that may congest the chakra energy fields.
- journaling and positive affirmations such as “I am radiant, beautiful and strong and enjoy a healthy and passionate life. I am in touch with my feelings. I am a creative being.”
- maintain healthy thyroid function.
- diet high in wild blueberries, sesame, avocados, black beans, asparagus, apples, spinach, black grapes, cucumbers, raspberry leaf, nettle & elderberry according to Medical Medium.
- chamomile & raspberry leaf teas help reduce estrogen.
Also, Keep in mind that estrogen dominance may not be present because of too much estrogen but because the body and hormonal eco system is not breaking down and evacuating these estrogens well enough. And if any symptoms are present that may suggest a concern, it is always best to seek a Doctor and have hormones levels tested. If Progesterone levels don't increase or decrease monthly, this may indicate a problem. Thus keeping in mind that there are many factors that play a role when imbalance is present. Many studies are proving the positive effects that sweet potatoes and yams have on women’s health making them one of my daily favorites.
***THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN APPROVED OR REGULATED BY THE FDA. WE ARE NOT DOCTORS, THEREFORE ALWAYS CONSULT WITH YOUR DOCTOR FIRST.