Kamote: a “poor man’s diet”?


Sweet potato, or kamote (camote) in the Philippines, may be considered the “poor man’s diet” in developing nations because it is the cheapest and readily available staples among many poor farmers.  But little do many of us know – including me, of course – that kamote is very rich in vitamins and minerals.

Our body has its own way of communicating what it needs.  It may not be in the language that we know of but it speaks to us nonetheless.  Oftentimes, though, we fail to listen or we simply choose to ignore the pains and longing of our bodies to attend to the “more pressing issues” or we’re just too preoccupied with “busyness in everything and anything”. We tend to slow down only when we get (seriously) ill and can no longer function the way we want our body to. This time it could be too late! This could now be the time of regretting what we should have or have not done!  We might just find ourselves uttering words, such as:

“I wish I did….”

“If only I could…”

“I should have…”

Uncooked kamote
Uncooked kamote

Some years ago, a close friend told me to always listen to what my body has to say because it does not lie.  I didn’t pay much attention to it, though.

Lately, I got tired easily and find it difficult to concentrate on my work. No matter how I got myself to write, I seemed to have run out of ideas. In a sense, I was sort of suffering from brain drain!

At the same time, I was craving for boiled sweet potatoes (Kamote or camote in our dialect). And so, remembering the advice, I decided to buy some kamote from the nearby market, and cooked all one kilo of it. Funny but after some helping, I felt recharged and eager to hit the keyboard and write again.

Curious, I decided to check on the internet what could I have been missing – nutrition-wise. I found out that the humble kamote, which is sometimes called a “poor man’s diet”, is packed with powerful nutrients. And probably, I must have been lacking much, if not all, of these wonderful kamote health benefits:

That, it is a good source of vitamin C.  As we all know, vitamin C promotes digestion, blood cell formation and healing of wounds; protects us from cold and flu viruses as well as from toxins associated with cancer; facilitates in bone and tooth formation; produces collagen for healthy and youthful skin, and; helps us cope with stress.  Apparently, it was stress that kept me slow.

That Kamote is rich in vitamin B6, which is essential in reducing homocysteine in the body.  Homocysteine is a chemical said to be associated with degenerative disease.

That it contains vitamin D which plays a very important role in our immune system and general health.  Vitamin D boosts our energy levels, moods, as well as promotes healthy bones, nerves, heart, skin, and teeth.  Now, I know why I did not have much energy lately.

That it is great source of manganese. Manganese plays a very important role in the metabolism of carbohydrates useful in promoting healthy blood sugar levels.  This trace mineral in kamote stabilizes glucose levels by increasing adinopectin, a significant element in insulin metabolism.  And since kamote has a glycemic index of 50, it is considered a diabetic food.  I thank God I’m not diabetic, and I pray the humble kamote helps in protecting me from acquiring the disease, which has already claimed the life of my elder sister.

That it is a most potent anti-oxidant.  Kamote contains high level of vitamin A or beta-carotene, even higher than that of carrots. Vitamin A, as we all know, is an important anti-oxidant that helps prevent different types of cancer, and protects our skin from the harmful effects of the sun as it deflects and repair cell damage caused by too much exposure to UV rays, shielding us against premature aging. Beta-carotene in the body is converted into vitamin A (retinol), for good eye health and good vision, strong immune system, as well as glowing skin and mucous membranes.  Oh, I need this for my eyes.

That kamote is high in other vitamins, such as: vitamins B2, and E; as well as in minerals like copper, potassium, and iron.

Being one of the essential electrolytes that regulates heartbeat and nerve functions, potassium helps relax muscle contractions, minimizes swelling, and protects and controls the activity of the kidneys.

Iron, on the other hand, plays a crucial role in the production of red and white blood cells, fortifies the body against stress, and promotes metabolism and healthy immune system.

The magnesium content in kamote helps fight stress, allowing the body to relax.  It also promotes healthy bones, heart, blood, muscles, arteries, and nerves.

That kamote is rich in dietary fiber and less in fat content.  A medium size kamote is packed with 26 grams of carbohydrates, of which 3.8 grams are dietary fiber that helps minimize bad cholesterol and eases bowel movement.

That kamote is an effective detoxifying agent.  Kamote absorbs heavy metals, such as lead, arsenic, and mercury that can build up in the body through consumption of commercially-processed foods, and effectively flushes them out of your system.

After knowing all the kamote health benefits, I now can’t seem to understand why it bears a connotation of a “poor man’s diet”.  Being the cheapest in terms of market value does not have to be of poor quality.

Boiled kamote
Boiled kamote

Kamote is even the best rice substitute.  I was just thinking that if we, in the Philippines, would make it a habit to make kamote a part of our daily diet, we could reduce the risk of getting diabetic, and we probably resolve the issues of rice smuggling and shortage of rice supply.  And eventually, eradicate the corrupt practices surrounding this “rice issues” in the country.

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