- Which Sweet Potato Is the Healthiest?
- Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes
- Sweet potatoes: Health benefits and nutritional information
- Improving insulin sensitivity in diabetes
- Maintaining healthful blood pressure levels
- Reducing the risk of cancer
- Improving digestion and regularity
- Protecting eye health
- Boosting immunity
- Reducing inflammation
- Cooking tips
- Sweet potato recipes
- Sweet Potatoes: Delicious and Nutritious
- Nutrient profile
- Health effects of sweet potatoes
- Yams vs. sweet potatoes
- Sweet Potato Nutrition – Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes
- Nutrition Stats
- Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes
- Are sweet potatoes better for you than white potatoes?
- Are sweet potatoes high in sugar?
- Are sweet potatoes the same as yams?
- Orange, yellow, or purple sweet potatoes: What's the difference?
- Can you O.D. on vitamin A?
- How should I prepare them?
Which Sweet Potato Is the Healthiest?
Everyone loves the sweet, caramelized flavor of a sweet potato, and its health benefits make this spud a spectacular addition to your diet. Behind their colorful interior, all sweet potatoes are chock-full of nutrients, but they differ in their antioxidant content, depending on the type.
All types of sweet potatoes offer nutrient-dense benefits to your health. Credit: asab974/iStock/GettyImages
All types of sweet potatoes offer nutrient-dense benefits to your health. They are all comparable in nutrition, so it really comes down to your personal preference for taste, texture and how you want to use them in your favorite recipe.
Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are large, starchy, sweet-tasting tuber vegetables. Un white potatoes that belong to the nightshade family, sweet potatoes are a member of the morning glory family. Although some people think sweet potatoes and yams are the same thing, yams come from a completely different plant related to grasses and lilies.
While you may be acquainted with only one or two types of sweet potatoes, sometimes referred to as “camote,” many of the hundreds of varieties produced around the world are available in the United States. Different varieties of sweet potatoes have different flavors, sizes, shapes, textures and firmness, but they basically all feature one of three flesh colors:
- Orangeflesh: These types of sweet potatoes normally have rose or reddish colored skin.They include the classic Garnet and Jewels and are the most common sweet potato.They have a slightly sweet taste and are fairly firm inside. These are thepotatoes that you may mistake for yams at your grocery store.
- White or cream flesh: This type of sweet potato often has a pale copper to red or golden brownskin. The flesh is dryer in texture and tastes starchier than other types.
- Purple flesh: These potatoes have a buff-colored skin and include the Okinawan sweet potato. Okinawans are a locally grown staple of Hawaiiand are quickly gaining in popularity in the U.S. because of their unique color. Purple sweet potatoes have a creamy texture and delicate, sweeter taste than theirorange-fleshed cousins.
All varieties of sweet potatoes are a healthy source of complex carbohydrates which provide your body with energy needed for the proper functioning of cells, including your brain. One medium, 5-inch sweet potato, cooked, provides 23.6 grams or 8 percent of your daily value (DV) for carbs, according to the USDA.
With only 103 calories in a whole, cooked sweet potato, there is no fat or cholesterol — unless you smother your potato with butter or sour cream. Better to flavor your tuber with fresh herbs or low-fat yogurt.
All types of sweet potatoes offer 5 percent of your daily value for protein per serving, along with a significant source of dietary fiber — 3.8 grams, or 15 percent of the DV — needed for keeping your digestive system functioning properly and helping to prevent constipation.
Sweet potatoes have a nutritional profile that makes them powerful allies in preventing disease and supporting overall health. Some important nutrients that sweet potatoes contain include vitamin A and C, potassium, B vitamins, manganese, magnesium and copper.
Although most types of sweet potatoes have a similar vitamin and mineral content, an outstanding difference is their phytonutrient profile.
All contain antioxidants, but the color of the flesh of a sweet potato determines the source and amount. Sweet potatoes with orange flesh are rich in carotenoids.
In contrast, sweet potatoes with purple-colored flesh are rich in anthocyanins, the compound that gives them their rich, vibrant color.
Carotenoids are yellow and orange pigments, synthesized by many plants, which function as a source of vitamin A (retinol) in your body. The most common carotenoids are beta carotenes, lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene. Carotenoids may be beneficial in enhancing your immune system and contribute to eye health.
