4 Proven Health Benefits of Sweet Potato
Sweet potato is a healthier alternative to the ordinary potato. In this article, you will discover why this is so and what the health benefits are.
At the bottom of this article, you will find 3 recipes so you can conjure up delicious dishes with sweet potato on the table.
What you will learn in this article:
- What is sweet potato
- What the nutritional value of sweet potato is
- What the health benefits are
What is a sweet potato?
Sweet potato is a tuberous plant that belongs to the windefamily. These starchy tubers can be eaten cooked, fried, fried or raw. This tuber is also called sweet potato, sweet potato, sweet potato or yam.
The sweet potato can have a brown or purple skin. The inside can be orange, white or purple.
The variant with brown skin and orange inside is most common in Western supermarkets. You can find the purple at some shops or specialty stores.
This sweet potato is a vegetable (root vegetable) and no family of the ordinary potato. The similarities are the way you can prepare them and they are both good sources of carbohydrates.
In the United States, they often call sweet potato (sweet potato) often yam. The real yam, however, is another edible root tuber that only looks like a sweet potato in terms of preparation.
On the picture opposite, you can see a yam.
Traditionally, sweet potato is served in the United States with Thanksgiving.
Other foods that have similarities with potatoes in potatoes are taro and Jerusalem artichokes.
They are not, however, no family of the sweet potato or the regular potato.
Jerusalem artichoke grows just like potatoes under the ground.
They are sweet and have a slightly nutty taste.
Jerusalem artichoke is just like sweet and common potato a good source of carbohydrates and fiber.
Taro is heavy root tubers which can weigh up to 4 kilos.
They consist of 25% starch and can be prepared in the same way as ordinary and sweet potatoes.
In all likelihood, Columbus in 1492 took the sweet potato to Europe.
In Central and South America the sweet potato was cultivated for at least 10,000 years before it was brought to our continent.
From Spain and Portugal, the explorers took the sweet potato around the world.
At the beginning of the 16th century, the sweet potato had reached large parts of Africa, the Philippines, India, Indonesia and South Asia.
Large producers of sweet potatoes are China, Africa, Central and South America.
In European countries such as Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy they are grown on a smaller scale.
Most west-Europe countries, imports almost all of its sweet potatoes from the United States. In the Netherlands, experiments are being carried out on a small scale with the cultivation of sweet potatoes.
The sweet potato is gaining in popularity. More and more people see that the sweet potato can be a healthy alternative to the traditional potato. As a result, domestic sweet potato consumption is growing by 10% to 20% per year.
You do not expect it, but sweet potatoes are sweet. This makes them suitable for children who often prefer sweet.
They also have a little of a spicy taste. This made them suitable for both sweet and savory dishes.
So you can make sweet brownies but also a spicy curry. The recipes for this can be found at the bottom of this page.
Most people like sweet potatoes. They are even the dream of many vegetable herders; as sweet as candy and yet healthy.
Differences between a sweet potato and regular potato
A difference between the sweet potato and the normal potato is that the ordinary potato belongs to the nightshade family and the sweet does not.
Other known vegetables that belong to the nightshade family are tomatoes, eggplant and red and green peppers.
Ordinary potatoes contain the toxic alkaloid solanine that people who are susceptible to this can get complaints. These are complaints such as arthritis, painful knees and wrists and stiff joints.
When the potato plant came to Europe in the 17th century, it was initially thought that potatoes were not edible. This is because the berries, flowers and leaves of the plant proved to be very poisonous.
The potatoes also turned out to be poisonous, but not as bad as the rest of the plant.
A regular potato contains 40 mg of solanine per kilo. In places where the skin is green, or the potato is rotten, the potato contains more solanin. This can also be recognized by a very bitter taste.
An amount of 200 mg of solanine is harmful and a dose of 400 mg may even be fatal. This is equivalent to eating 10 kilos of potatoes.
Sometimes it is wrongly thought that only raw potatoes are poisonous. However, this is not the case. A potato is raw as poisonous as cooked.
Potatoes are not eaten raw because otherwise, they are not digestible. You can then suffer from abdominal cramps, flatulence and diarrhea.
Because a sweet potato does not belong to the nightshade family, it is well tolerated by people who are sensitive to it.
The sweet potato can also be eaten raw in contrast to the regular potato.
