Unsurprisingly, potatoes are the number one vegetable crop in the US, and the 4th most consumed crop in the world. Potatoes (and sweet potatoes), are behind only rice, wheat and corn when it comes to their consumption in the world (U.S Department of Agriculture).
Based on reports from the USDA, processed potatoes are about 64% of the total US potato use in the 2000s; which is a great increase when compared to 35% in the 1960s.
Americans consume approximately 35 kg of frozen potatoes annually, 19kg of fresh potatoes, and 8kg of potato chips. 6kg of dehydrated potato products are consumed annually as well!
Which begs the question, is this at all healthy for us?
Well, the real potatoes are!
Potatoes have received a bad reputation lately due to the amount of fake or processed potatoes Americans consume; completely undermining the amazing benefits of real potatoes!
(Surprisingly enough you can even purchase high quality, real potatoes online!)
Sweet potatoes are now generally considered to be far healthier than regular potatoes due to this. Although sweet potatoes have some amazing benefits of their own, let’s not discredit the incredible potato yet!
Benefits of Sweet Potatoes: A Great Source of Vitamins and Minerals
It is a well-known fact that Vitamin-C is essential to help ward off the flu and cold viruses. However, Vitamin-C also plays a crucial role in teeth and bone formation, blood cell formation, and digestion.
Vitamin C also helps to accelerate wound healing, and aids in the production of collagen which helps in maintaining your skin’s youthful elasticity.
The list of benefits of Vitamin-C is quite long, and sweet potatoes are incredibly abundant in this vitamin. Sweet potatoes include many other vitamins and minerals as well, with benefits including:
1) Vitamin A in Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes provides us with large amounts of beta-carotene, which is transformed into vitamin A in the body.
To get the necessary amount of daily Vitamin-A from sweet potatoes, 100 grams of sweet potatoes is recommended.
Vitamin-A deficiency is something which greatly effects developing countries and their food supply with this deficiency potentially leading to temporary or permanent damage of the eyes, and possibly even blindness!
2) Sweet Potatoes Contain Loads of Potassium
Potatoes contain potassium which has the potential to decrease the risk of heart disease. Potassium is also incredibly important for muscle recovery as an athlete, being a key nutrient along with sodium for maintaining overall body hydration and performance!
3) Sweet Potatoes are High in Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 plays an active role in the conversion of food into energy.
4) Vitamin E Content in Sweet Potatoes
It is a fat-soluble antioxidant which assists in protecting the body against oxidative damage. Oxidative damage is usually associated with increased risk of all types of cancer.
Diets rich in antioxidants like carotenoids have been linked with lower risk of breast, kidney and stomach cancers.
Based on the results from many different studies, sweet potatoes are rich in potent antioxidants that can effectively neutralize free radicals and other harmful substances that can increase the risk of cancer.
Purple potatoes have the highest level of antioxidants overall.
5) Sweet Potatoes are One of the Best Sources of Manganese
Manganese is a trace mineral that is vital for growth, development and metabolism in the body. Manganese is not found in high quantities in many foods but sweet potatoes are loaded with this amazing nutrient!
6) Sweet Potatoes Help With Blood Sugar Regulation
The main features of diabetes include an imbalance in blood sugar levels and insulin secretion.
There is a suggestion that a specific type of sweet potato with white flesh (Caiapo) may likely improve diabetic symptoms in individuals with the type 2 diabetes.
This type of potato may be able to decrease fasting blood glucose and LDL-cholesterol levels in the body, and also increase insulin sensitivity.
However, the available data is considered insufficient to prove the effectiveness of sweet potatoes in treating type 2 diabetes, there is need for further human research. Regardless, there is strong potential for this to be yet another one of the amazing benefits of sweet potatoes!
7) Plant Compounds in Sweet Potatoes
There are several plant compounds that you get in sweet potatoes that will help to improve your health.
Generally speaking, the antioxidant properties of sweet potatoes increases along with the color intensity of the flesh of the potato. It actually increases in colored varieties such as deep orange, purple and red sweet potatoes.
Some of the plant compounds that can be found in sweet potatoes include:
- Chlorogenic Acid- It is the most abundant polyphenol antioxidant that can be found in sweet potatoes.