In addition, a review published in the Annals of Neurology in November 2012 concluded that carotenoids may play a role in preventing or delaying Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS). Data from five long-running cohort studies including over 1 million participants found that the beta-carotene found in sweet potatoes was associated with a 15-percent reduced risk of ALS.
Anthocyanin is a flavonoid naturally found in red, purple and blue fruits and berries. In addition to being a potent antioxidant, anthocyanins may possess anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-obesity effects, in addition to helping to protect against cardiovascular disease and cancer, according to a study published in Food and Nutrition Research in August 2017.
Studies have compared the antioxidant content of white, cream and purple-fleshed sweet potatoes. One such study, published in Molecular Nutrition and Food Research in June 2013, concluded that purple-fleshed sweet potatoes had the highest overall level of phenolics, antioxidant content and total soluble dietary fiber.
Another study that compared white, yellow and purple-fleshed sweet potatoes confirmed the findings. Conclusions, published in Preventive Nutrition and Food Science in June 2016, reported that all colors of potatoes were similar in polyphenol content, but the purple-fleshed potato had the highest content of anthocyanin antioxidants, while white-fleshed sweet potatoes had the lowest amount.
If you are concerned about maintaining proper vision, it's good to know that a sweet potato contains an abundance of an important nutrient — vitamin A — known for its role in eye health. Eating one orange-fleshed potato will provide 730 percent of your DV for vitamin A, which could help prevent dry eyes, night blindness and reduce the risk of eye infections.
Sweet potatoes also have a high content of zeaxanthin, along with its isomer lutein, as reported in Current Developments in Nutrition in September 2018. These fat-soluble compounds are found in the retina, lens and macula of your eyes.
Lutein and zeaxanthin may be helpful in improving pigment density in your macula and neutralizing damaging free radicals.
They absorb harmful high-energy light waves, such as the sun's ultraviolet rays and blue light, according to Harvard Health.
It's not just the beta carotene-rich, orange-fleshed, sweet potato that may be beneficial to the health of your eyes. Purple potatoes contain a class of anthocyanins that may also keep your eyes healthy.
A study published in Food & Nutrition Research in June 2015 examined the association between purple sweet potato anthocyanins and growth of human retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells. carotenes, these cells provide essential functions for good vision and help your eyes absorb light and protect them from damage.
From the findings of the study, researchers concluded that purple sweet potato antioxidants boosted DNA synthesis and maintained cell survival and division. These conclusions laid the foundation for further research regarding the damage-protective activities of purple potatoes on RPE cells or human vision.
If you are among the many people who suffer from stress, anxiety or depression, eating sweet potatoes may help, due to their high magnesium content — 30.8 grams or 7 percent DV per serving, per the USDA.
Magnesium plays an essential role in nerve transmission and muscle contraction, which may be why it has been studied for its potential to prevent and treat neurological disorders, according to a review in Nutrients, published in June 2018. Summarized findings in the review supported magnesium as a treatment for mild anxiety and multiple anxiety disorders.
A German study, published in the journal MMW Fortschritte Der Medizin in December 2016, analyzed the association of magnesium intake with stress reduction.
Researchers administered 400 milligrams of magnesium to a group of 100 participants for a period of 90 days.
The conclusions suggested that supplementing magnesium in people with physical and mental stress can help relieve restlessness, irritability, depression, lack of concentration or insomnia.
Depression and anxiety can contribute to difficulty sleeping. An amino acid in sweet potato may be beneficial for helping you relax. This compound is tryptophan; the USDA reports that sweet potatoes contain 46 milligrams or 16 percent of your DV per serving.
Tryptophan is the precursor of serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is a brain neurotransmitter that helps regulates mood and sleep, among other things. Serotonin is often included as an ingredient in antidepressants. Melatonin is known to promote relaxation and sleep and is helpful as a sleep-aid medication.
A January 2016 review published in Nutrients examined the association of various levels of tryptophan, and its precursor serotonin, on emotion and cognitive reaction. Findings showed that low levels of serotonin in the brain have a negative effect on mood and depression and also contribute to impaired memory.
Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes
You might only eat this veggie at Thanksgiving, but sweet potatoes are full of nutrients that make them worth having all year long.
