13 Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes

Whether you bake or mash them, or give them a quick fry. Or transform them into a beautiful sweet potato pie! This starchy superstar is a delicious treat and has become a sentimental staple at Thanksgiving dinners. The good news is that sweet potatoes are actually very nutritious as well as being exceptionally delicious.

Don’t let the ‘sweet’ in sweet potatoes scare you.
They actually have a lower glycemic index then white potatoes. That means they are less likely to produce insulin resistance and its accompanying health problems, including weight gain. Sweet potatoes are a smart carb, very rich in carotenoids, vitamins A, B6, C, potassium, iron and fiber. They provide a wealth of health benefits and are a great addition to your meals.

 Did you know that sweet potatoes were cultivated and consumed before the white (Irish) potato?

13 Surprising Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes

1.  Maintains Healthy Blood Sugar Levels

Yes, sweet potatoes are sweet, but they have a low glycemic index meaning the sugar is released slowly into the bloodstream. Most consumed starchy foods raise blood sugar rapidly; with sweet potato you will not get a blood sugar spike, but you will get a steady amount of energy. Research at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences found the Beauregard sweet potato to be a low-glycemic index food.

2. Treatment for Diabetes

A study of 61 people with type 2 diabetes saw that those who took the extract, Caiapo, from the sweet potato daily for 3 months had their blood sugar drop with no significant adverse effects.

Caiapo has been used without medical prescription for years in Japan as a food additive for prevention and treatment for diabetes.

“We’re hoping that diet, particularly the consumption of sweet potatoes, will become a more widely used tool in the treatment of diabetes. It has the potential to be more cost-effective than drugs.” – Dr. Jon Allen, CALS professor of food science.

Homemade Cooked Sweet Potato

Homemade Cooked Sweet Potato

3.  Immune System is Strengthened

Sweet potatoes are high in vitamin C, Beta Carotene and vitamin E that support a healthy immune system and are powerful disease-fighting antioxidants.

4. Helps Keep the Heart Healthy

They are a great source of B6 vitamins, which break down homocysteine, a substance that contributes to the hardening of blood vessels and arteries. - Harvard University School of Public Health.

Also, being a good source of potassium, they help the heart by lowering blood pressure according to the American Heart Association. Potassium is also an important electrolyte that helps regulate your heartbeat.

5. Reduce the Chances of Stomach Ulcers

Functional Foods in Health and Disease did a study in 2012 on how effective sweet potatoes were in healing an ulcer. The sweet potato had a potent ulcer healing effect!

6. Good for Weight Loss

Sweet potatoes are a good source of dietary fiber, which slows down digestion so you eat less. This also helps with regular bowel movements.

7. Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Purple Sweet Potato

A study found the extract of the purple sweet potato to be anti-inflammatory. Learn more: Inflammation: The Slow Silent Killer

Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet Potatoes are High in Beta-Carotene (Vitamin A)

1 cup Sweet potato, cooked, baked in skin = 769 percent daily recommended intake of Vitamin A, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Vitamin A is an antioxidant that protects cells from damage caused by free radicals believed to contribute to some chronic diseases.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, Beta-Carotene also Helps with the Following:

8. Creates Healthy Skin, Hair, Teeth and Bones
9. Promotes Good Vision because it produces the pigments in the retina of the eye.
10. Helps with Anti-aging
11. Cancer Prevention. It is best for the beta-carotene to come from real food as the supplements don’t seem to reduce cancer risk. Beta-carotene may reduce the risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
12. Decreases Asthma Symptoms Caused by Exercise.
13. May Help Protect Against Sun Damage, according to a 2004 study in the Medical Journal.

The sweet potato flower is as beautiful as the potato is delicious!

The sweet potato flower is as beautiful as the potato is delicious!

Sweet Potato Trivia

  • Sweet potatoes were eaten as aphrodisiacs in Europe, likely because they were a delicacy.
  • Latin America Indians make a red dye from the mixed juices of limes and sweet potatoes.
  • In Japan’s mountainous region, Kagawa, white sweet potatoes eaten raw has long been a traditional treatment for anemia, hypertension and diabetes.
  • George Washington Carver developed glue for postage stamps, wood fillers, more than 73 dyes, rope, breakfast cereal, synthetic silk, shoe polish and molasses. He wrote several brochures on the nutritional value of sweet potatoes.
  • North Carolina produces about 40 percent of the U.S. supply.
  • Sweet potatoes are roots, not tubers like regular potatoes.
  • A sweet potato festival called Tater Day Festival is held in Benton, Kentucky on the first Monday of April, annually.

Nutrition

Please Note:

When eaten in moderation and prepared in a healthy way (not just indulging in sweet potato fries), they are nutritious, without significant health risks. They are high in carbohydrates, 1 cup of cooked sweet potato has 180 calories and for comparison, one cup of cooked broccoli has about only 55 calories.

Sweet potatoes have a moderate to high amounts of oxalates which may increase the risk of oxalate-crystal kidney and gall stones.  For most of us this is not a problem if we have a healthy kidney and gall bladder.  Read: How to Prevent Kidney Stones

The sweet potato doesn’t look like it would be so healthy – but it is!

The sweet potato doesn’t sound like it would be so healthy – but it is!

Sweet Potato History

  • Sweet potatoes have been grown in Central and South America for at least 10,000 years by the Inca and Aztecs. Sweet potato samples have been found in the Neolithic Period and perhaps to the end of the last Ice Age, or 8000 B.C. in Peru according to the National Potato Center.
  • Christopher Columbus took sweet potatoes to Spain after his first voyage in 1492 introducing them to the gardens of Europe.
  • History mystery: Polynesians were growing sweet potatoes as early as 1200 A.D.
  • Spanish explorers are said to have taken the sweet potato to the Philippines and East Indies. Then they made their way to India, China and Malaya by Portuguese voyagers in the late 16th century and the 17th and 18th centuries.
  • They were grown in Virginia in 1648 and perhaps earlier, and then were taken to New England in 1764.

And now we know where our beloved sweet potato pie comes from!

Tips For Eating and Cooking Sweet Potatoes:

Watch for next week’s article on how to get the most nutrients from your sweet potatoes and with some very yummy recipes.

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96 comments

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne R5 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jacqueline Clare
Jacqueline Clare5 months ago

good for dogs too

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Monika K.
Monika Kabout a year ago

Today I'm going to try Sweet Potatoes Fries for the first time. =)

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Monika K.
Monika Kabout a year ago

Thanks

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallusabout a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Rebekka Helgesen Hass
Rebekka Helgesen Hassabout a year ago

I LOVE SWEET POTATOES

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Anne F.
Anne Fabout a year ago

Thanks for details - I like the article (and feel encouraged to buy some sweet potatoes at the store)

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Angela K.
Angela Kabout a year ago

Thanks for sharing

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Sonia Minwer Barakat Requ

Good to know thanks for sharing

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hillabout a year ago

We love sweet potatoes. I usually bake them. We put butter, cinnamon and nutmeg on them. YUM

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