Nutritious sweet potato versus regular potatoes
Nice all those facts about sweet potatoes, but what you are really curious about is why you should swap your familiar potatoes for sweet potatoes.
To make the comparison with regular potatoes easier, I have put them together in the table below.
I started from peeled (sweet) potatoes that are cooked without salt. If they are raw, fried or fried, the nutritional value will be different.
|Sweet potato versus regular potato (cooked)|
|Nutritional value||Sweet potato. / 100 gr.||Ordinary potato. / 100 gr.|
|Fat||0 grams||0 grams|
|Of which saturated||0 grams||0 grams|
|Carbohydrates||18 grams||20 grams|
|Of which sugars||6 grams||1 gram|
|Of which fibers||3 grams||2 grams|
|Proteins||1 gram||2 grams|
On some sites, they give tables with very different values. For example, I have seen tables where, for example, baked sweet potatoes are compared with cooked ordinary potatoes. Then you get a weird comparison.
The processing has a considerable influence on the final nutritional value.
By boiling the potato absorbs moisture, as a result of which it increases in weight.
For example, a cooked sweet potato contains 18 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams, while it contains 21 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams when baked.
Carbohydrates in sweet potato
As you can see from the table above, the sweet potato has slightly fewer calories and carbohydrates and gives you more fiber.
Although the amount of carbohydrates does not matter whether you eat a sweet potato (18 grams) or ordinary potatoes (20 grams), there is an important difference.
The difference is the way your body processes the carbohydrates. The carbohydrates of sweet potatoes will digest your body less quickly than the carbohydrates from regular potatoes.
The carbohydrates of sweet potato consist for 53% of complex carbohydrates. Your body will first have to digest it into simple carbohydrates before the blood can absorb the glucose.
This ensures that the blood glucose rises less high. The advantage of this is that your body needs less insulin. The more insulin is made, the sooner your body will be inclined to store fat.
32% of carbohydrates from sweet potato are simple carbohydrates. These allow the blood glucose to rise quickly. Thanks to the dietary fiber, this effect is damped.
In order to be able to determine how quickly food increases blood glucose, the glycemic index (GI) is sometimes used. The higher this value, the faster it will cause the blood sugar to rise.
The GI of boiled sweet potato is 46. That is a lot lower than the GI of ordinary boiled potato, which is 78.
In my opinion, the ‘superfood’ label for sweet potato is a bit exaggerated. They may be better than regular potatoes but they always contain a lot of carbohydrates.
Sweet potato in diabetes
For this reason, people with diabetes 2 are advised to eat sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes. The sweet potatoes let the blood glucose rise less quickly and less.
This does not change the fact that sweet potato is still a very carbohydrate-rich food.
Attention will, therefore, have to be paid to the portion of large, sweet potatoes that have a major influence on blood glucose!
But if you have to choose between regular potatoes or sweet, you can go for the sweet.
Sweet potato with weight loss
Even if you want to lose weight, sweet potatoes are preferred to regular potatoes.
They contain slightly fewer carbohydrates, which are also absorbed more slowly by the blood (in the form of glucose).
The slower release of glucose prevents a peak in insulin production.
If there is a lot of insulin in the blood, the body will store fat. This makes it difficult to burn fat.
Sweet potato fries
Tonight sweet potato fries then? Well, that may not be such a good idea (sorry).
The way in which you prepare sweet potato (and regular potato) has a big influence on the starch.
If your sweet potato frying or baking, then depending on the cooking time, the GI take up to 94!
That is almost as high as the GI of pure glucose (GI = 100). This will cause the blood glucose to rise very quickly.
That’s why it’s better not to fry or bake your sweet potato if you have diabetes or if you’re on a diet to lose weight.
If you have lots of sports and healthy then it does not hurt much if you will occasionally sweet potato fries, assuming you use a healthy oil such as coconut oil.
