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Are Sweet Potatoes the Secret to Longevity?

Photo: TMON/Shutterstock.com

Last year, the world celebrated the life of Francisco Olivera, the Spanish native who exclusively enjoyed the Mediterranean diet and held the title of the "World's Oldest Person" up until 113. There may be another superfood, however, that could be the dietary secret to living a long, healthy life, says the family of Lessie Brown, who was believed to be the oldest living person in the United States until she passed away on Tuesday at the age of 114.

Related: 50 Easy Mediterranean Diet Recipes and Meal Ideas

According to Associated Press reports, Brown was born in 1904 in Georgia and grew up on a farm, where she was one of 12 children, before moving to Cleveland in the 1920s. She maintained two routines for most of her life: She attended Cleveland's Emmanuel Baptist Church, and she enjoyed at least one sweet potato every single day.

Did the starchy, sweet-tasting potato actually help her achieve such a long life?

“Oh I don’t know. A lot of them say it’s because I ate a lot of sweet potatoes, but I don’t think that’s it. I don’t know, God’s will,” Brown explained to Cleveland's WJW-TV when pressed about her secret to longevity during her 109th birthday in 2013.

Sweet potatoes have a reputation for being a healthy swap for regular starches, but are they healthy enough to eat every day? Data provided by the United States Department of Agriculture shows that a medium-sized sweet potato contains just 103 calories, 24g of carbs, no fat, and 7g of naturally-occuring sugar, while providing 4g of fiber as well.

Twenty-four grams of carbs may seem like a lot for a vegetable, but they are complex carbs which take longer for your body to digest, meaning they'll help keep your energy up and make you feel satiated for longer. Sweet potatoes also contain plenty of fiber, helping negate some of the sugar intake you would experience at mealtime.

For those watching blood sugar levels, sweet potatoes are actually known to help keep sugar and insulin levels low due to their fibrous nature, which helps them earn a glowing recommendation from the American Diabetes Association. Sweet potatoes should be on heavy rotation for those dealing with inflammation as they're high in anti-inflammatory compounds that can help negate inflammation, and thus many other chronic diseases, at the cellular level.

Other reasons to love sweet potatoes? They're very high in vitamin A, packing upwards of six times the recommended daily value, and contain 43mg of calcium, 31mg of magnesium, 542mg of potassium, 62mg of phosphorus, and 22mg of vitamin C.

We won't know for sure why Brown made it to 114—she celebrated her last birthday in September, when she had learned that she had earned the title of the "oldest" living person in America. Her daughter, Verline Wilson, told the press that her mother said, "That's good," when she discovered the distinction… right before she most likely enjoyed a sweet potato to celebrate.

This story was originally published on CookingLight.com by Zee Krstic.

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