The truth is they're not potatoes. They are naturally sweet roots in the morning glory family. Although Native Americans were growing sweet potatoes when Columbus came to America in 1492, these veggies grew in Peru as early as 750 B.C.
There are hundreds of types of sweet potatoes. Some have white or cream-colored flesh. Others are yellow, red, or purple. The “Covington” is the variety you're most ly to find at the store. It has pink skin and bright orange pulp.
While yams and sweet potatoes may look a, a true yam is a tuber vegetable, a regular potato.
One sweet potato has:
- Calories: 112
- Fat: 0.07 grams
- Carbohydrates: 26 grams
- Protein: 2 grams
- Fiber: 3.9 grams
Just one sweet potato gives you 400% of the vitamin A you need each day. This helps keep your eyes healthy as well as your immune system, your body's defense against germs. It's also good for your reproductive system and organs your heart and kidneys.
Sweet potatoes are rich in:
Natural compounds called carotenoids give sweet potatoes their rich color. Carotenoids are also antioxidants, which means they have the power to protect your cells from day-to-day damage.
Sweet potatoes earned the name “superfood” because of the amount of nutrients they have. Studies show they may help with:
Cancer. Carotenoids in sweet potatoes might lower your risk for cancer. Purple sweet potatoes are high in another natural compound called anthocyanin that might lower your chances of getting colorectal cancer.
Diabetes. Compounds in sweet potatoes could help control blood sugar. When boiled, sweet potatoes are low on the glycemic index (GI), which means they won't raise your blood sugar as quickly as high-GI foods.
Heart disease. Research shows that sweet potatoes can lower your LDL “bad” cholesterol, which may lower your odds of heart problems.
Macular degeneration. Large amounts of beta-carotene and vitamin A, which are in sweet potatoes, can lower your chances of getting this eye disease, which is the most common cause of vision loss.
Obesity. Purple sweet potatoes may help lower inflammation in your body and keep fat cells from growing, which may help you lose weight.
Sweet potatoes are high in carbohydrates. Some methods of cooking, baking, roasting, and frying, will raise their glycemic index and cause your blood sugar to spike. If you have type 2 diabetes, talk to your doctor or a dietitian about how to safely include this veggie in your meals.
Although very rare, some people have a severe allergy to sweet potatoes.
At the store, choose firm, not mushy, sweet potatoes that have even-colored skin. Use a stainless-steel knife to cut them. A carbon knife will darken the flesh.
While you may usually top your sweet potatoes with brown sugar and marshmallows at Thanksgiving, there are healthier ways to prepare them. You can steam, roast, boil, or microwave them. Sweet potato fries are also tasty, but don't eat them often. Although they offer more nutrients than fries made from white potatoes, they're still high in fat.
If you keep your sweet potatoes in a dry area with lots of airflow, they'll last about a week or two. Don't put them in the refrigerator unless they're cooked. The cold will make them hard in the middle and will change their taste.
For sweet potato recipes, check out:
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “Sweet Potatoes.”
U.S. Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database: “Basic Report: Sweet Potato, Raw, Unprepared.”
American Sweet Potato Council: “The Perfect Sweet Potato.”
Cleveland Clinic: “White Potatoes Vs. Sweet Potatoes: Which are Healthier?”
North Carolina Cooperative Extension: “How Sweet It Is.”
Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission: “Sweet Potato Facts & Tips.”
National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: “Vitamin A.”
University of Utah Huntsman Cancer Institute: “Super Sweet Potatoes.”
Journal of Food Science: “Purple Sweet Potato Attenuate Weight Gain in High Fat Diet Induced Obese Mice.”
Journal of Medicinal Food: “Anti-obesity and antioxidative effects of purple sweet potato extract in 3T3-L1 adipocytes in vitro.”
American Diabetes Association: “Glycemic Index and Diabetes.”
Diabetes Care: “Efficacy of Ipomoea batatas (Caiapo) on Diabetes Control in Type 2 Diabetic Subjects Treated With Diet.”
FASEB Journal: “Anti-diabetic effects of anthocyanins isolated from Korean purple sweet potato, “Shinzami.”
Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism: “Relationship between Processing Method and the Glycemic Indices of Ten Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas) Cultivars Commonly Consumed in Jamaica.”