Vitamins in sweet potato
Compared to regular potato, sweet potato excels with vitamin A and beta-carotene See the table below.
|Sweet potato versus regular potato (cooked)|
|Vitamins||Sweet potato / 100 gr.||Ordinary potato / 100 gr.|
|Vitamin A||15741 IU (315% ADH)||3 IU (0%)|
|Beta-carotene||9,44 mg||0 mg|
|Vitamin B1||0,1 mg (4% ADH)||0,1 mg (4% ADH)|
|Vitamin B2||0,05 mg (3% ADH)||0,01 mg (1% ADH)|
|Vitamin B3||0,5 mg (3% ADH)||1,3 mg (7% ADH)|
|Vitamin B6||0,2 mg (8% ADH)||0,3 mg (13% ADH)|
|Folic acid (Vitamin B11)||6 mcg (1% ADH)||9 mcg (2% ADH)|
|Vitamin C||12,8 mg (21% ADH)||7,4 mg (12% ADH)|
|Vitamin E||0,9 mg (5% ADH)||0 mg (0% ADH)|
|Vitamin K||2,1 mcg (3% ADH)||2,1 mcg (3% ADH)|
|Betaine (TMG)||0 mg||0,2 mg|
|Choline||10,8 mg||13,2 mg|
Vitamin A is important for children in growth and is involved in the resistance, vision and health of the gums and skin.
If you eat normal and varied, you do not have to be afraid of a vitamin A deficiency.
Sweet potato is rich in beta-carotene. Beta-carotene provides the orange color of sweet potato and, for example, gives carrots their orange color.
This bioactive substance has a function as pro-vitamin A and possibly as an antioxidant.
The liver stores beta-carotene and releases it, if necessary, for the production of vitamin A.
Minerals in sweet potato
Sweet potato and regular potato do not differ much when it comes to minerals. All minerals and trace elements found in sweet potatoes are also found in regular potatoes.
Sweet potato versus regular potato (cooked).
|Sweet potato versus regular potato (cooked)|
|Minerals||Sweet potato / 100 gr.||Ordinary potato / 100 gr.|
|Calcium||27 mg (3% ADH)||8 mg (1% ADH)|
|Magnesium||18 mg (5% ADH)||20 mg (5% ADH)|
|Potassium||230 mg (7% ADH)||328 mg (9% ADH)|
|Phosphorus||32 mg (3% ADH)||40 mg (4% ADH)|
|Sodium||27 mg (1% ADH)||5 mg (0% ADH)|
|Iron||0,7 mg (4% ADH)||0,3 mg (2% ADH)|
|Manganese||0,3 mg (13% ADH)||0,1 mg (7% ADH)|
|Zinc||0,2 mg (1% ADH)||0,3 mg (2% ADH)|
|Copper||0,1 mg (5% ADH)||0,2 mg (9% ADH)|
|Selenium||0,2 mcg (0% ADH)||0,3 mcg (0% ADH)|
Health benefits of sweet potato
It is clear that a vegetable such as a sweet potato is good for health thanks to the many vitamins and minerals.
For example, it contains a lot of vitamin C that is generally known to be good for resistance.
One portion is already good for 40% to 50% of your daily vitamin C needs.
I am not going to explain here all individual sweet potato vitamins and minerals as health benefits. These vitamins and minerals come in more vegetables and if you eat varied you do not have to worry that you will get a shortage of one of these.
Sweet potatoes have a number of health benefits that stand out, these can be found in the infographic below. The health benefits are explained in more detail under the infographic.
Health benefit # 1: good sources of fiber
That fiber is important for your health you probably already knew.
Most guidelines assume 14 grams of fiber for every 1000 kcal you eat. This means that the average man has to eat 38 grams and the average woman 25 grams of fiber per day.
Cooked sweet potatoes give 3 grams of fiber per 100 grams. Per portion, this amounts to about 6 to 7.5 grams of fiber.
Sweet potatoes contain both soluble (15 to 23%) and insoluble (77 to 85%) fibers.
The soluble fibers in sweet potato are pectin (a polysaccharide) which has the property of forming a gel with sugar. This gel prevents sugars from being absorbed quickly by the blood.
Soluble fibers also increase the feeling of satiety, so you eat less.
The insoluble fibers are good for the health of the intestines and act as prebiotics.
Health Benefit # 2: Good sources of antioxidants
Antioxidants are bioactive substances that capture free radicals. Free radicals can damage the cells and tissue, which in the long run will increase your chances of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
Antioxidants in sweet potato are beta-carotene, chlorogenic acid, esculetine, scopoletin and umbelliferone.
In purple sweet potato is also the antioxidant anthocyanin and higher concentrations of previously mentioned antioxidants.
