Are sweet potatoes beneficial for your health? Understanding the surprising nutritional value of this versatile vegetable.

Sweet potatoes are a remarkably versatile vegetable. Despite being classified as a starchy vegetable, they can be enjoyed in various forms, from pies to side dishes. Similar to regular potatoes, sweet potatoes lend themselves to a wide range of preparations, such as frying, baking, mashing, or hashing. They consistently offer a delightful taste. But what nutritional benefits do they provide? Well, it largely depends on how they are prepared.

To shed light on sweet potatoes, we consulted Barbara Olendzki, RD, MPH, LDN, an associate professor of population and quantitative health sciences at UMass Chan Medical School. Here’s everything you need to know about sweet potatoes.

Are sweet potatoes considered “good” or “bad” carbs?

Sweet potatoes are classified as “good” carbs, specifically referred to as “complex carbohydrates.” Complex carbohydrates are generally regarded as healthier than simple carbohydrates. They take longer to digest, providing sustained energy and avoiding sudden spikes in blood sugar levels that can occur with simple sugars. These spikes may offer temporary energy but often lead to subsequent fatigue.

What nutritional benefits do sweet potatoes offer?

sweet potatoes
sweet potatoes

According to Barbara Olendzki, RD, MPH, LDN, sweet potatoes are particularly rich in carotenoids, which are beneficial for eye health. Additionally, she suggests optimizing the health benefits of sweet potatoes by combining them with healthy fats (like a vinaigrette) or increasing fiber content (e.g., adding ground flaxseed) to slow down the absorption of carbohydrates into glucose in the body.

Breaking down the nutrition, Olendzki provides an example: One medium sweet potato topped with Newman’s Balsamic Vinaigrette (1 tablespoon) contains approximately 189 calories, 6g fat, 32g carbohydrate, 3g protein, 5g fiber, and even provides 1mg of iron.

Are sweet potatoes healthier than regular potatoes?

According to Olendzki, sweet potatoes are considered healthier than white potatoes. They have a lower glycemic index, more fiber, and higher levels of carotenoids that promote eye health and reduce inflammation.

For added nutritional value, Olendzki recommends keeping the skin on the sweet potatoes, as it contains significant nutrients and fiber.

Are sweet potatoes beneficial for weight loss?

The impact of sweet potatoes on weight loss depends on various factors, including other foods consumed, activity level, and individual health conditions. People with diabetes may need to exercise caution due to the higher carbohydrate content of sweet potatoes.

The overall healthiness of sweet potatoes also depends on how they are prepared. Frying them or adding excessive amounts of fats like butter or marshmallows can add unhealthy elements. However, as part of a well-balanced diet, sweet potatoes contribute essential vitamins and “good” carbohydrates.

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