Sweet potatoes can be “considered…a superfood”—one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet. And, one day, perhaps, even off the planet, as NASA has chosen it for space missions. One of the healthiest and cheapest. This study aimed to identify which vegetables “provided the most nutrients per [dollar].”If you look at a graph of affordability versus nutrition, you can see that the healthiest foods, like dark green leafy vegetables, may also be among the cheapest. And the highest nutrient-rich food scores per dollar were obtained for sweet potatoes.They’re not just packed with nutrition, but may have special cancer-fighting properties. In 1931, a unique protein was discovered in sweet potatoes. Later renamed, 80% of the protein in sweet potatoes is a type of protease inhibitor, with potential anticancer effects.It was originally tested against leukemia cells, and appears to suppress the growth of leukemia cells in a petri dish. But, how would a sweet potato protein ever get into our bloodstream? As soon as most proteins hit our stomach, they start getting digested. So, they tried sweet potato protein against tongue cancer. Sweet potato constituents certainly come in contact with our mouth. Tongue cancer is often treated with chemo. “However, most of the chemo…[drugs] for tongue cancer have great aversive side effects, so it is indispensable for us to find [other] therapeutic strateg[ies].”Sweet potato protein rapidly diminished viability of the cancer within a matter of days, leading them to propose that sweet potato “may be useful…for human tongue cancer”—but, presumably, not much else?

Remarkably, though, this class of proteins doesn’t just survive digestion, but may be absorbed into the bloodstream intact, in at least two of the nine women with advanced cervical cancer they tried giving them to. So, most recently it was tried on colorectal cancer cells, one of our most common and deadly cancersNormally, we just surgically remove the colon. But, that only works in the early stages, since there are often micrometastases outside the colon that can subsequently lead to cancer recurrence and death. And so, we’ve started searching for anti-metastatic agents. And not only does sweet potato protein slow down the growth of colon cancer cells, but decreases cancer cell “migration and invasion.” Though sweet potato consumption has been associated with lower gallbladder cancer rates, it’s never been directly put to the test. But, what’s the downside?