What Are the Benefits of Sweet Potatoes? Everything to Know

Medically Reviewed By Kim Chin, RD
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Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet, starchy root vegetables with high nutritional value. Some research suggests that sweet potatoes may help support gut health, vision, immunity, and more. Sweet potatoes come in various colors that reflect their phytochemical composition, which are beneficial plant compounds.

Yellow and orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are reported to have higher phenolic compounds, carotenoids, and flavonoids. Purple sweet potatoes are rich in anthocyanins and phenolic acids.

The concentration and bioavailability of phytochemicals in sweet potatoes are influenced by the environment and cultivar, storage conditions, and processing. Compared with other root and tuber crops, sweet potatoes contain more carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

This article discusses the health benefits of sweet potatoes, their nutritional value, potential downsides, and tips to incorporate them into your diet.

What are the health benefits of sweet potatoes?

There are sweet potatoes against a red background.
Violeta Pasat/Stocksy United

There are numerous health benefits of sweet potatoes.

They are highly nutritious

Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds.

One cup or 200 grams (g) of baked sweet potato with the skin provides the following:

Energy (calories)180 kcal
Carbohydrates41.4 g
Protein4.02 g
Fat0.3 g
Fiber6.6 g
Vitamin C39.2 milligrams (mg)
Manganese0.994 mg
Vitamin B60.572 mg
Potassium950 mg
Pantothenic acid1.768 mg
Copper0.322 mg
Niacin2.98 mg

Also, the anthocyanins in purple sweet potatoes may help reduce the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Good for gut health

The dietary fiber in sweet potatoes has been shown to promote gut microbiome diversity and benefit intestinal health. Not only are sweet potatoes an excellent source of soluble and insoluble dietary fiber, but they are also rich in prebiotics, such as oligosaccharides and resistant starch. Prebiotics feed the commensal bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract.

The high concentration of anthocyanins in purple sweet potatoes provides anti-inflammatory properties and prebiotic activity, which may promote good intestinal health.

Discover more foods that are good for gut health.

Promoting healthy vision

Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are rich in carotenoids, especially beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in your body and helps protect the retina and lens of the eye from damage induced by light.

These phytochemicals also quench free radicals, protecting the eye from oxidative stress and inflammation.

Severe vitamin A deficiency can lead to a type of blindness known as xerophthalmia. Eating foods rich in beta-carotene, such as orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, may help prevent this condition.

Discover more foods that can promote healthy vision.

Supporting immunity

Vitamin A plays a crucial role in the differentiation, maturation, and function of immune system cells.

Research has suggested that a deficiency of vitamin A is associated with infectious diseases of children’s respiratory and digestive systems.

The beneficial plant compounds and nutrients in sweet potatoes may reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body, which helps support immunity.

Discover more foods that can boost your immune system.

What are the disadvantages of eating sweet potatoes?

Sweet potatoes are high in oxalates, which can bind to minerals and interfere with their absorption.

Also, dietary oxalates may increase the risk of kidney stones. Individuals at risk for kidney stones may want to be mindful of their intake of high-oxalate foods.

Contact your doctor if you suspect you have a sensitivity to oxalates or if you experience any new symptoms after eating products high in oxalates.

How can I include sweet potatoes in my diet?

Sweet potatoes are very versatile. You can eat them on their own or include them in various dishes.

One of the healthiest ways to prepare and eat sweet potatoes is to cook and cool them with the peel on. Cooking and cooling sweet potatoes increases their concentration of resistant starch, a prebiotic fiber.

The peel contains many nutrients as well. Eating some fat with sweet potatoes will also help increase the absorption of the fat-soluble nutrients it contains.

Also, you can eat sweet potatoes steamed, baked, boiled, sauteed, or in many other ways.

Ways to incorporate sweet potatoes into your diet include:

  • cooked, cubed, and added to salads or soups
  • as an ingredient for brownies
  • drizzled with olive oil and seasonings
  • as a sweet treat sprinkled with cinnamon topped with cottage cheese
  • as baked sweet potato fries
  • using purple sweet potatoes for potato salad
  • sweet potato Shepherd’s pie

Is it healthy to have sweet potatoes every day?

Sweet potatoes are nutritious and can be included regularly in an overall balanced diet. Still, you want to be sure you’re getting a wide variety of foods to meet daily nutritional needs.

Check with your doctor or a registered dietitian for more personalized advice about diet and health.

Also, contact a doctor before making any significant changes to your diet or before eating any food in excess amounts.

Is sweet potato good for weight loss?

Sweet potatoes can be a part of a successful weight management plan, if that’s your goal. Their high fiber and nutrient content can help keep your blood sugar levels stable, which may help with satiety and weight management.

They are also low glycemic and contain a natural sweetness, which may help regulate cravings. Furthermore, their high antioxidant content may also reduce insulin resistance and help stabilize blood sugar levels, which helps prevent calories from being stored as fat.

How they are prepared also influences how they are metabolized in the body, which can influence weight loss.

Does sweet potato reduce belly fat?

There is no evidence that sweet potatoes specifically reduce belly fat. However, their high fiber and resistant starch content may help with weight management.

Is sweet potato a superfood?

Sweet potatoes can be considered a superfood because they are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, prebiotic fiber, and beneficial plant compounds.

They are a leading source of beta-carotene, which plays a critical role in many physiological functions, such as maintaining vision, promoting growth and development, and protecting epithelium and mucus integrity in the body.

They can make for a nutritious addition to an overall well-balanced diet.

Is sweet potato high in sugar?

On average, sweet potatoes contain approximately 8.36 grams (g) of sugar per 200 g serving. Their sugar content depends on how they’re cooked and prepared. 

Steamed and boiled sweet potatoes are lower in sugar than baked or fried. Their high fiber content also helps slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream. Sweet potatoes are complex carbohydrates, so it takes longer to break down into simple sugar molecules.

When should I see a doctor?

While the health benefits of sweet potatoes are well documented, they may not be the best choice for everyone. Everybody responds differently to different foods.

Consult your doctor or a registered dietitian before making any significant dietary changes.

Summary

Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds. They are especially rich in beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A that serves an important role in many physiological functions.

Some research suggests that including sweet potatoes in your diet may offer several health benefits, such as supporting healthy vision, immunity, and gut health.

However, sweet potatoes are relatively high in oxalates, which may interfere with mineral absorption. People at risk for developing kidney stones may be sensitive to high oxalate foods.

As part of an overall well-balanced diet, sweet potato consumption can also contribute to weight loss.

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Medical Reviewer: Kim Chin, RD
Last Review Date: 2022 Nov 28
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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