The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
6 Surprising Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are sweet, starchy root vegetables that are grown worldwide (1).
They come in a variety of sizes and colors—including orange, white and purple—and are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber.
Not to mention, they provide a number of health benefits and are easy to add to your diet.
Here are 6 surprising health benefits of sweet potatoes.
1. Highly Nutritious
Sweet potatoes are a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
One cup (200 grams) of baked sweet potato with skin provides (2):
- Calories: 180
- Carbs: 41.4 grams
- Protein: 4 grams
- Fat: 0.3 grams
- Fiber: 6.6 grams
- Vitamin A: 769% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin C: 65% of the DV
- Manganese: 50% of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 29% of the DV
- Potassium: 27% of the DV
- Pantothenic acid: 18% of the DV
- Copper: 16% of the DV
- Niacin: 15% of the DV
Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage DNA and trigger inflammation.
Sweet potatoes are starchy root vegetables that are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They're also high in antioxidants that protect your body from free radical damage and chronic disease.
2. Promote Gut Health
The fiber and antioxidants in sweet potatoes are advantageous to gut health.
Sweet potatoes contain two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble (8).
Your body cannot digest either type. Therefore, fiber stays within your digestive tract and provides a variety of gut-related health benefits.
Some soluble and insoluble fibers can also be fermented by the bacteria in your colon, creating compounds called short-chain fatty acids that fuel the cells of your intestinal lining and keep them healthy and strong (10, 11).
The antioxidants in sweet potatoes may provide gut benefits as well.
Greater amounts of these types of bacteria within the intestines are associated with better gut health and a lower risk of conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and infectious diarrhea (17, 18, 19).
Sweet potatoes contain fiber and antioxidants that promote the growth of good gut bacteria and contribute to a healthy gut.
3. May Have Cancer-Fighting Properties
Sweet potatoes offer various antioxidants, which may help protect against certain types of cancers.
Anthocyanins—a group of antioxidants found in purple sweet potatoes—have been found to slow the growth of certain types of cancer cells in test-tube studies, including those of the bladder, colon, stomach and breast (3, 20, 21).
However, studies have yet to test these effects in humans.
Animal and test-tube research suggests that the anthocyanins and other antioxidants found in sweet potatoes may protect against certain cancers. However, human studies are needed.
4. Support Healthy Vision
Sweet potatoes are incredibly rich in beta-carotene, the antioxidant responsible for the vegetable's bright orange color.
In fact, one cup (200 grams) of baked orange sweet potato with skin provides more than seven times the amount of beta-carotene that the average adult needs per day (2).
Severe vitamin A deficiency is a concern in developing countries and can lead to a special type of blindness known as xerophthalmia. Eating foods rich in beta-carotene, such as orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, may help prevent this condition (27).
Purple sweet potatoes also seem to have vision benefits.
Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene and anthocyanins, antioxidants that may help prevent vision loss and improve eye health.
5. May Enhance Brain Function
Consuming purple sweet potatoes may improve brain function.
No studies have been done to test these effects in humans, but in general, diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and antioxidants are associated with a 13% lower risk of mental decline and dementia (34, 35).
Animal studies have shown that sweet potatoes may improve brain health by reducing inflammation and preventing mental decline. However, it remains unknown whether they have the same effects in humans.
6. May Support Your Immune System
It's also key for maintaining healthy mucous membranes, especially in the lining of your gut.
The gut is where your body is exposed to many potential disease-causing pathogens. Therefore, a healthy gut is an important part of a healthy immune system.
Studies have shown that vitamin A deficiency increases gut inflammation and reduces the ability of your immune system to respond properly to potential threats (39).
No studies have been conducted to determine whether sweet potatoes, in particular, have an effect on immunity, but eating them regularly can help prevent vitamin A deficiency (40).
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of beta-carotene, which can be converted to vitamin A and help support your immune system and gut health.
How to Add Them to Your Diet
Sweet potatoes are very easy to add to your diet.
They can be enjoyed with or without the skin and can be baked, boiled, roasted, fried, steamed or pan-cooked.
Their natural sweetness pairs well with many different seasonings, and they can be enjoyed in both savory and sweet dishes.
Some popular ways to enjoy sweet potatoes include:
- Sweet potato chips: Peeled, thinly sliced, and baked or fried.
- Sweet potato fries: Peeled, cut into wedges or matchsticks, and baked or fried.
- Sweet potato toast: Cut into thin slices, toasted, and topped with ingredients like nut butter or avocado.
- Mashed sweet potatoes: Peeled, boiled, and mashed with milk and seasoning.
- Baked sweet potatoes: Baked whole in the oven until fork-tender.
- Sweet potato hash: Peeled, diced, and cooked with onion in a pan.
- Spiralized sweet potatoes: Cut into spirals, sautéed, and sauced.
- In baked goods: Sweet potato puree adds moisture without fat.
Sweet potatoes are a versatile root vegetable that can be prepared in many ways.
The Bottom Line
Sweet potatoes are nutrient-dense root vegetables that come in a variety of colors.
They're high in fiber and antioxidants, which protect your body from free radical damage and promote a healthy gut and brain.
They're also incredibly rich in beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A to support good vision and your immune system.
Sweet potatoes are versatile and can be prepared in both sweet and savory dishes, making them an exceptional carb option for most people.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Did you know that more than a third of food is wasted or thrown away every year? And that only 25 percent of it would be enough to feed the 795 million undernourished people in the world? That's why today is Stop Food Waste Day, a chance to reflect on what you can do to waste less of the food you buy.
When Paris's Notre Dame caught fire on April 15, the flames threatened more than eight centuries of culture and history. The fire evoked shock, horror and grief worldwide. While the cathedral burned, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed determination to rebuild what the French regard as a sacred site.
By Andrea Germanos
Lawyer and visionary thinker Polly Higgins, who campaigned for ecocide to be internationally recognized as a crime on par with genocide and war crimes, died Sunday at the age of 50.
She had been diagnosed with an aggressive cancer last month and given just weeks to live.
The world's first malaria vaccine was launched in Malawi on Tuesday, NPR reported. It's an important day in health history. Not only is it the first malaria vaccine, it's the first vaccine to target any human parasite.