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Last modified on January 28th, 2022(Last Updated On: January 28, 2022)
What are the benefits of sweet potatoes? As it turns out, this inexpensive staple food is actually a good source of vitamins, fiber, potassium, and other nutrients. If you’re looking for something affordable and packed with nutrition to add to your diet, you might consider sweet potatoes.
Key health benefits of this root vegetable include:
- High in fiber which can lower the risk of heart disease
- Nutritional benefits thanks to being rich in antioxidants
- Contain high levels of beta carotene, which is a precursor to vitamin A
- Good way to increase potassium intake
- Less starchy than regular potatoes
- An excellent way to improve your daily intake of vitamin C
- Contain the essential nutrient copper
Below, we answer in more detail, “what are the benefits of sweet potatoes.”
What is a Sweet Potato?
Sweet potato has origins in southern America. Columbus probably brought the first sweet potatoes from Europe. Unlike a regular white potato, a tuber, sweet potato is considered a root vegetable.
Sometimes they’re confused with yams. Yams are a sweet potato, but they’re just one of the many varieties. A true yam is a starchy root with little beta carotene. Sweet potatoes can vary from white to orange, and sometimes you’ll even find they’re purple.
These root vegetables have a versatile flavor, and they’re sweeter than yams.
Both sweet potatoes and yams are nutritious but in different ways.
Finding Out: What Are the Benefits of Sweet Potatoes?
So, what are the benefits of sweet potatoes, exactly?
Are they healthy? Yes, and we’ll explain why.
The root vegetable is a source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and they’re relatively low in calories. If you have one cup of baked sweet potato with the skin, nutrients include:
- 769% of your daily value of vitamin A
- 65% of DV of vitamin C
- 29% of your DV of vitamin B6
- 27% of your DV of potassium
- 16% of your DV of copper
- 15% of your DV of niacin
- 6 grams of dietary fiber content
- 50% of your DV of manganese
If you choose the bright orange and purple sweet potatoes, they’re also high in antioxidants that protect you from free radical damage. Free radicals are molecules that trigger inflammation and damage your DNA.
Damage from free radicals is associated with chronic illnesses, including cardiovascular disease and cancer. Any time you can include foods with antioxidant properties in your diet, it’s beneficial for heart health, reducing the risk of different types of cancer like colorectal cancer, and it can even help lower your blood pressure.
When asked, “what are the benefits of sweet potatoes,” one of the most important to point out is the cancer-fighting properties of these tubers.
They are packed with different antioxidants that can help lower the risk of cancer.
For example, in purple sweet potatoes, there are anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are a group of antioxidants that, in test-tube studies, slow the growth of cancers, including the colon, stomach, breast, and bladder.
In an animal study, mice fed diets with large amounts of purple sweet potatoes had lower rates of early-stage colorectal cancer.
In test-tube studies, the peels and extracts of orange potatoes also have anti-cancer properties.
Improved Insulin Sensitivity
In a 2008 study, an extract from a white skin sweet potato improved insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes.
Lab rats had either white-skinned sweet potato or an insulin sensitizer in an earlier study for eight weeks. In the group consuming the sweet potato, the insulin resistance improved.
The fiber that sweet potatoes contain might be part of this. In research, people with more fiber seem to have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Gut and Digestive Health
So many of us are constantly working to improve our gut health. We’re learning that gut health affects everything from our immune system to our mental health, making it a priority.
These root vegetables are a good food for digestion and overall gut health. They contain both insoluble fiber and soluble fiber. You can’t digest either source of fiber, so rather than breaking down as they move through your digestive tract, these fibers travel along and stay intact. As an excellent source of fiber, this food helps the health of your entire gut.
For example, both types of fiber are essential for regular bowel movements.
Eating a diet with plenty of fiber can help with bloating, diarrhea and constipation.
Fiber also feeds the good bacteria found in your gut. Since it’s feeding good bacteria, fiber can help promote the health of the cells that line your digestive tract, preventing leaky gut. A high-fiber diet can also lower the risk of developing colon cancer.
The antioxidants that sweet potatoes contain may help lower the risk of developing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or reduce its symptoms.
Healthy Vision and Eye Health
Sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene. The beta-carotene is why some are bright orange. One cup of baked orange sweet potato with the skin has more than seven times the amount of beta-carotene you need on average per day.
When you consume beta-carotene, it converts to vitamin A. Vitamin A can form light-detecting receptors in your eyes.
When people are deficient in vitamin A, it can lead to night blindness and eye issues.
Test-tube studies show that anthocyanins may also protect your eye cells from damage.
Boosted Brain Function and Brain Health
Purple varieties, in particular, could help improve your brain function. In animal studies, the anthocyanins in purple sweet potatoes can prevent free radical damage to the brain and reduce inflammation. Taking a supplement with sweet potato extract helped improve learning and memory in mice.
Having a diet generally rich in antioxidants is associated with a 13% lower risk of dementia and mental decline.
Improved Immune System Health and Function
Sweet potatoes have high amounts of vitamin c. One serving of 124 grams of sweet potato has around 12.8 mg of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps your body not only have a robust immune system. It’s also important for collagen production and iron absorption.
Since the root vegetable is one of the best sources of beta-carotene, they help your body convert vitamin A. Vitamin A is an integral part of a healthy immune system. Low vitamin A levels are associated with reductions in immunity.
Vitamin A also helps your body maintain the health of your mucous membranes, particularly those found in the lining of your gut. The gut is where you’re exposed to disease-causing pathogens. Gut health is necessary for the healthy functioning of your immune system.
Vitamin A deficiency increases inflammation in the gut, reducing the ability of your immune system to ward off threats.
Final Thoughts—What Are the Benefits of Sweet Potatoes?
While supplements can be an important part of health and wellness, sometimes there are powerful benefits of getting the nutrients we require from food. These potatoes are an excellent example.
What are the benefits of sweet potatoes, to sum up?
They are inexpensive and easy to prepare, they have many health benefits, and are packed with antioxidants, vitamin A and vitamin C.
They can benefit the health of your gut, immune system, and brain. They may even help reduce your cancer risk, lower the potential for chronic disease, and help prevent eyesight problems. This root veggie can also help you maintain healthy blood sugar levels. These nutrient-dense root vegetables are great for a balanced diet.