11 health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes and Nutrition Facts

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Sweet potatoes are often thought of as the “healthier” potato – some even go so far as to call them a superfood, sometimes with good cause, but we generally disagree with this label. The sweet potato is a great carb source and a delicious, versatile food in its own right. In this article, we’re going to look at the main reasons for the popularity of the sweet potato and whether or not it lives up to the hype. This article will mostly focus on the sweet potato and the nutritional values it has, especially compared to the regular potato.

Nutrition Facts

Per 100g cooked (unseasoned) [1]

Energy: 86 calories
Protein: 1.6g
Fat: 0.1g
Carbohydrates: 4.4g
Fiber: 3g
Sugars: 4.2g

Vitamins:

A: 89% RDA
B1: 7% RDA
B2: 5% RDA
B3: 4% RDA
B5: 16% RDA
B6: 16% RDA
B9: 3%
B12: nil
C: 3% RDA
D: nil
E: 2% RDA
K: nil

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Calcium: 3% RDA
Iron: 5% RDA
Magnesium: 7% RDA
Manganese: 12% RDA
Phosphorous: 7% RDA
Potassium: 7% RDA
Zinc: 3% RDA

Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes Benefits

1. Sweet Potatoes are a Delicious, Classical Diet Food

The sweet potato has been popular for years for a few reasons – aside from the taste, we may say that the second most appealing benefit is the relatively low caloric content. Compared to the regular potato’s 161 calories, the sweet potato has less than 100 calories, making it less than 2/3 of the calorie content of the regular potato. This makes the sweet potato the superior choice for those who are watching their calories, as it is also a large food by bulk and is relatively satiating.

2. Fantastic Source of Carbohydrates and Fiber

The sweet potato is a carbohydrate source, this is an important thing to remember. Whilst the sweet potato is the staple in the diet of bodybuilder and athletes, it is important to remember that it is still a carb source and should be accompanied by other sources of proteins and fats to be a complete meal.

However, the sweet potato’s carbohydrates are of a very high quality. Whilst it has a moderate amount of carbs (approximately 25 in a medium sweet potato), 15% are from fiber and the majority are starches at a relatively low glycaemic index. This makes the sweet potato an excellent choice for those who are seeking healthy alternatives to grain-based carbohydrates.

3. Sweet Potato Contains Almost no Fat

For those who are attempting to reduce calories or manage fat intake, the sweet potato is an excellent choice, with an average of 0.1g fat in a whole baked potato. As the food is a tumour, root vegetable there is no fat storage and, thus, almost no fat in the food at all. Fats are more popular in recent times than in the past, but there are still situations where we might want to avoid fatty foods or add low-fat carbohydrate sources to the diet (for example, the no-fat sweet potato is usually paired with meats to balance the macronutrients of the meal).

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4. Glycaemic index: What’s the use?

One of the most popular claims for the superiority of the sweet potato is the fact that it has a generally-lower glycaemic index (GI) than the white potato. This is technically true, in many cases, because the glycaemic index of the sweet potato is lower: meaning that it takes longer for the glucose in the starch of sweet potato to digest and be absorbed than the white potato.

However, the GI of the sweet potato is affected by a few things. Firstly, the higher fibre content of the sweet potato (higher relative to the total carbs) means that it will inevitably be digested more slowly when comparable amounts are eaten. Secondly, a lower GI is generally more important for those with Type-II diabetes, whereas most people are unlikely to experience any real benefits from the difference.

Some people place these two in the “middle” range of GI foods, but this is inevitable because they are carb sources. It would be unreasonable to expect them to have an excessively low GI – especially when we consider that the sweet potato has no fat content, which increases the GI but is not necessarily a bad thing. There are others who argue that the white potato has a lower GI in certain iterations – such as the potato chip and mashed potatoes – though it is important to point out that these are only lower because of their high fat content. Clearly, it is more than just GI that makes a food healthy, even if this is another reason to prefer the sweet potato.