Purple sweet potato powder is also available. This extract contains a high concentration of anthocyanins.
The darker the color of a vegetable or fruit, the more antioxidants it will contain (generally).
Diets that are rich in antioxidants, such as carotenoids, are associated with a lower risk of stomach and breast cancer.
Health benefit # 3: helps prevent bad eyes
Vitamin A deficiency can cause permanent damage to the eyes which can even cause blindness. In sweet potato is so much vitamin A that you have all your daily recommended amount with a few bites.
Vitamin A also plays a role in protecting the skin from harmful influences of UV radiation and resistance to pathogens.
In the Netherlands, vitamin A deficiency is not because we have enough and varied food here.
But in developing countries a vitamin A deficiency is a serious and serious health problem, especially among children and pregnant women.
Vitamin A also occurs in animal products such as liver, meat, fish, egg and dairy. It is also added to margarines and baking and frying products. The body can also make it from beta-carotene.
If you use vitamin A supplements while you also regularly eat foods rich in vitamin A, you run the risk of getting vitamin A poisoning. Which gives all kinds of annoying symptoms such as headaches and fatigue.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin. By eating a sweet potato in combination with a little fat, the vitamins are better absorbed. A tablespoon of olive oil is enough.
Health benefit # 4: slow carbohydrates
You eat sweet potatoes as a carbohydrate source, for example instead of potato, rice or pasta. They have a health benefit compared to these traditional carbohydrate sources; the carbohydrates are converted to glucose less quickly.
All the sugars and carbohydrates you eat are broken down into glucose, after which the blood can absorb this. To take the glucose out of the blood, your pancreas makes insulin.
The insulin acts as a kind of key on your cells and opens the ‘doors’ of the cells so that they can absorb the glucose from the blood.
Your pancreas needs to make more insulin as there is more glucose in the blood.
If the insulin levels are high, the body will store fat and hold it. This allows you to arrive and it becomes difficult to burn fat. Insulin is therefore also called the fat hormone.
For our health, it is therefore important that the insulin values do not rise too high after the meal. Eating the complex carbohydrates that contain sweet potatoes helps.
Because it takes a lot of time for your body to break down the complex carbohydrates into glucose, there is a more gradual release of glucose to the blood. As a result, less insulin is needed.
You can eat, cook or steam sweet potato raw to take advantage of the slow carbohydrates.
As soon as you bake or deep-fry sweet potatoes, the chemical structure will change, so that the carbohydrates will be absorbed much faster by the blood. It is therefore best to cook or steam them.
Sweet potato recipes
Eat something nice with sweet potato tonight? This vegetable is so versatile that you can use it as a starter, main course and dessert. Hopefully, I can inspire you with the recipes below.
You can choose to leave the peel while preparing a sweet potato. This is where most nutrients occur. You have to wash the sweet potato well and remove any hard or bad pieces.
Recipe # 1: appetizer – spicy sweet potato carrot soup
This soup is a true beta carotene bomb by the use of sweet potatoes and carrots that are both rich in this.
The olive oil in the soup provides your daily dose of healthy fatty acids and that the vitamins can be properly absorbed by the body.
The curry spices provide a delicious spicy taste. As a variation on this, you can also use turmeric, which is also very tasty and you then benefit from the many health benefits of turmeric.
- 3 sweet potatoes
- 2 large roots
- 2 shallots
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 chicken or vegetable stock cubes
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
- 2 teaspoons of curry powder
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Peel the sweet potatoes and the roots with a peeler. Cut them into cubes of about an inch.
- Peel the shallots and cut them into coarse pieces.
- Cut the garlic finely or use a garlic press.
- Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and fry for 3 minutes.
- Then add the sweet potato, wrestle, ginger and curry powder. Bake this for 2 minutes while stirring constantly.
- Add 750 ml of water and the bouillon cube. Stir in everything so that the block can dissolve. Then put the lid on the pan and simmer for 20 minutes on low heat.
- Add salt and black ground pepper to taste.
- Puree everything nicely smooth with a hand blender.
To make the soup creamier, use less water and add a can of coconut milk when mashing. You can also put a tablespoon of yogurt or cream in each dish when serving.
To make the soup a little fresher you can squeeze the juice of half a lime over the pan with soup. It is also nice to garnish the soup with a handful of freshly cut coriander on it.
