Should you be eating more sweet potatoes? It’s one of those foods that seem healthy but we’re not really sure because of other information we’ve heard. During the past few decades, you’ve probably heard about how bad “carbohydrates” like potatoes and bread are. This usually includes white potatoes so there might be question marks about sweet potato calories, vitamins, and minerals. People often eat the orange root crop during special times like holidays but are they healthy and worth eating year-round since they’re high-calorie. The big question is: should you eat more sweet potatoes and if so why?
Sweet potatoes and yams are siblings and white potatoes’ cousins. They’re considered a superfood because they’re sky-high in Vitamin A, which explains their orange color. This is a starchy food but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. You can get lots of vitamins and minerals by eating sweet potatoes. Yes, they’re high-carb foods but not all carbohydrates are bad. They’re also a relatively low-calorie food since one average-size sweet potato has less than 100 calories. It’s important to take a closer look at the root crop to figure out whether or not it’s something you should eat more of. As always knowing the facts will help to make the best decisions about your everyday diet.
What’s a Sweet Potato?
It’s one of the root crops that also include yams, white potatoes, turnips, radishes, and carrots. Like other veggies, they’re full of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes.
The main difference between sweet potatoes and white potatoes is sweet potatoes are very high in Vitamin A and beta carotene. That’s what gives the veggie its orange color and makes it a “superfood” compared to white potatoes.
Sweet potatoes can be prepared in many ways. You can bake them with brown sugar and marshmallows, bake pies, and even enjoy plain boiled sweet potatoes.
One thing to keep in mind is there’s a difference between yams and sweet potatoes. A yam is a type of sweet potato. The yam is a root crop with a rough/scaly skin and is actually lower in Vitamin A than other sweet potatoes.
Let’s talk about the calories of sweet potatoes. They’re not exactly a low-calorie food. An average size sweet potato has about 85 calories. This is over 3x higher than a serving of cooked carrots or broccoli. However, calories are much lower than other foods like meat.
Another issue to consider is you’re getting tons of healthy stuff from sweet potatoes. Compare that to foods like sodas and junk food with lots of “empty” calories. When you eat a sweet potato, you’re getting nutrients like vitamins, minerals, fiber, etc.
Even the issue of sweet potatoes being high-carb isn’t what it seems. For example, if you eat foods like white bread, then you’ll be getting high carbs but little nutritional value. That’s because the grains have been processed, bleached, etc.
On the other hand, sweet potatoes have lots of nutrients including “good” carbs. This will help you feel fuller longer and thus help with issues like having the munchies all day. That leads to weight gain.
Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes
Here are some of the main health benefits of sweet potatoes:
This might be surprising since “experts” have been saying for years that high-carb foods like potatoes are unhealthy. Sweet potatoes are high in many vitamins, minerals, and fiber. In fact, you can get almost 90% of your day’s Vitamin A from one raw sweet potato.
Here are some stats for one 200g baked sweet potato w/ skin:
- Calories: 180
- Carbohydrates: 41.4g
- Protein: 4g
- Fat: 0.3g
It’s also loaded with vitamins and minerals. That includes almost all of your daily Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and minerals like Copper, Niacin, and Magnesium.
Some studies show that sweet potatoes might protect your body from certain kinds of cancers. This includes different colored ones like purple and orange.
Some studies show that sweet potatoes might help your brain to work more effectively. This is done in different ways. For example, some studies have shown that it can help to improve mice’s memory.
No studies have been done on the orange potatoes’ effect on human brains. However, many fruits and veggies are linked to a lower risk of losing brain function through effects like diseases.
Modern diets of highly-processed foods often don’t have enough fiber. Root crops are a good option because the skins offer fiber besides the vitamins and minerals of the veggie itself. Just make sure to scrub the skins well before cooking the sweet potatoes since dirt is often caked-on due to them growing underground.
Sweet potatoes are high in Vitamin A. They’re also high in the antioxidant known as beta-carotene. This explains why the root crops have a bright orange color. In fact, a baked potato with skin has 7x more beta-carotene than you need daily.
Vitamin A has been linked to good eye health. It’s important to note that this involves overall eye health rather than actual vision.
Ways to Prepare Sweet Potatoes
If you want to add more sweet potatoes to your diet you might be wondering how you can prepare them. Here are some of the most popular options:
This is a vegan/gluten-free option if you’re tired of eating wheat bread. They’re yummy. However, if putting sweet potatoes in a toaster seems odd you can also do this option using the oven.
This is one of the most popular ways of preparing sweet potatoes. You have many options including the whole sweet potato and potato fries. You can even bake the sweet potatoes with other veggies. This provides benefits like more vitamins and flavors.
This is quick and easy to make. It makes a great dish when you want a breakfast side dish. It’s also a good option when you want a snack to take with you on the go.
This is a great way to “bake” your sweet potatoes using the microwave. First, wash the sweet potato then pierce it several times with a fork. This will help to prevent the potato from exploding.
Then put the potato on top of a damp paper towel. Microwave the potato high for around 4 minutes. Keep up this process and check it every minute until the potato gets as soft as you want it.
This is a great alternative to standard white potatoes. It provides extra flavor and vitamins/minerals vs. mashed potatoes using the white variety.
This might be a surprising one. Just add some pieces of raw sweet potato into a smoothie. This will make your drinks more filling and add some fiber. You can also add some other ingredients like dates, flaxseeds, and banana. This is a great option and you won’t have to worry about sweet potato calories.