Sweet potatoes are delicious, nutritious, and easy to cook. They have an earthy-sweet flavor that goes well with savory spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. They’re often used as a substitute for white potatoes in recipes because of their many health benefits.
Table of Contents
- Benefits of Sweet Potatoes
- 1. Antioxidant Powerhouses
- 2. Good Source of Vitamin C and B-vitamins
- 3. A Good Way To Get Lots of Other Nutrients
- 4. Promote gut health
- 5. Anti-Inflammatory Properties
- 6. Lower Blood Sugar Spikes
- 7. Supported weight loss
- 8. Support healthy vision
- 9. Regulation of Blood Pressure
- 10. May have cancer-fighting properties
- 11. May enhance brain function
Benefits of Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes come in more than 400 varieties. All kinds are high in vitamin A. They also contain vitamin C as well as potassium and beta-carotene (1). Sweet have less starch and sugar content so they don’t spike blood sugar levels as white potatoes do. They also have a handful of other benefits if added to your diet.
1. Antioxidant Powerhouses
Sweet potatoes are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances that protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals can damage cells and lead to disease and even cancer (2).
They are plentiful in sweet potatoes. One of these antioxidants present in sweet potatoes is beta-carotene. Beta-carotene gives sweet potatoes their orange color and plays a role in overall health.
Beta-carotene, also called pro-vitamin A, is a pigment found in plants (3). It is used in many multivitamins and dietary supplements. This antioxidant is a precursor to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A helps maintain healthy vision, skin, and mucous membranes (4). It is also important for growth, reproduction, and development during pregnancy.
Beta-carotene may also have anti-inflammatory effects because it inhibits inflammation by reducing the production of hormone-like substances that cause inflammation in the body (5).
Summary:Sweet potatoes are rich in antioxidants like beta-carotene, which may help to reduce inflammation in the body.
2. Good Source of Vitamin C and B-vitamins
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for your body. It helps keep skin, bones, and tissues healthy. Vitamin C also aids in the repair of wounds, promotes iron absorption, and helps support the immune system (6).
Sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin C. One cup of boiled sweet potato contains about 30-40 milligrams of vitamin C (7). This is about 40 percent of the daily recommended intake for men and women who consume 2,000 calories per day.
The vitamin C in sweet potatoes helps to boost the immune system, promote healthy gums and teeth and even aid in wound healing (8).
Sweet potatoes also contain about 20 percent of your daily requirement for vitamin B6. This vitamin helps with mood regulation and maintaining normal brain function (9). The B5 vitamin also plays a role in keeping your skin healthy and preventing acne breakouts.
Summary:Sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin C and B vitamins, which help to keep skin healthy and support various bodily functions.
3. A Good Way To Get Lots of Other Nutrients
Sweet potatoes contain small amounts of iron, copper, zinc, and manganese (10). These minerals are necessary for maintaining good health and preventing deficiencies in the body.
The white flesh of sweet potatoes contains high amounts of starch, which is converted into sugar during digestion. The sweet potato is rich in fiber and provides slow-burning carbohydrates that can help sustain energy levels without causing spikes in blood sugar.
Sweet potatoes are low in fat but rich in dietary fiber, making them a good choice for people with digestive health such as staying regular and preventing constipation (11). The high fiber content also helps regulate blood sugar levels, which may reduce your risk of diabetes (12).
Sweet potatoes can be prepared in many ways: baked, boiled, or sautéed with olive oil for added flavor. They’re deliciously delicious when mashed up as a side dish or added to soups as a thickener. You can even use them to make bread such as banana bread or pumpkin bread!
Summary:Because sweet potatoes are rich in nutrients like fiber, eating them can help promote digestive health and prevent issues like constipation.
4. Promote gut health
Sweet potatoes promote the growth of good bacteria in your gut, which can help fight off infections and inflammation. They are also high in prebiotics, which are dietary fibers that support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the colon. Prebiotics have been shown to improve digestive health, including reducing constipation and diarrhea, when taken regularly over time (13).
Sweet potatoes are also rich in resistant starch, another type of fiber that promotes healthy gut bacteria. A study published in the journal Food Chemistry found that sweet potatoes have an antioxidant effect on your body (14). This makes them a good choice for people who are looking to lower their risk of chronic disease.
Summary:There is a high amount of prebiotics and resistant starch present in sweet potatoes. Both of these compounds help to promote healthy gut bacteria and may improve digestive health.
5. Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Sweet potatoes are rich in carotenoids which have antioxidant properties. These compounds help protect against certain types of cancer, heart disease, and macular degeneration (15).
Studies show that eating sweet potatoes can help reduce inflammation because these carotenoids have anti-inflammatory properties (16). In fact, researchers believe that the carotenoids in sweet potatoes could be just as effective as anti-inflammatory medicine without the side effects!
Summary:Sweet potatoes contain carotenoids, which may help to protect against certain types of cancer, heart disease, and macular degeneration.
