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Sweet potato Nutrition facts

Sweet potato is not only sweetens your taste buds but also good for your cardiovascular health! This underground tuber was initially cultivated in the Central American region.

Botanically, this starchy tuber plant is a dicotyledon, belonging to the family of Convolvulaceae, and named botanically as Ipomoea batatas. Its crunchy, sweet flesh is an abundant source of flavonoid pigment antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber that are essential for optimal health.

sweet potatotes
Sweet potatoes.

Sweet potato is grown throughout the tropical and warm temperate regions. The crop just requires sufficient water and little attention for its successful cultivation.

The tuberous root features an oblong/elongated shape with tapering ends and has smooth outer skin whose color may range from red, purple, brown, and white, depending upon the cultivar type.

Sweet potatoes should not be confused with yams, another starchy root widely grown in Western Africa. Yams are indeed larger in size can weigh up to 120 pounds in weight and are 2 meters in length. Yams are tropical crops and indeed never grow where the temperature dips below 68 degrees F. Important differentiating features that distinguish sweet potatoes from yams are:

  • Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are dicotyledonous, relatively smaller, and possess very thin peel.

  • Whereas, yams are monocotyledons, larger, feature thick, rough, dark brown to pink skin depending upon the cultivar type.

Internally, sweet potato has starchy, sweet flesh and, depending upon the pigment concentration, their color ranges from white through yellow, orange, and purple.

Boniatos, also known as Cuban sweet potatoes, feature dry, starchy flesh underneath the reddish-brown skin. They have a mildly sweet flavor and are cooked in a similar fashion to potatoes.

Sweet potato greens are also edible. In fact, the tender shoots and leaves contain more nutrients and dietary fiber than some of the popular green leafy vegetables like spinach.

8 Amazing Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes

  1. Sweet potato is one of the high-calorie starch foods (provide 90 calories/100 g vis a vis to 70 calories/100 g in potato). The tuber, however, contains no saturated fats or cholesterol and is a rich source of dietary fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals than potatoes.

  2. Its calorie content mainly comes from starch, a complex carbohydrate. Sweet potato has a higher amylose-to-amylopectin ratio than that in potato. Amylose raises the blood sugar levels rather slowly in comparison to simple fruit sugars (fructose, glucose, etc.) and therefore, recommended as a healthy food even in diabetes.

  3. The tuber is an excellent source of flavonoid phenolic compounds such as beta-carotene and vitamin-A. 100 g of tuber provides 14,187 IU of vitamin-A and 8,509 µg of ß-carotene, a value which is the highest for any root vegetable. These compounds are powerful natural antioxidants.

  4. Vitamin A is also required for the human body to maintain the integrity of mucosa and skin. It is a vital nutrient for healthy vision. Consumption of natural vegetables and fruits rich in flavonoids helps protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.

  5. The total antioxidant strength of raw sweet potato measured in terms of oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) is 902 µmol TE/100 g.

  6. The tubers are packed with many essential vitamins such as pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5), pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), and thiamin (vitamin B-1), niacin, and riboflavin. These vitamins are essential in the sense that the human body requires them from external sources to replenish. These vitamins function as cofactors for various enzymes during metabolism.

  7. Sweet potato provides a good amount of vital minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and potassium that are essential for enzyme, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism.

  8. Sweet potato leaves, indeed, are more nutritious than the tuber itself. Weight per weight, 100 g of fresh leaves carry more iron, vitamin C, folates, vitamin K, and potassium but less sodium than its tuber.

See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients:

Sweet potato nutrition (Ipomoea batatas), raw, values per 100 g. (Source: USDA National Nutrient database)
Principle Nutrient Value Percent of RDA
Energy 86 Kcal 4%
Carbohydrates 20.12 g 15.5%
Protein 1.6 g 3%
Total Fat 0.05 g <0.5%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 3 g 8%
Folates 11 µg 3%
Niacin 0.557 mg 3.5%
Pantothenic acid 0.80 mg 16%
Pyridoxine 0.209 mg 15%
Riboflavin 0.061 mg 5.5%
Thiamin 0.078 mg 6.5%
Vitamin A 14,187 IU 473%
Vitamin C 2.4 mg 4%
Vitamin E 0.26 mg 2%
Vitamin K 1.8 µg  1.5%
Sodium 55 mg 3.5%
Potassium 337 mg 7%
Calcium 30 mg 3%
Iron 0.61 mg 7.5%
Magnesium 25 mg 6%
Manganese 0.258 mg 11%
Phosphorus 47 mg 7%
Zinc 0.30 mg 3%
Carotene-α 7 µg --
Carotene-ß 8509 µg --
Crypto-xanthin-ß 0 µg --

Selection and storage

sweet potatoes in a market
Sweet potatoes in a market.

Although sweet potato leaves are being eaten in some parts of the world, their root is the toast of sweet potato lovers. In the markets, buy fresh tubers with intact smooth skin and firm consistency. Go for organic varieties for the best taste and nutrition levels.

Avoid soft, flabby, or wilted roots. Also, avoid those that sound woody in texture as they tend to be excessive in fiber and unappetizing. As in potatoes, sprouting would make them lose flavor and be unwanted.

Wash them in clean running water to remove sand and soil. They should be stored in a cool, dark, and well-ventilated place.

Preparation and serving methods

To prepare, wash the root in cold water. It can be eaten raw with skin. However, for baking preparations, its skin may be peeled off before or after cooking.

Here are some serving tips:

Delicious sweet potato pie and soup. Photo: andycoan and exfordy

Safety profile

Sweet potatoes contain oxalic acid, a naturally occurring substance found in some vegetables that may crystallize as oxalate stones in the urinary tract in some people.

Therefore, individuals with a known history of oxalate urinary tract stones may have to avoid eating them. Adequate intake of water is, therefore, advised to maintain normal urine output in these individuals to minimize stone risk. (Medical disclaimer).

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Further reading:

  1. Vegetable directory page- University of Illinois extension (Link opens in new window).

  2. USDA National Nutrition database.

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