Sweet Potatoes: A Better Source of Nutrition Than Rice or Corn. What a Concept!

I was thrilled to hear a piece about an initiative that the Bill & Melinda Gates are funding, which supports “studying the best ways to disseminate the more nutritious varieties of sweet potatoes to farmers and their families.”

Their website outlines some of the basics:

  • Many of the two billion people in the developing world are women farmers who rely on staple crops, such as cassava and maize, for income and to feed their families.
  • Many of these crops are deficient in micronutrients, which can lead to significantly lower birth weight, a decrease in cognitive development, and increased susceptibility to diseases. Vitamin A deficiency alone threatens an estimated 43 million children under age 5 in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Although all sweet potatoes are excellent sources of carbohydrates, fibers, macronutrients, and many vitamins, only the orange-fleshed varieties are also very high in vitamin A. Improved varieties of this crop are proving to be easy to grow and thrive in Africa’s harsh climate—where drought, disease, and pests plague many staple crops.

I listened to this today on NPR.   The idea is so simple; of course it’s better for people to eat sweet potatoes as a source of many vitamins, in particular vitamin A, than it is for them to ingest the bare minimum which is eaten for no other reason than it’s cheap and makes the most economic sense.     

This particular initiative also supports teaching people in communities how to grow the sweet potatoes not only for their own consumption but to sell as a means of generating a small income.

What a perfect example of the type of programs we need to see more of; those with means helping others without and doing so in a fair, sustainable and (finally) healthy (and PALEO!) manner.

Good on you, Bill Gates!