Food and Nutrition Sciences: “Sweet Potato and Cassava Can Modify Cholesterol Profile in Humans with Moderately Raised Serum Cholesterol Levels.”
The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: “Anaphylaxis caused by Ipomoea Batatas.”
American Macular Degeneration Foundation: “What is Macular Degeneration?”
Eatright.org: “5 Top Foods for Eye Health.”
Mayo Clinic: “Nutrition – Sweet Potatoes.”
© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. Butternut Squash Benefits
Sweet potatoes: Health benefits and nutritional information
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Sweet potatoes are a staple food in many parts of the world. They are a good source of fiber, potassium, vitamins, and other essential nutrients.
Some people use the terms “sweet potato” and “yam” interchangeably. However, they are not related. Yams have a drier texture and a more starchy content than sweet potato.
This article looks at the nutritional value and possible health benefits of sweet potato. It also provides some tips on incorporating sweet potato into the diet, as well as some health risks.
Sweet potato may offer a variety of health benefits. Here are some of the ways in which they may benefit a person’s health:
Improving insulin sensitivity in diabetes
Share on PinterestSweet potatoes may help improve insulin sensitivity.
In one 2008 study, researchers found that an extract of white skinned sweet potato improved insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes.
Earlier, in 2000, laboratory rats consumed either white skinned sweet potato or an insulin sensitizer, called troglitazone, for 8 weeks. The levels of insulin resistance improved in those that consumed the sweet potato.
However, more studies in humans are necessary to confirm these benefits.
The fiber in sweet potatoes is also important. Studies have found that people who consume more fiber appear to have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
A 124 gram (g) serving of mashed sweet potato, or around half a cup, will provide about 2.5 g of fiber.
The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults aged 19 years and above consume 22.4 g to 33.6 g of fiber each day, depending on their age and sex.
Learn about the best foods for diabetes here.
Maintaining healthful blood pressure levels
The American Heart Association (AHA) encourage people to avoid eating foods that contain high amounts of added salt, and to instead consume more potassium-rich foods to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system.
A 124 g serving of mashed sweet potato provides 259 milligrams (mg) of potassium, or around 5% of the daily requirements for an adult. Current guidelines recommend that adults consume 4,700 mg of potassium per day.
Get more tips on foods to lower blood pressure here.
Reducing the risk of cancer
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of beta-carotene. This is a plant pigment that acts as a powerful antioxidant in the body. Beta-carotene is also a provitamin. The body converts it into the active form of vitamin A.
Antioxidants may help reduce the risk of various types of cancer, including prostate and lung cancer.
Antioxidants such as beta-carotene can help prevent cellular damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals. If levels of free radicals in the body get too high, cellular damage can occur, increasing the risk of some conditions.
Obtaining antioxidants from dietary sources may help prevent conditions such as cancer.
Can some foods help prevent cancer? Find out here.
Improving digestion and regularity
The fiber content in sweet potatoes can help prevent constipation and promote regularity for a healthy digestive tract.
Also, multiple studies have linked high dietary fiber intake with a reduced risk of colorectal cancers.
Why is dietary fiber important? Learn more here.
Protecting eye health
As mentioned above, sweet potatoes are a good source of provitamin A in the form of beta-carotene. After the age of 18, the Dietary Guidelines recommend an intake of 700 mg of vitamin A per day for women and 900 mg per day for men. Vitamin A is important for protecting eye health.
According to the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), a baked sweet potato in its skin will provide around 1,403 mcg of vitamin A, or 561% of a person’s daily requirement.
Vitamin A also acts as an antioxidant. Together with other antioxidants, it can help protect the body from a variety of health conditions.
Learn more here about vitamin A.
One 124 g serving of sweet potato provides 12.8 mg of vitamin C. Current guidelines recommend a daily intake of 75 mg of vitamin C for adult women and 90 mg for adult men.
A person who consumes little or no vitamin C can develop scurvy. Many of the symptoms of scurvy result from tissue problems due to impaired collagen production.
Vitamin C also supports the immune system and enhances iron absorption. A low vitamin C intake may increase a person’s risk of iron deficiency anemia.
Find out more about vitamin C and why we need it here.
A rodent study from 2017 suggests that an extract of purple sweet potato color may help reduce the risk of inflammation and obesity.
