The Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes consistently top superfood lists with a gold star. What’s with the obsession? Well, the benefits are pretty sweet. Just one sweet potato has five times the daily recommendation for vitamin A, double the fiber of a regular ’ole russet potato, and more potassium than a banana. Bursting with antioxidants, they help fight inflammation and prevent diseases. And high in natural sugars but low on the glycemic index, they’re a steady source of energy for people with diabetes and a favorite fuel for athletes. But even a good-for-you favorite can slide to the dark side—ahem, candy glazes, marshmallow fluff. Here’s how to enjoy sweet potatoes the healthy way.
How Do You Prepare Sweet Potatoes?
Sweet potatoes can be orange, purple, or white. To clear up any confusion, they’re not related to “regular” potatoes, which are part of the nightshade family. And they’re sometimes mistakenly called yams, which happen to be a totally different vegetable. You’ve probably already seen the most common kind at the grocery store—sweet potatoes with red skins and orange flesh, a stellar source of beta-carotene. The thin skins are completely edible, so you could peel them, but you’ll get more fiber if you leave them on and just give them a good scrub.
What Can You Do with Sweet Potatoes?
Sweet potatoes can do everything that regular potatoes can do, making them a smart choice for baking, roasting, mashing, and more. They’re delicious sweet or savory, for breakfast or dinner, from gingerbread pancakes to fries. Here are just a few favorite methods.
- Baked Sweet Potatoes: Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Scrub the sweet potatoes and prick them a few times with a fork or paring knife. Place them directly on the oven rack and bake until soft, about 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on their size. Enjoy them as a side, or split them open and stuff them! You could go savory, with beans and greens, or for a breakfast spin, try a dollop of Greek yogurt and a small handful of nuts.
- Mashed Sweet Potatoes: Cut sweet potatoes into chunks, put them in a pot, cover with cold water, and salt the water. Bring to a boil and cook until tender when pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes. Drain the sweet potatoes and return them to the pot. Add a tablespoon of olive oil or butter, a splash of chicken stock or milk, season lightly with salt, and mash until smooth. Serve warm. If you’re craving sweet potato casserole, top with toasted nuts and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
- Sweet Potato Fries: Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Peel and cut 1 or 2 sweet potatoes about ¼ inch (6 mm) thick, and pile the pieces on a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and toss to coat. Spread out the pieces on the baking sheet (try to avoid crowding!). Roast until golden and crispy, about 30 minutes. Serve warm, with a yogurt ranch sauce for dipping.
Sweet Potato Recipes & Ideas
Hungry for more? There are so many delicious ways to savor sweet potatoes. Try folding them into a filling breakfast burrito or spinning them into noodles for a fresh stir-fry.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.