- Beta-Carotene- Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that is transformed into vitamin A in the body. By adding fat to your meal, it can increase its absorption in the body.
- Coumarins- You can also find small amounts of umbelliferon, esculetin, and scopoletin, which may help to prevent blood clotting. Also, it has the potential to help inhibiting the replication of the HIV virus based on animal and cell studies.
- Anthocyanins- The purple sweet potatoes are very rich in anthocyanins, and possesses strong antioxidant properties.
It is important to note that the absorption of vitamin C and several antioxidants found in sweet potatoes increases after cooking the sweet potatoes, while the levels of other plant compounds decreases slightly.
However, sweet potatoes are quite rich in many plant compounds that help to maintain your body.
The tradeoff for cooking your sweet potatoes is a negligible one, especially since sweet potatoes are far more easy to digest for your stomach after cooking.
8) Protein Content
A medium sized sweet potato contains only about 2 grams of protein. Although it is low when compared to other sources of protein, sweet potatoes contain unique proteins called sporamins, which accounts for 80% of its total proteins.
Sporamins are produced in sweet potatoes whenever they are subjected to physical damage in order to facilitate healing, and recent studies tend to suggest that these proteins may contain antioxidant properties.
Although it may have an overall low protein content, this still serves as a great source of protein due to the unique effectiveness of the type of protein contained within.
9) A Great Fiber Source
Boiled sweet potatoes are relatively high in fiber, as a medium sized sweet potato contains about 3.8 grams of fiber.
The fiber in potatoes are both soluble (about 15-23% in the form of pectin) and also insoluble (about 77-85% in the form of lignin, hemicellulose and cellulose).
Soluble fibers like pectin have been shown to help to reduce overall food intake, and reduce blood sugar spikes by slowing down the digestion of starches and sugars in the body.
Insoluble fibers provide several health benefits such as reduced risk of diabetes, and improved gut health. The combination of these two types of fibers in one food make it an extremely healthy food for your body in many ways!
10) Complex Carbohydrates
The main component in sweet potatoes are complex carbohydrates known as starches, and they make up 53% of the carbohydrate content. A medium sized sweet potato that is boiled without its skin contains 27 grams of carbohydrates.
Simple sugars like sucrose, fructose, and maltose, make up another 32% of the carb content.
Glycemic index refers to the measure of how fast blood sugar values rise after eating a food or meal, and sweet potatoes have a medium to high glycemic index which varies from 44-96.
Considering the relatively high glycemic index of sweet potatoes, it may be unsuitable for diabetic persons to ingest large amounts of sweet potatoes.
Boiling sweet potatoes seems to be associated with lower glycemic index, when compared to frying and roasting.
Sweet Potatoes Compared to White Potatoes
There is a general belief that sweet potatoes are healthier than regular potatoes, and a brief comparison between potatoes and sweet potatoes will clarify the reasons for this statement.
When the two species are boiled without their skin, they contain similar amounts of fat, carbohydrates, protein and water.
Sweet potatoes actually contain a higher amount of sugar and fibers, but sometimes have a lower glycemic index which is likely as a result of slower absorption of sugar because of the complex starch and soluble fiber content.
Both are good sources of potassium and vitamin C, however, sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin A as well.
In summary, sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic index, they are aa better source of fiber, and they also provide similar or even higher levels of minerals and vitamins than regular potatoes.
Although sweet potatoes are well tolerated, they have a fair amount of substances known as oxalates which may cause problems in people that are prone to kidney stone formation.
Concluding Thoughts | Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes and potatoes are underground tubers that contain several minerals and vitamins essential for the growth and development of the body, and they usually come in different varieties and colors such as purple, orange, white and several other colors.
Sweet potatoes are nutritious, they taste great and they are cheap and easy to cultivate, so you can easily incorporate them into your diet.
The traditional potato still boasts numerous amounts of health benefits, and should not be discredited at all as a healthy vegetable.
However, in comparison with the sweet potato, I believe it falls just slightly behind. Including both into your consistent diet will lead to an overall healthy and improved body!