Recipe # 2: main course: vegetarian sweet potato curry
For curry lovers, we have this super healthy variant.
There is no meat in this curry, but you do not have to worry about proteins, that’s what the chickpeas look like. These contain no less than 19 grams of protein per 100 grams.
You can serve this curry with (silver) rice or with quinoa to make it extra healthy.
- 1 big sweet potato
- 1 can of chickpeas of 400 grams
- 1 can of tomato cubes of 400 grams
- 1 can of coconut milk (400 ml)
- 1 yellow onion
- 1 red chili pepper
- 1 beef tomato
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
- 50 grams of finely chopped fresh coriander
- 1 tablespoon of coconut oil
- ½ teaspoon of cinnamon powder
- ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder
- ½ tsp coriander seed
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin seed
- ½ teaspoon of ground cloves
- Salt to taste
- Cut the onion finely into a large pan and fry them for a few minutes in the coconut oil.
- In the meantime, finely chop the garlic and chili pepper.
- Add the garlic and chili to the onions and all spices except for the fresh coriander. Leave everything on a low heat for a few minutes while stirring, so that all flavors are released.
- Meanwhile, peel the sweet potato and cut into cubes of about an inch. Also, cut the meat tomato into cubes.
- Open the can of chickpeas and let them drain and add them in the pan. Add the tomato cube from the can, the beef tomato, the coconut milk and the sweet potato cubes.
- Lower the heat and put a lid on the pan. Let everything simmer for 30 to 45 minutes so that the flavors can be absorbed. Stir everything on occasionally. Halfway through you add the salt and you can taste if you have used enough herbs.
- Stir in the freshly cut coriander at the last minute.
- Serve the curry with (silver fleece) rice or quinoa
Recipe # 3: dessert: sweet potato brownies
Brownies are a real treat, as desserts or as a snack. It is only too bad that they are made from large quantities of butter, flour and sugar. Lots of calories and refined carbohydrates.
This sweet potato variety is less caloric than traditional brownies. Thanks to the use of avocado, these contain healthy fatty acids and the eggs provide healthy proteins.
Now you might wonder if the brownies will not taste like vegetables through the sweet potatoes or have a weird structure?
The opposite is true. The sweet potatoes are perfectly suited to give these brownies the structure that looks like those of ordinary brownies and they are licking your fingers.
The sugar has been replaced by honey and applesauce which is better than refined granulated sugar.
- 1 sweet potato
- 1 avocado
- 4 eggs
- 100 ml apple sauce
- 80 ml of honey
- 30 grams of coconut flour
- 125 grams of cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons of arrowroot powder
- 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- Peel the sweet potato and cut into cubes of about an inch.
- Boil the sweet potato for 20 minutes and drain the water.
- Stamp the sweet potato with a puree damper.
- Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
- Smear an oven dish with coconut oil so that you can easily remove the brownie.
- Peel the avocado and cut it into pieces.
- Put the sweet potato puree, avocado, honey, apple sauce and vanilla in a large bowl and stir well with a fork or use a powerful food processor. Once you have a beautiful whole, add the cocoa powder and stir well.
- Then add the eggs, 1 for 1.
- In a separate dish, you stir together the coconut flour, the arrowroot, baking powder and salt. Then add this to the large dish and mix all the ingredients well.
- Put the whole in the baking dish and bake for 30 minutes until the brownie has a nice brown crust.
Avoid buying sweet potatoes with soft skin or wrinkles, cracks, or soft spots. Store in a cool, dry place for up to 3 to 5 weeks.
Roast sweet potatoes to bring out their natural flavor. There is no need to add in marshmallow topping or loads of butter; sweet potatoes have a naturally sweet and creamy taste that can be enjoyed all on its own. To add a little spice without extra calories, try sprinkling on cinnamon, cumin or curry powder.
The fastest way to prepare a sweet potato is in the microwave. Prick the potato with a fork, wrap in a paper towel, and then microwave on high until soft. Make sure it is cool for several minutes, and then drizzle with olive oil or top with fat-free plain Greek yogurt.
Try adding roasted sweet potatoes and pecans to a salad and top with balsamic vinegar. You can also try adding sweet potato to pancakes or hash browns.
In short, focus on nutrition if you want to lose weight!
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