Sweet potatoes contain choline, a nutrient that helps with muscle movement, learning, and memory. It also supports the nervous system.
A 2010 study found that taking high dose choline supplements helped manage inflammation in people with asthma. However, this does not necessarily mean that choline from sweet potatoes will have the same impact.
A 124 g serving of mashed sweet potato contains around 98.7 g of water.
The table below shows the nutrients in sweet potato and the recommended daily intakes for adults. Exact requirements will depend on age, sex, and activity levels (for calories).
|Nutrient||Amount in 124 g serving||Recommended daily intakes for adults|
|Fat (g)||3||360–1,050 g, depending on energy needs|
|Carbohydrate (g)||18.7, of which 6.77 g is sugar||130|
|Selenium (micrograms [mcg])||0.9||55|
|Vitamin C (mg)||12.8||75–90|
|Vitamin A, RAE (mcg)||823||700–900|
|Beta-carotene (mcg)||9,470||No data|
|Vitamin K (mcg)||5.1||90–120|
|Cholesterol (mg)||1.24||No data|
Sweet potato also contains B vitamins, calcium, and other essential vitamins and minerals.
Eating sweet potato skin can increase its nutritional value. The color of the skin can vary from white to yellow and purple to brown. However, whatever color it is, it will provide additional nutrients.
When buying and cooking sweet potatoes, it is important to check that the potato is firm with smooth, taut skin.
Also, always store them in a cool, dry place for no longer than 3–5 weeks.
Roast sweet potatoes to bring out their natural flavor, and eat them without toppings. Sweet potatoes have a naturally sweet and creamy taste.
To roast them around a campfire or on a barbecue, wrap them in aluminum foil and place in the dying coals. Leave for around 50–60 minutes, until a fork slides into them easily.
People who do not plan to eat the skins can put the potato into the coals without wrapping it in foil.
To prepare a sweet potato quickly, prick it with a fork, wrap it in a paper towel, and put it in a microwave on high heat until soft.
If a person wants to add a topping, try:
- a sprinkling of cinnamon, cumin, or curry powder
- a spoonful of low fat cottage cheese or Greek yogurt
- a drizzling of olive oil
Other ways to incorporate sweet potato into the diet include adding roasted sweet potatoes and pecans to a salad and topping it with balsamic vinegar, and adding sweet potato to pancakes or hash browns.
Sweet potato recipes
Try these simple and healthful sweet potato recipes:
Sweet potatoes contain potassium. A high potassium intake may not be suitable for people who take beta-blockers. Doctors commonly prescribe these for heart disease, and they can cause potassium levels to rise in the blood.
People with kidney problems should also take note of how much potassium they consume. Consuming too much can be harmful to those with kidney problems. For example, severe complications can arise if a person with impaired kidney function consumes more potassium than their kidneys can process.
Another risk to be aware of is that some fruits and vegetables are susceptible to contamination with pesticides. Every year, the Environmental Working Group rank products according to their lihood of contamination. In 2019, sweet potatoes ranked 31st.
Buying organic products or growing them at home are the best ways to minimize the risk of contamination.
There is a selection of sweet potato and sweet potato products available for purchase online.
Are sweet potatoes more fattening than white potatoes?
Both sweet potatoes and white potatoes are nutrient-dense carbohydrate choices. Neither are fattening when a person eats them as part of a well-rounded diet.
White potatoes are slightly more caloric than sweet potatoes, but the difference is negligible. When it comes to choosing between sweet and white potatoes, people should choose whatever they will enjoy more.
any carbohydrate source, be sure to practice portion control if weight loss is a priority.
Jillian Kubala, MS, RD Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
Sweet Potatoes: Delicious and Nutritious
Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) truly match the description “delicious and nutritious.” These tasty veggies are packed with vitamins and nutrients and are sweet to eat.
Despite their name, sweet potatoes are not closely related to white potatoes. White potatoes are part of the nightshade family, which includes tomatoes, eggplant and hot peppers, according to the University of Wisconsin.
Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, are part of the morning glory family of flowering plants. Sweet potatoes are root vegetables — meaning that the part you eat is the root — while white potatoes are considered tubers, according to the Harvard T.H.
Chan School of Public Health (HSPH).
