Are Sweet Potatoes Good for You?
Yes! Let all the sweet potato lovers rejoice because sweet potatoes are healthy to consume on a regular basis. Not only are they tasty and easy to work into your diet from soups and sides to “noodles” and “toast,” sweet potatoes are rich in many vital nutrients important for human health.
Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes
Different varieties of sweet potato offer slightly different nutritional advantages. Here are the big ones.
1. Immune health
Sweet potatoes with orange flesh are packed with beta carotene. The plant pigment that gives orange sweet potatoes their vibrant color represents antioxidant-like compounds that convert to vitamin A in the body. Studies suggest that vitamin A may support the healthy production of immune cells.
2. Brain function
Purple sweet potatoes may also benefit brain health, with a potential association to memory and cognitive performance. Sweet potato anthocyanin — a flavonoid responsible for the purple spud’s color — has been associated with cognitive function in mice.
3. Healthy vision
Those same pigments are believed to have a potential impact on overall vision health. Vitamin A in the form of the beta-carotene found in sweet potatoes may offer protective effects on eye health. Meanwhile, the anthocyanin in purple sweet potatoes may hold its own benefits for eye health.
4. Cardiovascular health
Potassium is abundant in sweet potatoes, and helps regulate proper fluid balance throughout the body. Combined with a reduction in sodium, it is believed that increasing potassium intake may impact circulation. Potassium has also been identified as a “nutrient of public health concern” as most Americans aren’t meeting their recommended intake.
5. Weight management
The carbohydrates found in sweet potatoes are primarily starch and fiber, as opposed to simple sugars. These carbs are digested more slowly and may promote greater feelings of fullness as well as lasting energy for the body.
Sweet Potato Nutrition
Sweet potatoes are powerhouses of potassium, beta carotene/vitamin A, fiber, resistant starch, and phytonutrients, among other nutrients.
1 medium sweet potato (130 g)
|Vitamin C||3 mg|
|Vitamin A||922 RAE|
|Beta carotene||11,100 mcg|
What’s the glycemic index of sweet potatoes?
Glycemic index (GI) is the value (0–100) assigned to foods according to how slowly or quickly they cause increases in blood glucose levels or “blood sugar.” Foods high on the GI scale metabolize quickly, whereas those low on the scale release glucose more slowly.
However, the GI of sweet potatoes depends on many factors including preparation, origin, variety, year of crop, ripeness, and, more importantly, the other foods with which they’re combined. There’s such variability in the GI of sweet potatoes that it would be misleading to specify a single score.
Interestingly, one study found that “tubers processed by boiling had the lowest glycemic index while those roasted and baked had significantly higher glycemic indices.” Adding healthy fats, proteins, fiber (leaving the skin on), and managing portions are great ways to enjoy potatoes and manage healthy blood sugar levels.
|COOKING METHOD||GI SCORE|
How to Work Sweet Potatoes Into Your Diet
These naturally sweet potatoes are tasty and easy to incorporate into a healthy diet. Cooking them with the skin on is the best way to keep nutrient profiles intact.
Healthiest ways to make sweet potatoes
- Mashed. Use a blender or mixer to puree cooked sweet potatoes, or just use a fork or potato masher to lightly mash them. Season with salt, pepper, and spices as desired. For a smoother, creamier consistency, add broth, water, or milk.
- Baked or boiled. Bake in an oven at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour, or boil for 15–20 minutes. Simply dice cooked sweet potatoes for addition to salads, soups, or entrées as a side.
- Roasted. Wash and cut into wedges or dice into uniform shape, then place on a baking sheet. Add olive oil and salt, and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.
- Spiralized. Sauté in olive oil over medium heat until “al dente.”
How to use sweet potatoes
- Puree or mash for baby food.
- In pancakes and other baked goods, like muffins and breads.
- Add to wraps and sandwiches for more substance.
- In soups and salads. We love this Sweet Potato Red Curry!
- As noodles, aka “swoodles.”
- Stuff them with chili or taco meat for a savory meal, or make a Breakfast Sweet Potato with nut butter, fruits, and nuts!