Posted on Aug 10, 2023, 5 p.m.
Most infants love a nice bowl of smooshy sweet potatoes, and many parents love to watch their babies delight in playing in the bowl while eating it, the photo opportunities produced are adored for decades to come and make a great wedding day memory slideshow giggle.
As it turns out there may be some long-term health benefits associated with these messy meals, compounds within it act as a prebiotic that supports the healthy growth of bacteria in the gut microbiome which could lead to better sleep and boosted immune protection against viruses.
Sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is native to New Zealand, where the Maori call it kumara, and this root veggie has been a staple for centuries, known for its sweet taste and vibrant colors running from white to orange and purple.
The early stages of pregnancy and the first few months of life are important for the growth and development of an infant, and according to Professor Clare Wall, who is the principal investigator in the SUN Study, what they are exposed to during this important period can have a significant impact on their overall well-being.
The SUN Study (Seeding throUgh feediNg: nourishing the infant microbiome to support immune health) is a randomized controlled trial looking at nourishing infant microbiome and supporting immune health through prebiotic first food in conjunction with their weaning diet. The 4-month trial is open to those living in Auckland, NZ, and is being held at the University of Auckland with partners across the country, which is recruiting until the end of 2023.
Initially, infants are born with few gut bacteria, which are subsequently influenced by delivery, feeding, and the environment. Breastfeeding is widely recognized for its positive impacts, and this study is designed to begin during weaning with the introduction of solid foods to examine the impacts that the gut microbiome plays on immune function and brain development.
The solid food in main focus will be kumara, as it is a popular baby food and it contains prebiotics that helps to nourish the beneficial bacteria in the large bowel. Stool samples will be analyzed before, after, and during the introduction of solid foods, including kumara, to determine the influence it has on infant immunity and microbiome. Ideally, the researchers would also like the mothers to provide stool samples as well as samples of breast milk for analysis so that they can consider all aspects of diet that would affect the infant when compared to control groups.
The study is designed to also explore the effect of kumara on sleep along with the effects on the microbiome. Some of the shirt chain fatty acids created during the breakdown of food by the gut microbiome may contribute to longer and better-quality sleep for infants.
Sweet potato's fiber content helps to promote healthy digestion and prevent constipation, as well as helping to regulate blood sugar levels. The vitamin content, especially vitamins A and C, will help promote healthy skin and boost hair health. Kumara’s high levels of beta-carotene are converted to vitamin A within the body which supports healthy vision while promoting a healthy immune system. The anthocyanin content in sweet potatoes may help to enhance brain function. It is loaded with various nutrients and anti-aging antioxidants found within kumara are associated with reduced inflammation that also helps to protect the body from oxidative damage.
Kumara, sweet potato, is more than just sweet-tasting baby food, it also carries some health benefits due to it being a rich source of vitamins and minerals, most notably beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin B5, and manganese. This root veggie is also versatile, it can be boiled, steamed, roasted, fried, mashed, sliced, pureed, and diced as an ingredient of savory or sweet dishes. This versatility makes them easy to be incorporated into a variety of dishes as part of a balanced diet, which enables us to take advantage of their health benefits on a regular basis to contribute to overall health and wellness.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
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