Health Benefits Sweet Potatoes, Nutrition Facts, Healthy Recipes

The sweet potato is probably not used as much as it should be. It is a very versatile starchy root vegetable that has outstanding nutritional credentials.

Studies comparing the nutrients in sweet potatoes such as common potatoes, rice, wheat, corn, yams and cassava showed that sweet potatoes earned the highest overall score for nutritional values with the common potato the next highest.

The key benefits of sweet potato giving it a high-ranking were fiber content, protein, complex carbohydrates, Vitamin A and Vitamin C and the minerals Iron, and Calcium.

Sweet potato varieties with dark orange flesh are very rich in beta carotene and all varieties are rich sources of flavonoid and other anti-oxidants.

This article reviews the nutrition facts and health benefits of sweet potatoes in comparison with other root vegetables that share similar uses.

It also includes some healthy recipes to highlight their versatility.

Sweet potatoes have high calories but are rich in nutrients and minerals
Sweet potatoes have high calories but are rich in nutrients and minerals | Source
Turkey and sweet potato snack
Turkey and sweet potato snack | Source
Baked sweet potato wedges
Baked sweet potato wedges | Source
Sweet potatoes as a side dish. Yum!
Sweet potatoes as a side dish. Yum! | Source
Sweet Potato Fries
Sweet Potato Fries | Source

What is Sweet Potato

Sweet potato with its starchy underground tubers belongs to the family of Convolvulaceae,‭ ‬and is named Ipomoea batatas. It is a herbaceous perennial vine that probably originated in Central or Southern America. It is closely related to various common garden flowers called morning glories, but is only very distantly related to the potato (Solanum tuberosum). It is sometimes confused with, and called a ‘yam’ but it not related botanically to the genuine yam (Dioscorea), which is native to Africa and Asia. Cassava (Manihot esculenta), a woody shrub, also unrelated to sweet potato is the 3rd largest source of basic carbohydrate in the tropics providing a staple diet for over 500 million people. Cassava root is a good source of carbohydrates, but a poor source of protein and other nutrients.

Sweet Potato grows well in tropical and warm temperate regions and is promoted as a good staple food for poorer communities because of its high Vitamin A content and outstanding array of nutrients.‭ ‬The tops are edible.‭ ‬The root tuber is oblong and elongated with tapering ends. Orange is the most common color but various varieties are colored brown, red,‭ yellow ‬purple and white.

Nutrients and Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes

The two tables at the end of the article summarize the nutrition data and health benefits of Sweet Potato in comparison with:

  • Other staple foods and grains: Common Potato, Corn, Rice, Wheat, Cassava, Yam.
  • Other common foods used as alternatives: Pumpkin, Beets, ParsnipsWhat is Sweet Potato

Comparison with other staples show that sweet potato provides less calories and protein per unit weight than grain cereals and rice, but this is more than offset by it’s higher nutrient densities for vitamins and minerals.

The key aspects of Sweet Potato nutrients compared with other staples are:

  • More calories (88 Cals per 100g) and fat than common potatoes, and slightly less protein (1.6g per 100g).
  • Equivalent fiber levels to common potatoes, but higher than the other foods listed in the table except for wheat and yams
  • Sweet potato has very high levels of Vitamin A (14,187 IU per 100g), more than twice the amount in pumpkin. All of the other foods listed have very small amounts of Vitamin A.
  • Sweet potato is a rich source for B-group Vitamins (pyridoxine‭ (‬vitamin B-6‭),‬ pantothenic acid‭ (‬vitamin B-5‭)‬,‭ ‬ thiamin‭ (‬vitamin B-1‭)‬,‭ ‬riboflavin and niacin. It has higher levels of Vitamin E, Vitamin K, but has less folate and Vitamin C than the other foods.
  • Sweet potato is a rich sources of a wide range of minerals particularly Manganese, Iron and Potassium, Calcium.
  • Orange and yellow sweet potato is an outstanding source of beta-carotene ( 8509‭ ‬micro g per 100 g) and many other antioxidants. The overall antioxidant strength measured by oxygen radical absorbance capacity‭ (‬ORAC‭) ‬is‭ ‬902‭ ‬micro mol Trolex equivalents/100‭ ‬g.
  • Sweet Potato contains no saturated fats or cholesterol.

‭Choice and Handling of Sweet Potato

Choose fresh tubers that don’t feel soft to touch and which have intact smooth skin. Avoid flabby, discolored, damaged roots that are soft,‭ ‬flabby,‭ ‬or wilted.‭ ‬Avoid tubers that are‭ ‬sprouting.

