Sweet potatoes are a sweet, starchy root vegetable harvested across the globe. Don’t be fooled by their subterranean growth—they come in a variety of sizes and colors, including orange, white, and purple.1 The colorful variations of sweet potatoes are only topped by their many health benefits.2,3
RICH IN VITAMINS AND MINERALS
Sweet potatoes are high in a variety of nutrients, such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, and iron.4 These are crucial to your overall health. The vitamin and mineral composition of the sweet potato is dense, packing a better nutritional punch than many other vegetables. Sweet potatoes are especially beneficial to the human body by way of energy production, immune function, bone health, and fluid balance.
HIGH IN ANTIOXIDANTS
Sweet potatoes—especially the orange and purple varieties—are rich in antioxidants.5 Beta carotene is an antioxidant that is responsible for the sweet potato’s rich, red-orange color. Beta-carotene can also be found in many other brightly colored fruits and vegetables, especially carrots.4 Antioxidants, like beta carotene, help protect your body from free radicals by preventing oxidative stress in your body.1,6
SUPPORTS EYE HEALTH
Beta-carotene is more than just an antioxidant—it’s a precursor to vitamin A. While this vitamin won’t give you night vision or vastly improve your sight, it will help your eyes adjust better to dim conditions.7 Your body does this by using vitamin A to form light-detecting receptors in your eyes.
The fiber and antioxidants in sweet potatoes are a win-win for your gastrointestinal tract and the beneficial bacterial that live there. Fiber helps prevent constipation and promotes regularity for a healthy digestive tract. This has been linked to a reduced risk of colon cancer.9 Several studies also suggest that the orange-flesh sweet potatoes have prebiotic properties that positively modulate gut microbiota by promoting growth of beneficial bacteria.10,11
The sweet potato is a nutrient-dense and versatile root vegetable that comes in a variety of colors, ranging from creamy white to deep purple. This vegetable’s main claim to fame in its dense nutritional and antioxidant composition. It’s concentration of beta-carotene, which is a precursor to vitamin A, helps support eye health. The fiber found in sweet potatoes is also instrumental in aiding digestion and promoting a healthy gut microbiome.
Sweet potatoes are an easy and delicious way to incorporate more nutrients into your diet. Better yet, they’re tasty enough on their own that you can forego the addition of butter or salt. They can be baked, roasted, and mashed. If you’re looking for an easy way to incorporate more antioxidants, fiber, and nutrient-dense foods into your diet, sweet potatoes are a good option.
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6. Sweet Potatoes. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health website. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/sweet-potatoes/. Accessed 1 Aug 2021.
7. Vitamin A. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health website. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-a/. Accessed 1 Aug 2021.
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10. Liu M , Li X , Zhou S , et al. Dietary fiber isolated from sweet potato residues promotes a healthy gut microbiome profile. Food Funct. 2020;11(1):689-699.
11. Muchiri M, McCartney AL. In vitro investigation of orange fleshed sweet potato prebiotic potential and its implication on human gut health. Funct Food Health Dis. 2017;7(10):833-848.