7 Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes

These nutritional all-stars can help improve your immunity, blood pressure, and more.

A lot of people ask me if sweet potatoes are actually that good for you, which isn't surprising considering their very name suggests they're sugar-and-starch bombs! But as a nutritionist, I give the root veggie two thumbs way up. I enjoy eating sweet potatoes all year long, and in the fall, they become particularly appealing—as a hearty side dish, and an ingredient in everything from soups and stews to pies and other desserts.

The colorful gems offer some pretty impressive health perks. Here are seven benefits of sweet potatoes, along with some simple ways to healthfully incorporate sweet potatoes into your everyday meals, snacks, and treats.

Good Source of Vitamins C and A

One cup of baked sweet potato provides nearly half of your daily vitamin C needs. The same portion also supplies 400%(!) of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A.

Both nutrients are vital for supporting immune function, which is especially important during cold and flu season. While taking vitamin C regularly doesn't actually prevent colds, according to the results of a meta-analysis published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, it can reduce how long and how severe that cold will be if you catch it. Vitamin A is also key for maintaining healthy skin, vision, and organ function.

Good Way To Get Lots of Other Nutrients Too

A serving of sweet potato delivers a third of your need for manganese, a mineral that helps produce collagen and promote skin and bone health. You'll also get between 15% and 30% of several energy-supporting B vitamins and minerals, including potassium (more on this below).

Antioxidant Powerhouses

Vitamins A and C also function as antioxidants that protect cells against aging and disease. For even more antioxidants, choose purple sweet potatoes. The pigment that gives them their gorgeous hue has particularly potent antioxidant properties.

Anti-Inflammatory Properties

We've long known that unchecked, low-grade inflammation raises the risk of nearly every chronic disease, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Natural anti-inflammatory compounds in sweet potatoes have been shown to quell inflammation at the cellular level. A study published in BioMed Research International found that these root vegetables, specifically the purple kind, can offer you the anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties you're looking for.

No Blood Sugar Spikes

Some may regard sweet potatoes as too starchy, but their high fiber content makes them a slow burning starch—meaning they won't spike blood sugar and insulin levels. One cup of baked sweet potato provides about 6 grams of fiber, which is more than a quarter of the daily recommended minimum.

Regulation of Blood Pressure

One cup of sweet potato baked in its skin provides 950 mg of potassium. That's more than twice the amount in a medium banana. Potassium essentially sweeps excess sodium and fluid out of the body, which lowers blood pressure and reduces strain on the heart. Potassium also helps regulate heart rhythm and muscle contractions. According to a study published in Circulation in January 2018, the average intake of potassium (1977 mg/day) for almost all adults in the U.S. was less than half the daily recommended potassium target of 4,700 mg.

Potential To Support Weight Loss

About 12% of the starch in sweet potatoes is resistant starch, a filling, fiber-like substance your body doesn't digest and absorb. One study published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition in February 2014 identified several ways resistant starch could promote weight loss and/or maintenance, for example, by increasing the release of peptides that tell your body you are full and decreasing the amount of fat stored in fat cells.

How To Eat More Sweet Potatoes

I love to bake sweet potatoes and drizzle them with a combo of ground cinnamon and maple syrup thinned with a bit of warm water. You can also bake, mash, and fold sweet potatoes into overnight oats; whip them into a smoothie; combine them with salmon to make a delicious lunch bowl; or puree them with low-sodium organic veggie broth as the base for a soup. Chunked baked sweet potatoes make a fantastic addition to a garden salad, and crisp oven-baked wedges can satisfy a French fry craving. Mashed sweet potato also makes a fantastic addition to desserts and goodies, from no-bake cookies to brownies, pudding, and of course, the classic fall favorite, sweet potato pie.

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