It can be difficult to find good, healthy carbohydrates to add to a diet. Low-carb diets aren’t right for everyone, but it’s still important to pick good whole foods that will support healthy living. We looked at potatoes, but what about the increasingly trendy sweet potato? Are there sweet potato health benefits, or is the sugary sweetness cause for concern?
While sweet potatoes take their name from the potato, in actuality, the sweet potato is only distantly related to a regular white potato. Also, while sometimes referred to as a yam, yams and sweet potatoes are in fact not the same.
Like the potato, a sweet potato is a tuberous root, and they share many of the same health benefits, with a few significant differences.
The greatest difference is the high levels of vitamin A in sweet potatoes (which is evident in its bright orange colouring). They are a little higher in carbohydrates, having a greater quantity of sugars (though they have less starch and more fibre than regular potatoes). The other biggest difference is that potatoes are a good source of vitamin C, while sweet potatoes only contain a small amount of this essential nutrient.
Sweet Potato Health Benefits
Sweet potatoes have 284% of your daily value of vitamin A in a 100g serving. Vitamin A is a necessary nutrient for ocular health. The rhodopsin molecule in the eye needs this vitamin. It’s responsible for receiving light and sending the signal to the brain that tells you that you’re seeing. Getting enough vitamin A will also help prevent diseases and degeneration of the eye.
On top of the benefits it has on the eye, vitamin A doubles as an antioxidant, fighting free radicals and keeping you healthy.
Like a regular potato, these sweet tubers are a great source of potassium.
Potassium is a fundamental element for the pumps in your body that are responsible for energy getting into muscles and nerves. Proper digestion also requires potassium. Potassium deficiency can leave you weak along with more severe health concerns, so it’s important to get healthy amounts of this mineral on a daily basis.
A 100g serving of sweet potatoes has 10% of your daily value of vitamin B6. 10% is a little lower than in a regular potato, but it’s still a great vitamin to get in your diet.
Several metabolic functions need vitamin B6. Your body uses it to metabolize glucose, amino acids, and lipids. It helps separate useful energy from waste, and is an important part of recovery, burning fat, and maintaining proper energy levels.
Manganese is another important mineral you’ll find in sweet potatoes and other vegetation. While it is important not to get too much of it, a single serving of sweet potatoes has a safe 13% of your daily value.
The body uses manganese as an antioxidant. Manganese antioxidants help protect the body from oxidative stress. In fact, when enzymatic antioxidants fail to protect you from oxidative stress completely, manganese antioxidants can pick up the slack and protect cells from reactive oxygen species. This mineral is unique in this regard. By picking up the slack, the aging process slows, and overall deterioration of the body.
Sugars in Sweet Potatoes
Based on a 100g serving, sweet potatoes have 4.2g of sugar, the majority in the form of sucrose. While that will affect insulin levels, it isn’t so high as to rule it out as a healthy food. The 3g of dietary fibre are also great to help process the waste through your body.