Sweet potatoes: What you should know

In many parts of the world, sweet potatoes are a staple food. Fiber, potassium, vitamins, and other essential nutrients can all be found in them.

The terms “sweet potato” and “yam” are sometimes used interchangeably. They are, however, unrelated. Sweet potatoes have a drier texture and a higher starch content than yams.

The nutritional value and potential health benefits of sweet potatoes are discussed in this article. It also discusses how to incorporate sweet potatoes into one’s diet as well as some potential health risks.

Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes may aid in insulin sensitivity improvement.

Nutritional value

The water content of a 124 g serving of mashed sweet potato is around 98.7 g.

The nutrients in sweet potato are listed in the table below, along with the recommended daily intakes for adults. The exact requirements will vary depending on your age, gender, and level of activity (for calories).

NutrientAmount in 124 g servingRecommended daily intakes
Energy (calories)1081,600–3,000
Protein (g)246–56
Fat (g)3360–1,050 g, depending on energy needs
Carbohydrate (g)18.7, of which 6.77 g is sugar130
Fiber (g)2.4822.4–33.6
Iron (mg)0.78–18
Calcium (mg)50.81,000–2,000
Magnesium (mg)19.8310–420
Phosphorus (mg)50.81,000–1,200
Potassium (mg)2594,700
Sodium (mg)3062,300
Selenium (micrograms [mcg])0.955
Vitamin C (mg)12.875–90
Folate (mcg)7.44400
Choline (mg)14.4425–550
Vitamin A, RAE (mcg)823700–900
Beta-carotene (mcg)9,470No data
Vitamin K (mcg)5.190–120
Cholesterol (mg)1.24No data

B vitamins, calcium, and other essential vitamins and minerals are also found in sweet potatoes.

The nutritional value of sweet potato skin can be increased by eating it. The skin’s color can range from white to yellow, purple to brown. Regardless of color, it will provide additional nutrients.

Health benefits

Sweet potatoes may have a number of health advantages. Here are a few examples of how they can help a person’s health:

Improving insulin sensitivity in diabetes

An extract of white skinned sweet potato improved insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes, according to a 2008 study.

Previously, in 2000, laboratory rats were given either white skinned sweet potato or troglitazone, an insulin sensitizer. Insulin resistance was reduced in those who consumed the sweet potato.

More human studies are needed, however, to confirm these benefits.

Sweet potatoes contain a lot of fiber, which is beneficial. People who consume more fiber appear to have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to studies.

A 124 gram (g) serving of mashed sweet potato, or about half a cup, contains about 2.5 g of fiber.

Adults aged 19 and up should consume 22.4 g to 33.6 g of fiber per day, depending on their age and gender, according to the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Keeping a healthy blood pressure level

To maintain a healthy cardiovascular system, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people avoid foods that contain a lot of added salt and instead consume more potassium-rich foods.

A 124 g serving of mashed sweet potato contains 259 milligrams (mg) of potassium, or about 5% of an adult’s daily potassium requirements. Adults should consume 4,700 mg of potassium per day, according to current recommendations.

More information on foods that can help you lower your blood pressure can be found here.

Lowering cancer risk

Sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant. This is a plant pigment that acts as an antioxidant in the human body. Beta-carotene is a provitamin as well. It is converted into the active form of vitamin A by the body.

Antioxidants may aid in the reduction of the risk of various cancers, including prostate and lung cancer.

Antioxidants like beta-carotene can help prevent cellular damage caused by free radicals, which are unstable molecules. When free radical levels in the body become too high, cellular damage can occur, raising the risk of certain diseases.

Antioxidants obtained through diet may aid in the prevention of diseases such as cancer.

Increasing regularity and digestion

Sweet potatoes are high in fiber, which can help prevent constipation and promote regularity in the digestive system.

Moreover, according to numerous studies , a high dietary fiber intake is linked to a lower risk of colorectal cancer.

Keeping your eyes healthy

Sweet potatoes are a good source of provitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, as previously mentioned. After the age of 18, the Dietary Guidelines recommend that women consume 700 mg of vitamin A per day and men consume 900 mg. Vitamin A is essential for maintaining good eye health.

A baked sweet potato in its skin contains around 1,403 mcg of vitamin A, or 561 percent of a person’s daily requirement, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS).

Vitamin A is an antioxidant as well. It can help protect the body from a variety of health conditions when combined with other antioxidants.

Learn more about vitamin A here.

Immunity boosting

One 124 g serving of sweet potato contains 12.8 milligrams of vitamin C. Adult women should get 75 milligrams of vitamin C per day, while adult men should get 90 milligrams.

Scurvy is a disease caused by a lack of vitamin C in the diet. Many of the symptoms of scurvy are caused by tissue problems caused by a lack of collagen.

Vitamin C also boosts iron absorption and helps the immune system. A person’s risk of iron deficiency anemia may be increased if they have a low vitamin C intake.

Inflammation reduction

An extract of purple sweet potato color may help reduce the risk of inflammation and obesity, according to a rodent study published in 2017.

Sweet potatoes are high in choline, a nutrient that aids muscle movement, memory, and learning. It is also beneficial to the nervous system.

A 2010 study found that taking high-dose choline supplements helped people with asthma manage inflammation. However, this does not rule out the possibility that sweet potato choline will have the same effect.

Advice

When purchasing and cooking sweet potatoes, make sure they are firm and have a smooth, taut skin.

Also, keep them in a cool, dry location for no more than 3–5 weeks.

Cooking advice

To bring out the natural flavor of sweet potatoes, roast them and eat them plain. Sweet potatoes have a sweet and creamy flavor that comes from their natural state.

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.

If you don’t want to eat the skins, you can just throw the potato in the coals without wrapping it in foil.

To quickly cook a sweet potato, prick it with a fork, wrap it in a paper towel, and microwave it on high until soft.

If someone wants to add a topping, they should try:

  • a sprinkling of cinnamon, cumin, or curry powder
  • a teaspoon of Greek yoghurt or low-fat cottage cheese
  • a drizzling of olive oil

Adding roasted sweet potatoes and pecans to a salad and topping it with balsamic vinegar are two other ways to incorporate sweet potato into your diet. You can also add sweet potato to pancakes or hash browns.

Recipes for sweet potatoes

Try one of these easy and healthy sweet potato recipes:

Risks factors

Potassium is found in sweet potatoes. People who take beta-blockers may not be able to tolerate a high potassium diet. These are frequently prescribed by doctors for heart disease, and they can cause potassium levels in the blood to rise.

Potassium consumption should be monitored by people with kidney problems. Those with kidney problems should avoid consuming too much. If a person with impaired kidney function consumes more potassium than their kidneys can process, severe complications can occur.

Another danger to be aware of is the possibility of pesticide contamination in some fruits and vegetables. Every year, the Environmental Working Group assigns a score to products based on their risk of contamination. Sweet potatoes were ranked 31st in 2019.

The best way to reduce the risk of contamination is to buy organic products or grow them at home.

Sources

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