Wash the tubers well in clean running water to remove sand and soil. Brush them clean if you are going to eat the skin.‭ ‬Store the washed and dried tubers in a dark, cool and well-ventilated place, or in the refrigerator. Fresh sweet potatoes can be eaten raw, but they are mostly sliced and boiled like common potatoes with a little salt in the water. They can also be sliced thinly and cooked in the microwave. They can be served mashed. They can also be baked, grilled, barbecued and fried.

Culinary Used for Sweet Potatoes

Given that sweet potatoes are a superfood in terms of nutrients it is worth expanding the way you use them in cooking apart from a vegetable side dish Below are some of the many ways you can use them.

  • soups
  • curries‭
  • stews‭
  • pasta sauce
  • pizza fillings
  • pies and flans
  • wide range of baked goods
  • baby foods
  • snacks as chips, fries and wedges
  • wide range of desserts

The recipes below will help you get started in expanding the way you use sweet potatoes.

Sweet Potatoes Baked Twice

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons butter, warmed to room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 6 moderate to large size sweet potatoes, scrubbed well so skins can be cooked and served as containers
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and bake whole in their skins in a moderate oven (375 degrees F; 190 degrees C) for about 1 hour or until soft. Remove from oven and cool. Halve the potatoes and scoop out the the flesh, set aside, and keep the skins. In medium-sized bowl with the butter, brown sugar and cream cheese. Combine well mixing in all of the spices. Add the sweet potato flesh to the bowl and mash to mix completely. Use the mixture to fill the potato skins. Place them on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.

Gingered Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 5 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Plain low-fat yogurt (Greek-style) for a dressing when served

Heat the oil in large saucepan over high heat. Add the onion and fry until soft (generally 2 to 3 minutes). Add to cups of water and the stock and blend. Add the carrot, sweet potato and ginger. Bring the soup mixture to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until all the vegetables are just soft (generally about 15 minutes). Pour the contents through a sieve to separate the vegetables and solids - retain the liquid. Put vegetables, with a small amount of the broth, in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth and creamy. Pour vegetable puree and retained broth back into the saucepan and mix until smooth and well blended. Add herbs to garnish, salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a spoon full of yogurt on top.

Sweet Potato Wedges with Rosemary

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 medium-size sweet potatoes, scrubbed clean so the skins can be eaten
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped rosemary (or 2 teaspoons of dried rosemary)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Add the butter to a small saucepan with the olive oil over medium heat to melt the butter. Mix in the rosemary.
Slice the sweet potatoes lengthwise into 1 1/2-inch (4 cm) thick wedges and transfer to a large bowl. Drizzle with the butter mixture, season with salt and pepper, and mix to coat all surfaces. Spread the wedges out on a large baking sheet in a single layer without touching. Bake on the upper shelves of the oven, turning once, for 20-30 minutes until soft inside and lightly browned on the outside. Remove from the oven and season again with salt and pepper before serving.

Spicy Sweet Potato Fries

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled
  • 2 teaspoon paprika (preferably smoked paprika)
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Slice the potatoes in half lengthwise and then cut each half into large fries. Toss the fries with the oil, paprika, cayenne pepper and salt, and spread over a baking sheet. Bake for about 35 to 45 minutes, turning once. Check to see the fries are well browned on the outside and soft all the way through. The fries can also be deep-fried.

Sweet Potato Muffins

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup pureed or mashed cooked sweet potato
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour

Heat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a 12 muffin cup baking sheet ( or use paper liners). Mix the sugar, flour, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Whisk the butter, oil, sweet potato, egg, and buttermilk in a second bowl. Fold wet and dry mixture together until just combined (do not over mix). Spoon the muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake for about 20 - 25 minutes.

