A new discovery may change the way Americans see one of the foods they indulge in during the holiday season. Sweet potatoes may not be from the United States after all.
Where Do Sweet Potatoes Come From?
A new study that was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that the American-favorite vegetable is actually from Asia. Sweet potatoes are from the morning glory family and were thought to have been from America for 35 million years.
The researchers, who were from Indiana University, claim to have found 17 morning glory leaf fossils during a trip to Meghalaya, located in Northeast India. The fossils that were discovered are believed to be at least 57 million years old. The scientists did stress that the leaves were from the genus Ipomoea, which includes sweet potatoes and hundreds of other plants.
This means that sweet potatoes may not have grown from that particular place in Asia, or if they did, they may have been a different form of the popular vegetable. Nonetheless, David Dilcher, a professor, thinks that this new discovery would still change people's perception about the vegetable.
"It will be a data point that is picked up and used in other work where researchers are trying to find the time of the evolution of major groups of flowering plants," Dilcher commented.
There are many benefits in consuming sweet potatoes regularly. Not only are they naturally sweet, they also contain high amounts of fiber and potassium and are said to help decrease the risk of developing obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Sweet potatoes can also help with poor vision, infertility, and inflammation. They are a good source of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant that gives orange fruits and vegetables their color. Beta-carotene is transformed into vitamin A when in a human body and can help reduce the risk of developing certain cancers.
In the 2000's, sweet potatoes became a popular trend for people who were dieting. Certain diets such as the Paleo, South Beach, or Atkins diet recommended the consumption of this vegetable. Sweet potatoes can be consumed boiled, baked, fried, and various other ways.