Sweet potatoes are nutritious, packing a good amount of vitamin A, vitamin C, and manganese into each serving. They also have anticancer properties and may promote immune function and other health benefits.
Sweet potatoes are sweet, starchy root vegetables that are grown worldwide (
They come in a variety of sizes and colors — including orange, white, and purple — and are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber.
Not to mention, they provide a number of health benefits and are easy to add to your diet.
Here are 6 surprising health benefits of sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes are a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
One cup, or 200 grams (g), of baked sweet potato with skin provides (
- Calories: 180
- Carbs: 41 g
- Protein: 4 g
- Fat: 0.3 g
- Fiber: 6.6 g
- Vitamin A: 213% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Vitamin C: 44% of the DV
- Manganese: 43% of the DV
- Copper: 36% of the DV
- Pantothenic acid: 35% of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 34% of the DV
- Potassium: 20% of the DV
- Niacin: 19% of the DV
In addition, sweet potatoes — especially the orange and purple varieties — are rich in antioxidants that protect your body from free radicals (
Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage DNA and trigger inflammation.
The fiber and antioxidants in sweet potatoes can be beneficial for gut health.
Sweet potatoes contain two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble (
Your body cannot digest either type. Therefore, fiber stays within your digestive tract and provides a variety of gut-related health benefits.
Some soluble and insoluble fibers can also be fermented by the bacteria in your colon, creating compounds called short-chain fatty acids that fuel the cells of your intestinal lining and keep them healthy and strong (
The antioxidants in sweet potatoes may provide gut benefits as well.
Greater amounts of these types of bacteria within the intestines are associated with better gut health and a lower risk of conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and infectious diarrhea (
Sweet potatoes offer various antioxidants, which may help protect against certain types of cancers.
Anthocyanins — a group of antioxidants found in purple sweet potatoes — have been found to slow the growth of certain types of cancer cells in test-tube studies, including those of the bladder, colon, stomach, and breast (
However, studies have yet to test these effects in humans.
Sweet potatoes are incredibly rich in beta carotene, the antioxidant responsible for the vegetable’s bright orange color.
In fact, one cup (200 g) of baked orange sweet potato with skin provides more than double the amount of beta carotene that the average adult needs per day (
Beta carotene is converted to vitamin A in your body and used to form light-detecting receptors inside your eyes (
Severe vitamin A deficiency is a concern in developing countries and can lead to a special type of blindness known as xerophthalmia. Eating foods rich in beta carotene, such as orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, may help prevent this condition (
Purple sweet potatoes also seem to have vision benefits.
Consuming purple sweet potatoes may improve brain function.
One animal study found that the anthocyanins in purple sweet potatoes could help protect the brain by reducing inflammation and preventing free radical damage (
Another study found that supplementing with anthocyanin-rich sweet potato extract could reduce markers of inflammation and improve spatial working memory in mice, possibly due to its antioxidant properties (
No studies have been done to test these effects in humans, but in general, diets rich in fruits, vegetables, and antioxidants are associated with a 13% lower risk of mental decline and dementia (
Vitamin A is critical to a healthy immune system, and low blood levels have been linked to reduced immunity (
It’s also key for maintaining healthy mucous membranes, especially in the lining of your gut.
The gut is where your body is exposed to many potential disease-causing pathogens. Therefore, a healthy gut is an important part of a healthy immune system.
No studies have been conducted to determine whether sweet potatoes, in particular, have an effect on immunity, but eating them regularly can help prevent vitamin A deficiency (
Sweet potatoes are very easy to add to your diet.
They can be enjoyed with or without the skin and can be baked, boiled, roasted, steamed, or pan-cooked.
Their natural sweetness pairs well with many different seasonings, and they can be enjoyed in both savory and sweet dishes.
Some popular ways to enjoy sweet potatoes include:
- Sweet potato chips: Peeled, thinly sliced, and baked.
- Sweet potato fries: Peeled, cut into wedges or matchsticks, and baked.
- Sweet potato toast: Cut into thin slices, toasted, and topped with ingredients like nut butter or avocado.
- Mashed sweet potatoes: Peeled, boiled, and mashed with milk and seasoning.
- Baked sweet potatoes: Baked whole in the oven until fork-tender.
- Sweet potato hash: Peeled, diced, and cooked with onion and peppers in a pan.
- Spiralized sweet potatoes: Cut into spirals, sautéed, and sauced.
- In baked goods: Sweet potato puree adds moisture without fat.
Although cooking sweet potatoes slightly reduces their beta carotene content according to some older studies, they still retain at least 70% of this nutrient and are considered an excellent source (
Sweet potatoes are nutrient-dense root vegetables that come in a variety of colors.
They’re high in fiber and antioxidants, which protect your body from free radical damage and promote a healthy gut and brain.
They’re also incredibly rich in beta carotene, which is converted to vitamin A to support good vision and your immune system.
Sweet potatoes are versatile and can be prepared in both sweet and savory dishes, making them an exceptional carb option for most people.