Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes You May (Or May Not!) Know About
In a world of starches, sweet potatoes most certainly stand out. Not only do sweet potatoes come in a variety of colors and flavors, but also each has their own distinct nutritional benefits. It’s amazing how this delicious root vegetable can offer so many different ways to help our bodies stay healthy.
Let’s explore the nine health benefits of sweet potatoes and discover how they can help you take better care of your body and overall well being.
1. Highly nutritious
Sweet potatoes are packed with tons of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are essential to keeping our bodies functioning properly. Sweet potatoes are good sources of:
- Beta-carotene: gives sweet potatoes their color and is eventually converted into vitamin A within our bodies
- Vitamin A: promotes good vision, a healthy immune system, and cell growth
- Vitamin C: needed for growth, development and repair of all body tissues; promotes a healthy immune system
- Vitamin B5: aids in production of blood cells; helps convert the food into energy
- Vitamin B6: helps utilize nutrients in your body effectively and releases the energy in food
- Potassium: regulates fluid balance; may help lower blood pressure
- Fiber: reduces blood pressure and inflammation; helps control blood sugar levels
- Thiamin: allows the body to use carbohydrates as energy
- Riboflavin: helps break down carbohydrates, proteins and fats for energy
As with any potato, it is important to eat sweet potatoes with the peel because that is where the majority of these vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are found. Additionally, purple sweet potatoes are said to be better sources of these nutrients, while white-fleshed sweet potatoes have less.
2. Anti-inflammatory effects
Speaking of vitamins, many of the vitamins found in sweet potatoes actually help to reduce inflammation. Vitamins C and E both help reduce inflammatory responses in the body. Also, because sweet potatoes are a high fiber food, they may reduce the effects of inflammation due to plant chemicals, called phytonutrients, that are commonly found in sweet potatoes. Not only that, but sweet potatoes are rich in carotenoids alpha and beta carotene which have anti-inflammatory effects as well.
3. Good for your eyes
Think carrots are the only vegetable that promotes eye health? One of the health benefits of sweet potatoes is that they are a healthy way to get the necessary vitamins to maintain your vision health.
Vitamin A is essential to healthy eyesight, and one cup of sweet potatoes contain 377% of the daily recommended value. Yes, you read that right! They also contain high amounts of beta-carotenoids, which the body can then convert into vitamin A. How good do sweet potatoes look now?
4. Strengthens your immune system
Our immune system is always working to protect our bodies from harmful germs, such as bacteria, viruses and parasites. In order for it to remain fully functioning, we need to feed our body necessary vitamins and minerals.
Vitamin C, which is found in sweet potatoes, supports cellular functions and is crucial to keeping your immune system functioning properly. Vitamin C is known as an essential vitamin because it can’t be produced by our bodies naturally and must be obtained through the food we eat.
Fun fact: Vitamin C is necessary in the production of collagen, which also helps wounds heal.
5. Improves your digestive health
Another one of the many health benefits of sweet potatoes is the positive impact they can have on our digestive system. Since they are rich in fiber, sweet potatoes help to relieve symptoms of constipation. Different variations of sweet potatoes, such as purple sweet potatoes, promote the growth of gut bacteria that aid in digestion. Make sure to eat the sweet potato with the peel still on to get the majority of that fiber — just be sure to scrub them well first!
6. May help protect against cancer
Did you know that certain fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamins and nutrients can help to protect your body against certain types of cancer? And sweet potatoes make the list!
These vegetables are rich in three nutrients that have been found to starve cancer cells: anthocyanins, lutein and carotenoids. The Carotenoids found in this root may also help prevent prostate cancer in men. Who knew!
7. Helps lower blood pressure
Nearly half of adults in the United States suffer from high blood pressure, so it is important to find natural ways to help prevent and combat this prevalent condition. Sweet potatoes are an ideal option to lower blood pressure because they are full of potassium — 448 grams per cup!
By increasing your potassium intake, you’re restoring balance to the natural process in your body between potassium and sodium. This increase in potassium will help your kidneys work more efficiently, thus lowering blood pressure.
8. Helps with diabetes
Sweet potatoes are rich in magnesium which can help reduce a person’s risk of developing Type II diabetes. These potatoes contain insoluble fibers, too, that are essential in promoting insulin sensitivity. For example, if you have high insulin sensitivity, your body can use glucose effectively, lowering your blood sugar levels.
Boiling sweet potatoes also lowers the glycemic index, meaning it has less of an effect on your insulin levels. This is because the way you cook the vegetable determines how much of the nutritional value is retained. Also, boiling them with the peel on is the best way to retain the majority of its nutritional value to ensure you reap all of the benefits of sweet potatoes.
Please note: If you already suffer from diabetes, you should enjoy sweet potatoes in moderation in order to avoid a surge in your blood sugar levels. Portion control through meal prep can help with that.
9. Helps you lose weight
Losing weight can be a complex challenge for many people, and being hungry while changing your eating habits is one of the main reasons people struggle on their weight loss journey. One way to tackle this problem is by eating foods that are rich in fiber because it helps slow down the digestive process. A cup of sweet potatoes has four grams of fiber, about one fifth of the daily recommended value, helping you stay full longer. This also prevents you from overeating, allowing you to stay within your recommended calorie intake to reach your weight loss goals.
In addition to being high in fiber, sweet potatoes have a high water content and are a complex carbohydrate. Staying hydrated is a crucial factor in your metabolism and the digestive process, which can help you keep the weight off. As a complex carbohydrate, sweet potatoes can give you the energy you need to stay active and burn even more calories.
As With Any Food, Portion Control Matters
Portion size is an important element of nutrition. In order to get the nutritional benefits of sweet potatoes, like the vitamins and minerals they provide, it is important to consume them in the proper portion size.
At UpFresh Kitchen, we create balanced meals with healthy portions that are not only tasty, but also affordable. We believe in the power of the sweet potato, which is why many of the meals on our dine-in and meal prep menus contain this superfood.
From our BBQ Sweet Potato Bowl to our Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potato Meal, you’re sure to find new ways to enjoy sweet potatoes — in their correct portion size — when you choose UpFresh Kitchen. Ready to choose your delicious meals for the week? Schedule your first order online today.