5. Sweet Potato improves the Immune System

Organic Raw Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potato’s most important micronutrient is the huge content of vitamin A that it contains. Sweet potatoes can contain up to 450% of the daily recommended dose of vitamin A, making them an excellent source for the vitamin. This compound is essential in the maintenance of skin health and is also associated with a variety of immune system functions [1].

6. Carotenoids in sweet potato prevent cell damage and improve metabolism

Technically related to vitamin A, carotenoids are pigment-chemicals that have a variety of antioxidant effects in the body. Found in various orange-red foods, they are high in sweet potatoes and are associated with improved metabolism, general wellness and the reduction of specific cancer risks.

7. Improves Metabolism, Nutrient uptake and General Wellness

Skin Care

The sweet potato may not be as famous as the Orange for its vitamin C content, but it has a huge quantity for a vegetable – especially a root vegetable – providing even more reason to add more sweet potatoes to your diet. Vitamin C is associated with proper metabolism, iron absorption and is an incredibly potent anti-oxidant [2], ensuring proper cell health and protecting against the risks of DNA damage and the associated cancers [3].

8. Improves Blood Health and Nutrient uptake

Manganese is a seldom-discussed mineral involved in the proper absorption and recruitment of iron, giving it an important role in the development and maintenance of healthy blood. However, it also has an important role in the generation of enzymes necessary for the proper metabolism of carbohydrates and the creation of glucose in the body [2]. This means that sweet potato is not only a great carbohydrate source, but has a positive effect on the proper metabolism of carbohydrates within the body. This synergy gives it a large advantage over the regular potato.

9. Phytonutrients/Phytochemicals Promote Wellness 

Phytochemicals are simply “plant-chemicals” that have been the topic of recent research but do not fit neatly into any of the other categories of vitamins or minerals. These compounds are less popular in the general population’s approach to nutrition but they may have a variety of beneficial effects, dependent on the compound and dose.

Polyphenols, ALA, Selenium, caffeic acid, ferulic acid and catechins are among the many phytonutrients that are contained in sweet potatoes. These all have beneficial roles within the body of varying importance and severity – but an abundance of phytochemicals such as these will result in some subtle benefits from the simple addition of sweet potatoes to the diet.

10. Mood, hormones and neurotransmitters are improved by sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes, and a number of other plant products, contain compounds such as L-Tryptophan and temazepam (a compound often found in psychopharmacological treatments for depression). The digestion of these products is linked to improved mood, reduced negative emotion (neuroticism) and the regulation of brain chemistry [4]. This is not going to cure these conditions or make noticeable changes in the short term, but it is a low-risk and low-effort addition to the traditional treatments that may make some positive changes. For those of us who are otherwise-healthy, it may simply serve as a pick me up and mood-elevator.

11. Can Help Reduce Aggression and Anti-social Behaviors

As a final topic, we wanted to take the time to draw attention to early studies on the effects of carotenoid-rich, nutrient-dense sweet potatoes as part of a diet affecting general mental health and social behaviour. Whilst the research is early and requires much corroborating study, there are signs to suggest that the proper consumption of high-quality, nutrient-dense foods (of which sweet potato was a central component) results in statistically significant reductions in anti-social behaviours such as violence and aggression [5].

Don’t Miss : Carrots: Nutrition Facts and 8 Health Benefits of Carrots

References

[1] Mora et al (2008): ‘Vitamin effects on the immune system: vitamins A and D take centre-stage’. National review of immunology, 8(9), pp.685-698
[2] Huskisson et al (2007): ‘The role of vitamins and minerals in energy metabolism and well-being’. The journal of international medical research, 35, pp.277-289
[3] Ames, B.N. (1989): ‘Endogenous oxidative DNA damage, aging, and cancer’. Free radical research communications, 7, pp.121-128
[4] Carroll et al (1990): ‘Intravenous cocaine self-administration in rats is reduced by dietary L-tryptophan’. Psychopharmacology, 100(3), pp.293-300
[5] Oddy et al (2009): ‘the association between dietary patterns and mental health in early adolescence’. Preventive medicine¸ 49(1), pp.39-44

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