11 Impressive Benefits of Sweet Potatoes

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated - Medically reviewed by Sherllie Kartika (MS, RD)

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The health benefits of sweet potatoes include their ability to help in healthy weight gain, boost immunity, regulate digestion, treat asthma and bronchitis, and control diabetes. Sweet potatoes also help in treating stomach ulcers and relieving arthritis pain.

What are Sweet Potatoes?

Sweet potatoes are tuberous crops with the scientific name Ipomoea batatas. The plant is a creeper with heart-shaped or lobed leaves. The color of the tuber varies from purple to red to pale yellow and to white, depending upon the variety, the soil type, the climate it grows in, and the available minerals. As the name implies, sweet potatoes are naturally sweet and its flavor can be enhanced when cooked.

The red variety has a drier and harder flesh while the white and yellow sweet potatoes have juicier flesh. The red variety has a characteristic aroma which becomes more prominent when boiled. The variety of taste, textures, and colors can be attributed to its antioxidants and vitamins content. The reddish and orange the colored sweet potatoes are rich in beta carotene, while the purple sweet potatoes are rich in anthocyanin.

A closeup view of sweet potatoes on a white background

Nutrition Facts

Sweet potato, raw, unprepared (Includes foods for USDA's Food Distribution Program)
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Water [g]77.28
Energy [kcal]86
Protein [g]1.57
Total lipid (fat) [g]0.05
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]20.12
Fiber, total dietary [g]3
Sugars, total [g]4.18
Calcium, Ca [mg]30
Iron, Fe [mg]0.61
Magnesium, Mg [mg]25
Phosphorus, P [mg]47
Potassium, K [mg]337
Sodium, Na [mg]55
Zinc, Zn [mg]0.3
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]2.4
Thiamin [mg]0.08
Riboflavin [mg]0.06
Niacin [mg]0.56
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.21
Folate, DFE [µg]11
Vitamin B-12 [µg]0
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]709
Vitamin A, IU [IU]14187
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]0.26
Vitamin D (D2 + D3) [µg]0
Vitamin D [IU]0
Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]1.8
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.02
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]0.01
Fatty acids, total trans [g]0
Cholesterol [mg]0
Caffeine [mg]0
Sources include : USDA

Sweet Potatoes Nutrition

According to the USDA, sweet potatoes are a rich source of energy, carbohydrates, and fiber. They also contain a wide array of minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, and magnesium.

They are also packed with other nutrients that include vitamins as well as provide phytosterols, isoflavones, and amino acids such as leucine, glutamic acid, and threonine. A single serving of sweet potato alone will provide more than 400% of your daily dose of vitamin A!

Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes have many health benefits. Let’s explore them in detail below.

Improve Digestion

The fiber content in sweet potatoes are higher than that of common potatoes and they taste better too! When these two factors are combined with other minerals like magnesium, which is present in these root vegetables, it makes an excellent facilitator for digestion. They are easy to digest since they mainly contain starch. They are soothing to the stomach and intestines, so you can avoid any difficulties in digesting them. Furthermore, fiber feeds the little microbes in our gut and thus help support and promote a healthy gut.

Promote Weight Gain

Sweet potatoes contain good amounts of complex starch, along with healthy vitamins, minerals, and proteins. Moreover, they are very easy to digest. Thus, they provide a lot of energy and are excellent bulk builders for people looking to gain weight.

People who have recently suffered from illnesses, or are self-conscious about being frail or abnormally thin should welcome this news about sweet potatoes since there are no associated side effects, which most of the synthetic bulk building dietary supplements have.

Treat Inflammation

Sweet potatoes have anti-inflammatory properties and are primarily due to the presence of beta-carotene, anthocyanins, vitamin C, and magnesium. Beta-carotenes and anthocyanins are active bio-compounds that may exert antioxidative effects when consumed and thereby reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. Research and studies have shown these compounds to possess potential suppressive anticancer activities and to promote immunity.

Boost Immune System

Sweet potatoes are excellent immune system boosters that defend your body from a wide variety of conditions. As mentioned above, not only are they rich in antioxidant and vitamins, they are also rich in manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus. All these nutrients help in strengthening the immunity and keeping you healthy.

Asthma Friendly Food

A study released by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that there is a positive association between antioxidant-rich diets and clinical asthma outcomes. Sweet potatoes are also one of the foods that are least probably to elicit an allergy reaction, a common inducer of asthma.

Treat Bronchitis

Sweet potatoes are believed to be capable of warming up the body, possibly due to the sweetness and other nutrients that impact body temperature. This property is also beneficial for people suffering from bronchitis, along with its powerful effect on congestion. The concentration of vitamin C, iron, and other nutrients helps cure bronchitis.

Reduce Arthritis Pain

Beta-carotene, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin B complex make sweet potatoes a highly important food source for managing arthritis. The water in these tuberous vegetables are boiled can also be applied externally on joints to ease the associated pain of arthritis.

Anti-cancer Properties

Research conducted on laboratory mice by Khalid Asadi et al. from the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre, New Zealand suggested purple sweet potato anthocyanin-rich diets helped reduce and inhibit tumor growth (Biomed Research International 2015). Chemoprevention trials are needed on humans to understand the anti-cancer properties of sweet potato. Additionally, a study conducted by researchers from Kansas State University, US suggested that anthocyanin-enriched sweet potato may protect against colorectal cancer due to its antiproliferative abilities. 

Treat Stomach Ulcers

Research shows that a high fiber diet and a diet rich in vitamin C reduces the risk of developing stomach ulcers. These are good news because sweet potatoes are rich in fiber and vitamin C. They also contain B-complex vitamins, potassium, and calcium are all very effective in curing stomach ulcers. Moreover, the roughage obtained from fiber prevents constipation and the resultant acid formation, thereby reducing the chance of ulcers. Their anti-inflammatory and soothing properties also reduce the pain and inflammation of the ulcers.

Control Diabetes

Contrary to popular belief, sweet potatoes may be an acceptable food for diabetics. Although it is high carbohydrate and sugar, it is considered a low-glycemic food and have a lower glycemic index than regular white potatoes. Cooking methods also alter the glycemic index of sweet potatoes. For example, boiled sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic index compared to roasted sweet potatoes. Of course, that does not mean that diabetics should eat them indiscriminately. The idea is that they can replace rice or white potatoes with sweet potatoes in their diet and cooking them by boiling rather than roasting.

Prevent Dehydration

The fiber or roughage present in sweet potatoes helps the body retain water. This maintains water balance in the body, keeping you hydrated and your cells functioning efficiently.

sweetpotatoinfographic

Other Benefits

Sweet potatoes are effective for helping people quit addictions like smoking, drinking, and taking certain narcotics. They are good for the health of arteries and veins, as they protect their walls against hardening. The high concentration of beta-carotene (an alternative form of vitamin A) and phosphorus are excellent for both ocular and cardiac health.

So, go out and grab a sweet potato for your next meal; they are delicious and nutritious. Yum! Yum! Yam!

About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve is a health and wellness enthusiast and started working on Organic Facts since 2012 and is currently responsible for managing it. She follows naturopathy and believes in healing with foods. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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