(Credit: Ruth Nanfuka)
When people grow sweet potatoes, the main interest is in the sweet tuber, relegating the leaves to animal feeds. But sweet potato leaves are very much edible and healthy for the human body.
They are heart-shaped and grow in the tropical and temperate climates. Both young and mature sweet potato leaves are important.
According to Patrick Mutagubya, a nutritionist in Wakiso, sweet potato leaves are rich in potassium, Vitamin C, beta carotene, fibre, lutein and xanthine.
He says lutein and xanthine are important for eyesight especially since they are the only reported carotenoids present in the eye lens and the retina.
Mutagubya adds that lutein is an antioxidant that prevents damage to the eye lens that initiates age-related cataracts.
He notes that lutein is distributed in tissues.
“The dietary fibre found in sweet potato leaves helps to promote a healthy digestive tract,” says Christine Nabbuto, a nutritionist in Kampala.
She explains that fibre relieves consumers of constipation and helps to prevent colon cancer.
Fibre allows more water to remain in stool, making it softer hence becoming easy to pass out.
Fibre in sweet potato leaves is also used to regulate the flow of blood and prevent fat disposition in arteries and veins hence lowering blood pressure, explains Mutagubya.
Nabbuto says sweet potato leaves are natural painkillers. This is due to a high beta carotene content contained in these leaves which is anti-inflammatory.
She says to benefit from its painkilling properties, you need to steam or make juice out of it to consume.
What sugar level is contained in sweet potato leaves?
Sweet potato leaves are good for diabetic consumption.
Mutagubya notes that these leaves contain a good blood sugar regulator which stabilizes and lowers insulin resistance.
How to eat sweet potato leaves
You can boil or fry sweet potato leaves and eat them as a side dish.
However, Nabbuto says to be able to attain the required nutrients, steam the leaves and mix them with other ingredients like garlic and then eat.
In other parts of the world, for instance Asia, sweet potato leaves are sometimes eaten raw if mixed in salads.
For those that cannot grow sweet potatoes, you can get the leaves from the market.
At Nakasero market, a kilogram of sweet potato leaves costs sh1, 500.