Often confused with yams, sweet potatoes are a member of the potato family, but are a distant relative from the standard potato that you know. Sweet potatoes come in a lot of different colors, though they more or less taste the same. Growing sweet potatoes dates back thousands of years to the Central America and South America parts of the world, and have since become a staple in the culinary world.
Though it might look like a colorful version of a regular potato, what you get from eating them is much different. Sweet potatoes tend to have a bit more overall nutrition, and are lower in calories. The health benefits that you get are different, as well, and some of them might surprise you. Let’s take a look at the nutritional breakdown of the sweet potato, as well as what some of those health benefits are. You might find yourself eating them more often than french fries.
Nutrition of Sweet Potatoes
If you are baking a medium sweet potato (which is about 114 grams) without all of the added salt, you are doing yourself a big favor in terms of nutrition. For starters, you are getting a bit of protein into your diet, to the tune of five percent of your recommended value. There is also quite a bit of fiber, with 15 percent of your daily recommendation. As for vitamins, the one that stands out the most is vitamin A, with more than four times your suggested value. Vitamin C (37 percent), vitamin B6 (16 percent) and pantothenic acid (10 percent) are the other big ones. There are still solid amounts of thiamin, niacin, riboflavin and vitamin E, as well.
There isn’t a shortage of minerals to be found in sweet potatoes, either. Manganese is the most abundant, with 28 percent of your recommended value, while potassium comes in second with 15 percent. The others aren’t quite as significant with less than 10 percent value, but you’re still getting calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and zinc with each sweet potato. The nutrition alone is what causes some people to lean toward sweet potatoes instead of the regular kind.
As we mentioned, sweet potatoes are very efficient in both vitamin C and vitamin A. To help your immune system, your body is going to need plenty of these two vitamins to keep going. These vitamins will allow your immune system to fight off a lot of diseases such as the common cold. When you think of immune boosting foods, you usually think of oranges, but sweet potatoes are very underrated in that department.
Sweet potatoes can also help your body’s ability to keep more serious illnesses away. Vitamin A is instrumental in the fight against cancer, and no food is quite as proficient as sweet potatoes when it comes to vitamin A. Studies have shown that the properties of a sweet potato can shrink cancer cells by more than 50 percent, thanks in part to flavonoids. Yet, nobody seems to talk about sweet potatoes’ ability to fight off diseases.
One thing that some people know about sweet potato benefits is what the vegetable can do for your skin. Sweet potatoes contain beta carotene and vitamin A, which can slow down the aging process for your skin. This vitamin will help you create new skin cells that might have been damaged by the sun or simply died from aging, allowing you to avoid wrinkles, sun damage and other signs of age.
Vitamin C is another big benefit for your skin, as it helps to create collagen. This helps your skin to maintain elasticity and smoothness. Not only that, but you can develop stronger bones that include your teeth, giving you a better smile and increased mobility throughout your life. Finally, the vitamins are going to help your eyes, avoiding cataracts and other vision problems.
If you’re one of the many people out there that is seemingly addicted to french fries, you don’t have to give up potatoes completely. Fry addicts (and really any potato fan in general) should consider making the switch to sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are very low in calories, with medium sized ones only coming in at around 100 calories. Yes, that is for the entire potato.
You can even shop up a sweet potato so that it looks like french fries, and bake them in the oven instead of frying them. Sweet potatoes even contain a solid amount of fiber that your digestive system is going to need to work more efficiently. An improved digestive system also means a better metabolism, further aiding your battle against the scale.
Not So Sweet
Sweet potatoes are a great food for anybody, and diabetics are included. Sweet potatoes register very low on the glycemic index, meaning that they aren’t going to cause any sugar spikes or crashes. As a matter of fact, you will see an overall balance of blood sugar and insulin while reducing your hunger throughout the day.
Some types of sweet potatoes might also lower your fasting blood glucose levels almost instantly. Early studies have also concluded that this type of sweet potato (Caiapo) can lower your LDL (bad cholesterol). While there is a little bit of sodium, sweet potatoes are good for your heart overall.
If you’re someone that is stressed out seemingly too often and unable to relax, consider eating more sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are a great source of magnesium that help out many parts of your body, and can even stimulate your ability to relax. Many of the vitamins will also put your brain at ease as they fight free radicals, reducing your chances of neurological problems down the road.
Summing it Up
With these great things that sweet potatoes can do for your body, you’re probably wondering if something so filling and beneficial can have some side effects. Like all foods, there are some minor drawbacks from eating too many. Sweet potatoes tend to be a bit higher in carbohydrates than a lot of other foods, but not to an extreme degree. If you are active in the gym (or anywhere really), these carbs will be easy to burn off and are only a problem if you are on a low-carb diet.
There are certain vitamins that sweet potatoes either don’t have much of or don’t have any at all. As long as you are balancing your diet to include all of the essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs, adding more sweet potatoes isn’t going to be a problem. Eating sweet potatoes a couple of times each week is going to bring you a lot of benefits, and a lot of us agree that the taste is great. It’s hard to find the combination of both, which is why sweet potatoes are a superfood.