6. Lower Blood Sugar Spikes
In addition to their anti-inflammatory effects, sweet potatoes may lower your risk of developing diabetes by regulating blood sugar levels. Sweet potatoes contain more starch than many other vegetables, but they’re still considered low-glycemic index foods because they don’t raise blood sugar levels as quickly as high-glycemic index foods do (17).
A 2008 study found that participants who consumed sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes had lower blood sugar levels after eating (18). This remained true even after consuming a high-glycemic index food like bread or pasta afterward.
The researchers believe this was because the beta-carotene in sweet potatoes helped slow digestion down so blood sugar levels remained stable instead of spiking like they do when you eat white potatoes.
Summary:Studies have shown that consuming sweet potatoes may help regulate blood sugar levels and keep them more stable than consuming white potatoes.
7. Supported weight loss
Sweet potatoes are lower in calories than some carbohdyrates, high in fiber, and rich in nutrients. They can help with weight loss by providing an overall feeling of fullness. In addition to helping you feel full, they also boost your metabolism and may lower cholesterol.
Sweet potatoes contain resistant starch, which is not digested or absorbed by the body but helps to feed the friendly bacteria found in your gut. When these bacteria digest resistant starch, they release short-chain fatty acids that can help reduce appetite and increase feelings of fullness (19).
Summary:Eating sweet potatoes can help you feel fuller longer due to the amount of fiber and nutrients they contain. This can help promote weight loss.
8. Support healthy vision
Vitamin A in sweet potatoes is essential for healthy eyesight because it helps maintain the surface of the cornea (20). This makes it more resistant to injury from ultraviolet light. It also helps prevent cataracts, which develop when proteins in the lens become cloudy from exposure to sun rays or aging.
Sweet potatoes are also very high in vitamin B6, which helps keep your eyes healthy by supporting macular health. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss among people aged 60 and older. It’s a slow process that damages the macula, which is an area at the back of your retina responsible for fine vision.
The macula makes up about 2 percent of your retina but contains 30 percent of its light-sensitive cells. These photoreceptors provide signals to the brain that allow us to see sharpness, color, and contrasts in objects we look at.
When these cells stop working properly due to aging or disease, we lose our ability to see objects clearly and may experience blind spots in our eyesight.
Summary:Sweet potatoes contain vitamin A and vitamin B6, both of which may promote healthy eyes and prevent eye diseases like macular degeneration and cataracts.
9. Regulation of Blood Pressure
Using sweet potatoes to lower blood pressure makes sense because they’re rich in potassium. This helps regulate the amount of sodium in your body. Excess sodium can cause blood pressure to rise.
Sweet potatoes also contain beta-carotene, which promotes the release of nitric oxide which is a chemical that makes blood vessels relax and dilate. Nitric oxide helps lower blood pressure by reducing the workload on the heart and vascular system (21).
In one study, researchers from Japan gave participants either 100 grams to 200 grams of boiled sweet potatoes for three months. After eating this amount for three months, their systolic blood pressure dropped significantly.
Summary:There are various studies of sweet potatoes that have found that they may help lower blood pressure.
10. May have cancer-fighting properties
Scientists have long known that sweet potatoes have anti-inflammatory properties, but they’ve recently discovered that they also have anti-cancer properties. Scientists believe that sweet potato extract can be used as an effective treatment for prostate cancer (22).
A study found that an extract made from sweet potato leaves inhibited cancer cell growth by 90 percent in mice with prostate cancer. Researchers also found that the extract reduced inflammation in these mice by 50 percent compared to untreated animals with cancer.
Summary:Some studies have found that components in sweet potatoes may have anti-cancerous properties and may reduce the risk of cancers like prostate cancer.
11. May enhance brain function
The vitamin A in sweet potatoes has been shown to help improve cognitive function. Research suggests that eating sweet potatoes could reduce your risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (23).
In one study, researchers examined how sweet potato antioxidants affected mice with Alzheimer’s disease-like symptoms. They found that the antioxidant activity of sweet potatoes improved cognitive function in these mice by reducing inflammation and oxidative damage to nerve cells.
Another study found that consuming sweet potatoes improved memory in people with mild cognitive impairment. Mild cognitive impairment refers to a decline in mental abilities beyond what would be expected for normal aging. This condition is often considered an early stage of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.
Summary:Research suggests that eating vegetables like sweet potatoes may improve cognitive function and memory and decrease the risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Sweet potatoes are very nutritious and taste great when baked or roasted. You may want to avoid adding sugar or oil to the cooking water or drizzling sugar on top of your sweet potato. Cooking sweet potatoes in sugar or oil adds unnecessary calories and fat to this tasty vegetable. In this case, it’s best to skip the glaze altogether.
Be sure to avoid peeling sweet potatoes. This is because their skins have many nutrients (24). The skin is where most of the nutrients are found. Peeling it off removes some vitamins and minerals.
Whether you boil, bake, or fry them, the sweet potato is a versatile food that can be enjoyed on its own or in a variety of recipes. If you are looking for an amazing source of fiber, try the sweet potato. It is one of the most versatile, healthy vegetables that you can add to your diet!