Sweet potatoes are a super starch that should definitely be on your grocery list. This bright orange spud is a well-balanced nutritional powerhouse with plenty of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. Not to mention that sweet potatoes are tasty and versatile – you can stuff them, bake them, roast them, mash them or even microwave them.
And with inflation on the rise, you’ll be happy to know that sweet potatoes are still among the the cheapest items in the fruit and vegetable department. Here are some of the top reasons to add more sweet potatoes to your diet and simple ways to enjoy this delicious tuber.
Nutrition Facts of Sweet Potato
A medium sweet potato has a ton of nutrientsincluding:
- 112 calories
- 2 grams of protein
- 24 grams of carbs
- 0 grams of fat
- 3.7 grams of fiber (15% Daily Value (DV))
- 7 grams of sugar
- 542 milligrams of potassium (12% DV)
- 31 grams of magnesium (8% DV)
- 0.3 milligrams of vitamin B6 (15% DV)
- 961 mcg of vitamin A (106% DV)
- 22 milligrams of vitamin C (30% DV)
Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are known for their vitamin A content. They actually contain a precursor to the vitamin, called beta-carotene, which the body turns into vitamin A after eating. This nutrient is best known for its contribution to eye health.
In fact, getting enough vitamin A in the diet reduces the risk develop advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of visual impairment and blindness in the United States. Luckily, one medium sweet potato provides all the vitamin A you need in a day. Keep in mind that vitamin A is fat soluble, so pair sweet potatoes with a healthy fat, like olive oil or Lawyerto reap all the benefits for the eyes.
Sweet potatoes are also high in potassium, a mineral that is related to blood pressure. To research suggests that a potassium deficiency can elevate blood pressure, and conversely, eating enough potassium can lower blood pressure. Potassium does two things for the heart; it dilates blood vessels, making it easier for the heart to pump blood, and it also helps to excrete sodium from the body. These mechanisms work together to lower blood pressure.
Additionally, the fiber in sweet potatoes contributes to overall heart health. Not only does fiber promote digestive health and regularity, but it binds to cholesterol and remove it from the body.
Are there any downsides to eating sweet potatoes?
Have you ever heard that eating too many orange foods can turn your skin orange? It’s a condition called carotenemia, but it’s rare and more common in children. But don’t worry, the amount of sweet potatoes you would need to eat in a day to develop carotenemia is probably more than your stomach can handle.
Since sweet potatoes are high in carbs and low in protein, eating a sweet potato alone can only satisfy your hunger for a short period of time. Pair your sweet potato with protein and fat to make it a hearty meal.
Some Fun Facts About Sweet Potatoes
Beyond the nutritional values and health benefits, these little-known facts about sweet potatoes are just a few more reasons to add them to your plate.
Sweet potatoes are a great pre-workout snack
Carbohydrates are the main fuel source for exerciseand sweet potatoes contain a long chain of sugar molecules, called complex carbohydrates. Foods that contain complex carbohydrates break down slowly to provide sustained energy for exercise.
“They also have potassium and magnesium, two electrolytes lost in sweat,” says Elizabeth Shaw, registered dietitian and owner of ShawSimpleSwaps.com. “The body needs to keep these electrolytes in balance during a sweat session to maintain good hydration.” Eating a sweet potato before a workout replenishes your electrolyte stores and aids in proper hydration.
Sweet potatoes and yams are different
Although the term sweet potato and yam are used interchangeably, they are actually quite different. Sweet potatoes are the recognizable orange root vegetable, but they also come in other varieties, like red skin with white flesh or purple skin with purple flesh.
Many people think the red variety of sweet potatoes are yams, but traditional yams actually have dark-colored bumpy skin with white flesh. They resemble yuca, the root of a cassava plant, and are more starchy and milder in taste than sweet potatoes. The flavor of a yam resembles that of a white russet potato. Most sweet potatoes are grown in the United States, while yams come from Africa.
There are purple sweet potatoes
Have you ever seen a potato that is the same size and shape as a sweet potato, but is purple? This vibrant variety of sweet potato is completely natural; it gets its hue from anthocyanin, an antioxidant that also colors the berries. Anthocyanins are known for their anti-inflammatory properties and have been linked to reduce cardiovascular disease. Not to mention that the taste of purple potatoes very similar to the orange variety.
They are not as much healthier than white potatoes
When you put the nutritional values of sweet potatoes side by side with a white potato, there is no clear winner. Sweet potatoes are packed with vitamin A, but white potatoes have about twice the potassium of sweet potatoes. And both types of potatoes have similar fiber and calorie counts.
The difference usually lies in the preparation of the potato. White potatoes are used for chips and fries, which are loaded with oil and salt. Sweet potatoes are usually roasted and prepared in a healthier way.
Healthy Ways to Enjoy Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a versatile ingredient that can serve as an appetizer, main course or side dish. They’re used in everything from sweet to savory dishes, and they almost always steal the show! Not to mention that “sweet potatoes are naturally sweet and can decrease the amount of added sugar you would need to use in the recipe,” explains Shaw. Here are some of our favorite ways to use sweet potatoes: