If You Don’t Eat Sweet Potatoes Every Day, This Might Convince You to Start
Sweet potatoes are just as versatile as white potatoes but pack even more of a nutritional punch. So what are the sweet, sweet benefits of sweet potatoes?
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There’s no veggie quite as versatile as the humble spud. Whether you love your potatoes baked, mashed, as hash browns or french fries (best air-fryer recipes for the win!), there’s no shortage of ways to put them to delicious use. Sweet potatoes can be enjoyed in all the same ways as white potatoes—and the nutritional benefits of sweet potatoes bring even more to the table.
Even if you’re chock-full of food facts and can rattle off the benefits of bananas, the benefits of yogurt and the benefits of blueberries without consulting Google, there’s a good chance you don’t know all the benefits of sweet potatoes. If they’re not already part of your best recipes, learning about their benefits straight from dietitians just might convince you to integrate them into your diet. Keep reading to find out why nutrition experts love sweet potatoes so much—and learn the most delicious ways to cook them!
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What are the benefits of eating sweet potatoes?
There’s a reason sweet potatoes have garnered a glowing health halo. Below, you’ll find just a few of the highlights.
A healthier gut
“One sweet potato has 15% of the daily value of fiber, making them good for gut health,” explains registered dietitian Natalie Rizzo, author of Planted Performance and the founder of Greenletes. That fiber aids digestion and helps prevent constipation.
As a complex carb, a sweet potato takes more time to digest than simple carbs (ultra-processed foods with little nutritional value), notes Jessica Lehmann, a registered dietitian and associate teaching professor at Arizona State University. That means a sweet potato won’t raise your blood sugar levels as quickly, helping to keep your mood and energy levels steady. Plus, adds Rizzo, slower digestion means sweet potatoes will keep you fuller longer than other carbs.
You can also add sweet potatoes to your anti-inflammatory grocery list. The tuber is high in antioxidants—specifically vitamin C, carotenoids and phenylpropanoids—which reduce inflammation in the body and protect against chronic diseases, as well as certain types of cancer.
A healing boost
Sweet potatoes have also been linked to improved vision (due to their beta carotene and vitamin A content), a better immune system (vitamin C and manganese) and strong bones (manganese again). Eating sweet potatoes regularly is even good for your skin. “Beta-carotene is an antioxidant, so it helps to reverse damage from the sun,” Lehmann explains. “It also improves wrinkling and sagging of the skin.”
Improved mental health
According to Lehmann, sweet potatoes are good for mental health because they’re high in vitamin B6, which is needed to synthesize serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood. We’re in favor of any food that calms anxiety!
Are sweet potatoes a superfood?
Clearly, the benefits of sweet potatoes are impressive, but do they rise to superfood status? Lehmann says yes to this food quiz question, explaining that sweet potatoes deserve the title because they’re so rich in vitamins and nutrients.
Rizzo agrees, adding that while there’s no official, science-backed definition of the term, she considers almost all fruits and vegetables superfoods. That said, what makes sweet potatoes particularly worthy is their fiber, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin B6 and vitamin C.
By the way, yams—which look similar to sweet potatoes—are also considered a superfood. The nutrients in yams are extremely similar to those in sweet potatoes, although yams are higher in potassium, while sweet potatoes are higher in vitamin A. Whichever you choose, you can rest easy knowing the tuber comes with uber health benefits.
Do sweet potatoes help belly fat?
If your goal is to lose weight in a healthy way, both experts see no need to cut sweet potatoes out of your diet. “One sweet potato only has a little over 100 calories, and it’s filling and full of nutrients,” says Rizzo. “People think they need to avoid carbs to lose weight, but that’s definitely not the case. Eating carbs from vegetables is part of a healthy weight-loss diet, and eating fiber is an integral part of losing weight.”
Plus, she adds, “sweet potatoes are rich in fiber and complex carbohydrates, which help to maintain a feeling of fullness.” Sounds like eating sweet potatoes can, in fact, help you have a flatter stomach!
What are the disadvantages of sweet potatoes?
The benefits of sweet potatoes are clear, but are there downsides? While there really are no disadvantages to eating sweet potatoes, Rizzo says that having one on its own as a meal doesn’t provide enough protein to be satiating. Combine your sweet spud with lean protein like eggs, skinless chicken, Greek yogurt, beans or chickpeas to make it more filling.
If you have diabetes, Lehmann says, be mindful of how you eat sweet potatoes, because they’re high in carbs: “Pair a sweet potato with a protein and a little fat to avoid a blood glucose spike.”
People with a history of kidney stones should also be mindful, as sweet potatoes are high in a nutrient called oxalate, which can cause kidney stones in people susceptible to them.
What’s the right amount of sweet potatoes to eat per day?
If knowing the benefits of sweet potatoes has you ready to eat them regularly, you may be wondering if the adage “too much of a good thing” applies. While both our experts say eating a sweet potato a day is certainly healthy, they don’t recommend more than that, since there are plenty of other vegetables to enjoy too. “If you’re eating more than one a day, you might want to consider varying up your food choices so you get a variety of nutrients,” Rizzo says.
Lehmann adds that the high beta-carotene content in sweet potatoes can cause skin to turn orange if they’re eaten in excess! We’re pretty sure no one wants orange skin, but is it OK to eat potatoes that have turned green?
What is the healthiest way to eat sweet potatoes?
French fries are a good example of how a cooking method can turn a healthy food into a not-so-healthy food. To ensure the preparation of sweet potatoes doesn’t take away from their nutritional value, Lehmann suggests roasting, baking, air-frying or microwaving versus frying them in oil, which just adds extra fat. She also advises against adding too much salt or sugar. Rizzo warns us away from heavy cream or lots of butter (both tasty but, sadly, high in saturated fat) when preparing mashed sweet potatoes.
Lehmann’s favorite way to integrate sweet potatoes into easy meals is to dice them into cubes for stew or stir-fries, while Rizzo recommends baking or air-frying with a little olive oil and spices.
There’s no shortage of ways to enjoy sweet potatoes—and experimenting is part of the fun! Integrating them into meals more often will benefit your body in many ways, and that’s, well, pretty sweet.
- Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, registered dietitian, author of Planted Performance and founder of Greenletes
- Jessica Lehmann, MS, RDN, registered dietitian and associate teaching professor at Arizona State University
- American Heart Association: “Carbohydrates”
- Nutrition Research: “Carotenoids, inflammation, and oxidative stress—implications of cellular signaling pathways and relation to chronic disease prevention”
- PLOS One: “Relationship between blood manganese and bone mineral density and bone mineral content in adults”
- Antioxidants: “Sweet Potato Is Not Simply an Abundant Food Crop”
- Clinical Nutrition Research: “Nutritional Management of Kidney Stones (Nephrolithiasis)”