Although the orange variety is the most common in the United States, sweet potatoes also come in white, yellow, pink and purple varieties, according to the Library of Congress. While the orange and yellow types contain the most vitamin A, the purple variety contains high levels of antioxidants, the Cleveland Clinic reports.
Here are the nutrition facts for sweet potatoes, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates food labeling through the National Labeling and Education Act:
|Nutrition Facts Serving size: 1 medium (4.6 oz / 130 g) Calories 100 Calories from Fat 0 *Percent Daily Values (%DV) are a 2,000 calorie diet.||Amt per Serving||%DV*||Amt per Serving||%DV*|
|Total Fat0g||0%||Total Carbohydrate23g||8%|
|Cholesterol0mg||0%||Dietary Fiber 4g||16%|
Sweet potatoes are one of the best sources of vitamin A; a medium one contains more than 100 percent of the daily recommended intake, according to the USDA.
Boiling sweet potatoes retains more beta-carotene, and makes this nutrient easier for the body to absorb, HSPS says. Cooking sweet potatoes with the skin on also helps prevent the loss of nutrients, including vitamin C and beta-carotene.
Health effects of sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are packed with vitamins: They “are high in vitamin A [in the form of beta-carotene], vitamin B5, B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, and, due to their orange color, are high in carotenoids,” said San Diego-based nutritionist Laura Flores.
They also contain no fat, are relatively low in sodium and have fewer calories than white potatoes — although they do contain sugar. Sweet potatoes are also high in vitamin C, potassium and fiber, according to HSPH.
Two “phytochemicals” in sweet potatoes are responsible for their bright color: Beta-carotene (a pre-cursor to vitamin A) gives orange sweet potatoes their orange flesh, and anthocyanins give purple sweet potatoes their purple hue, according to HSPH. Scientists are studying both of these compounds for their role in human health and disease preventions, HSPH says.
Sweet potatoes are considered a medium glycemic index food, according to HSPH, with a glycemic index of 63. (The glycemic index (GI) refers to how quickly and how much a food raises a person's blood sugar after eating.) White potatoes, on the other hand, are a high-GI food, with a GI of 78. Previous research has shown a link between a high-GI diet and type 2 diabetes.
They may also cause some skin-related side effects. [7 Foods You Can Overdose On]
“While there aren't any severe health problems associated with sweet potatoes, they are high in vitamin A, which the body stores,” Flores said. “When levels get too high, you may notice your skin and nails looking a little orange.”
This side effect should decrease if you cut down on sweet potato consumption.
According to the Mayo Clinic, people with a history of kidney stones may want to avoid eating too many sweet potatoes, as the vegetable contains oxalate, which contributes to the forming of calcium-oxalate kidney stones.
Yams vs. sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes and yams are often used interchangeably in recipes, but in fact the two vegetables are not even related.
Sweet potatoes are members of the morning glory family, while yams are closely related to lilies and grasses, according the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH).
Yams are native to Africa and Asia, and there are more than 600 varieties. They are also starchier and drier than sweet potatoes.
Why the confusion? According to the Library of Congress website Everyday Mysteries, sweet potato varieties are classified as either “firm” or “soft.” In the United States, the firm varieties came first. When soft varieties were first grown commercially, there was a need to differentiate the two kinds.
African slaves began calling the soft sweet potatoes “yams” because they resembled the yams they knew in Africa. Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires labels with the term “yam” to be accompanied by the term “sweet potato.
” Unless you are specifically searching for yams, which can be found in international markets, you are probably eating sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes are more nutritious than yams. Sweet potatoes and yams are both healthy foods, and they look similar. Sweet potatoes, however, have higher concentrations of most nutrients and more fiber.
This article was updated on Oct. 23, 2018 by Live Science Health Editor, Sara G. Miller.
Sweet Potato Nutrition – Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes
Whether you're using sweet potatoes in a fancy-special holiday dish or just baking one for a quick after-work dinner, you're getting a veggie with major health superpowers.
Sweet potatoes are packed with plenty of minerals, fiber, vitamins, and phytonutrients — they help both your body and mind. Not only that: They're simple to prepare.
You can cook sweet potatoes in a variety of ways, from baking to mashing to roasting to stir-frying. So don't hesitate to toss 'em into your shopping cart!