Nutrients in Sweet Potatoes Compared with Other Staple Foods

Nutrient content in 100g
Sweet potato
Potato
Corn
Rice
Wheat
Cassava
Yam
Energy (kJ)
360
322
360
1528
1419
670
494
Energy (Cal)
86
77
86
365
339
160
118
Protein (g)
1.6
2
3.2
7.1
13.7
1.4
1.5
Fat (g)
0.05
0.09
1.18
0.66
2.47
0.28
0.17
Saturated fatty acids (g)
0.02
0.03
0.18
0.18
0.45
0.07
0.04
Mono-unsat fatty acids (g)
0
0
0.35
0.21
0.34
0.08
0.01
Poly-unsat fatty acids (g)
0.01
0.04
0.56
0.18
0.98
0.05
0.08
Carbohydrates (g)
20
17
19
80
71
38
28
Fiber (g)
3
2.2
2.7
1.3
10.7
1.8
4.1
Calcium (mg)
30
12
2
28
34
16
17
Iron (mg)
0.61
0.78
0.52
4.31
3.52
0.27
0.54
Magnesium (mg)
25
23
37
25
144
21
21
Phosphorus (mg)
47
57
89
115
508
27
55
Potassium (mg)
337
421
270
115
431
271
816
Vitamin C (mg)
2.4
19.7
6.8
0
0
20.6
17.1
Thiamin (mg)
0.08
0.08
0.2
0.58
0.42
0.09
0.11
Riboflavin (mg)
0.06
0.03
0.06
0.05
0.12
0.05
0.03
Niacin (mg)
0.56
1.05
1.7
4.19
6.74
0.85
0.55
Pantothenic acid (mg)
0.8
0.3
0.76
1.01
0.94
0.11
0.31
Vitamin B6 (mg)
0.21
0.3
0.06
0.16
0.42
0.09
0.29
Folate Total (mcg)
11
16
46
231
43
27
23
Vitamin A (IU)
14187
2
208
0
0
13
138
Vitamin E (mg)
0.26
0.01
0.07
0.11
0
0.19
0.39
Vitamin K (mcg)
1.8
1.9
0.3
0.1
0
1.9
2.6
Beta-carotene (mcg)
8509
1
52
0
0
8
83
Lutein+zeazanthin (mcg)
0
8
764
0
0
0
0

Nutrients in Sweet Potatoes Compared with Common Alternatives

Nutrients in Serving of 100 g
Sweet Potato
Pumpkin
Beets
Parsnips
Energy
86 Cal
26 Cal
45 cal
75 Cal
Carbohydrates
20.12 g
6.50 g
9.56 g
17.99 g
Protein
1.6 g
1.0 g
1.61 g
1.20 g
Total Fat
0.05 g
0.1 g
0.17 g
0.30 g
Cholesterol
0 mg
0 mg
0 mg
0 mg
Dietary Fiber
3 g
0.5 g
2.80 g
4.9 g
Vitamins
 
 
 
 
Folates
11 mcg 
16 mcg
109 mcg
67 mcg
Niacin
0.56 mg
0.60 mg
0.33 mg
0.70 mg
Pantothenic acid
0.80 mg
0.29 mg
0.15 mg
0.60 mg
Pyridoxine
0.21 mg
0.06 mg
0.07 mg
0.90 mg
Riboflavin
0.06 mg
0.11 mg
0.06 mg
0.05 mg
Thiamin
0.08 mg
0.05 mg
0.03 mg
0.09 mg
Vitamin A
14187 IU
7384 IU
33 IU
0 IU
Vitamin C
2.4 mg
9.0 mg
4.9 mg
17 mg
Vitamin E
0.26 mg
1.06 mg
0.04 mg
22.5 mcg
Vitamin K
1.8 mcg 
1.1 mcg
0.2 mcg
 
Electrolytes
 
 
 
 
Sodium
55 mg
1 mg
78 mg
10 mg
Potassium
337 mg
340 mg
325 mg
375 mg
Minerals
 
 
 
 
Calcium
30 mg
21 mg
16 mg
36 mg
Iron
0.61 mg
0.13 mg
0.07 mg
0.12 mg
Magnesium
25 mg
0.80 mg
0.80 mg
0.59 mg
Manganese
0.26 mg
12 mg
23 mg
29 mg
Phosphorus
47 mg
0.12 mg
0.33 mg
0.56 mg
Zinc
0.30 mg
44mg
0.35 mg
71 mg
Phyto-nutrients
 
 
 
 
Carotene-alpha
7 mcg 
0.3 mcg
20 mcg
1.8 mcg
Carotene-beta
8509 mcg
0.32 mg
128.7 mg
0.59 mg

© 2013 Dr. John Anderson

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Comments 2 comments

My Cook Book profile image

My Cook Book 3 years ago from India

I love sweet potato. I just boil it with a very little amount of salt. It tastes awesome. Thanks for the information.


FullOfLoveSites profile image

FullOfLoveSites 3 years ago from United States

I love sweet potatoes -- as snacks and as a sweetening and thickening agent to savory dishes. Really versatile. Up and awesome

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