Sweet Potatoes 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Sweet Potatoes 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

The sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is an underground tuber.

It’s rich in an antioxidant called beta carotene, which is very effective at raising blood levels of vitamin A, particularly in children (1, 2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source).

Sweet potatoes are nutritious, high in fiber, very filling, and delicious. They can be eaten boiled, baked, steamed, or fried.

Sweet potatoes are usually orange but also found in other colors, such as white, red, pink, violet, yellow, and purple.

In some parts of North America, sweet potatoes are called yams. However, this is a misnomer since yams are a different species.

Sweet potatoes are only distantly related to regular potatoes.

This article tells you everything you need to know about sweet potatoes.

Nutrition facts
The nutrition facts for 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of raw sweet potatoes are (5Trusted Source):

Calories: 86
Water: 77%
Protein: 1.6 grams
Carbs: 20.1 grams
Sugar: 4.2 grams
Fiber: 3 grams
Fat: 0.1 grams
Carbs
A medium-sized sweet potato (boiled without the skin) contains 27 grams of carbs. The main components are starches, which make up 53% of the carb content.

Simple sugars, such as glucose, fructose, sucrose, and maltose, comprise 32% of the carb content (2Trusted Source).

Sweet potatoes have a medium to high glycemic index (GI), varying from 44–96. The GI is a measure of how fast your blood sugar levels rise after a meal (6).

Given the relatively high GI of sweet potatoes, large amounts in a single meal may be unsuitable for people with type 2 diabetes. Notably, boiling seems to be associated with lower GI values than baking, frying, or roasting (7Trusted Source).

Starch
Starches are often split into three categories based on how well they’re digested. The starch proportions in sweet potatoes are as follows (8, 9Trusted Source, 10, 11Trusted Source):

Rapidly digested starch (80%). This starch is quickly broken down and absorbed, increasing the GI value.
Slowly digested starch (9%). This type breaks down more slowly and causes a smaller rise in blood sugar levels.
Resistant starch (11%). This one escapes digestion and acts like fiber, feeding your friendly gut bacteria. The amount of resistant starch may increase slightly by cooling the sweet potatoes after cooking.
Fiber
Cooked sweet potatoes are relatively high in fiber, with a medium-sized sweet potato containing 3.8 grams.

The fibers are both soluble (15–23%) in the form of pectin, and insoluble (77–85%) in the form of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin (12, 13Trusted Source, 14).

Soluble fibers, such as pectin, may increase fullness, decrease food intake, and reduce blood sugar spikes by slowing your digestion of sugars and starches (15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source).

A high intake of insoluble fibers has been associated with health benefits, such as a reduced risk of diabetes and improved gut health (17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source, 21Trusted Source).

Protein
A medium-sized sweet potato holds 2 grams of protein, making it a poor protein source.

Sweet potatoes contain sporamins, unique proteins that account for more than 80% of their total protein content (14).

The sporamins are produced to facilitate healing whenever the plant is subjected to physical damage. Recent research suggests that they may have antioxidant properties (22Trusted Source).

Despite being relatively low in protein, sweet potatoes are an important source of this macronutrient in many developing countries (14, 23).

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