Serving Size: 1 medium-size sweet potato
- 112 calories
- 26g carbohydrates (8% DV)
- 2g protein
- 0g total fat
- 0g saturated fat
- 4g fiber (15% DV)
- 5g sugar
- 438 mg potassium (12% DV)
- 32mg magnesium (8% DV)
- 39mg calcium (3% DV)
- 0.8mg iron (3% DV)
- 61 mg phosphorus
- 3mg vitamin C (5% DV)
- 0.3mg vitamin B6 (15% DV)
- 18,443 IU vitamin A (386% DV)
Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes
There's a reason you find sweet potatoes in every salad shop special. Eating them can lead to:
- Healthy vision: All of that vitamin A helps maintain eyesight.
- Better immunity: Vitamin A also helps with other bodily functions, including cellular communication, growth, and differentiation.
- A sharper mind: Vitamin B6 is an essential coenzyme for cognitive development.
- A stronger heart: Both potassium and magnesium are involved in blood pressure support.
- Lower LDL cholesterol: The fiber can help reduce bad cholesterol and risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
Now, get your top questions on sweet potatoes answered.
Are sweet potatoes better for you than white potatoes?
While sweet potatoes are significantly higher in vitamin A and slightly higher in fiber, the white potato wins when it comes to potassium and vitamin C content. Both white and sweet potatoes count as nutrient-dense foods. Switch it up and get the benefits of both.
Are sweet potatoes high in sugar?
Nope! They've got naturally occurring sugar, but there's no added sugar in sweet potatoes (unless you're adding some during cooking). In fact, research shows that sweet potatoes may be an excellent addition to a diabetic diet.
It's a common misconception that diabetics must avoid carbohydrates altogether. What matters is the type of carb and spreading them throughout the day.
Sweet potatoes are a low-glycemic food and high in fiber, which means they release and absorb glucose into the bloodstream very slowly, preventing a spike in blood sugar.
Are sweet potatoes the same as yams?
Although many Americans use their names interchangeably, the two vegetables are not related. Yams are almost exclusively grown in Africa and Asia. Look for a cylindrical shape with a black or brown bark- skin, as well as white, purple, or reddish flesh. They're drier and starchier than sweet potatoes, and often only found in international supermarkets.
True sweet potatoes are more readily available in U.S. grocery stores. So what's with the name mix-up? There are two main varieties of sweet potatoes grown in the U.S.: white flesh and orange flesh.
Apparently, the orange variety only entered the American market several decades ago. In order to differentiate between the two, producers started selling them as yams.
Therefore, the orange sweet potatoes are often mislabeled as yams in stores.
Orange, yellow, or purple sweet potatoes: What's the difference?
Studies show that the different colored sweet potatoes may contain varying levels of phytonutrients, the health-promoting chemicals found in plants.
For instance, orange sweet potatoes have the highest levels of beta-carotene, a carotenoid with antioxidant activity. On the other hand, purple sweet potatoes have more anthocyanins, the flavonoid found in blueberries.
Anthocyanins also have an antioxidant effect and may support healthy brain function. Bottom line: Including a variety of colors in your diet is the way to go!
Can you O.D. on vitamin A?
While it's true that excess levels of pre-formed vitamin A from supplements can lead to a toxicity known as hypervitaminosis A, large amounts of pro-vitamin A carotenoids (i.e.
, those from fruits and veggies) are NOT associated with major adverse side effects.
However, eating excessive amounts of beta-carotene rich foods carrots can cause a harmless condition called carotenemia, which is characterized by yellow pigmentation of the skin.
How should I prepare them?
There are so many delicious ways to reap the benefits of sweet potatoes! When purchasing, select firm tubers (no soft spots) with smooth skin. Store them loose for up to a week in a cool, dry, and dark place — not the fridge, as this can cause their core to harden and create an unpleasant taste when cooked.
Use the spuds in a variety of recipes, including breakfast dishes, casseroles, and even desserts. We love baking a batch of sweet potatoes for the week and adding them to both sweet and savory meals. Tip: Keep the sweet potato skin on to maximize the fiber content. Switch it up and try making:
- Mashed sweet potatoes
- Roasted sweet potato “fries”
- Salads with roasted sweet potatoes
- Sweet potato brownies