Nutritional sweet potatoes

Whether you bake them, put them on toast, add them to soups or a pie, top them with eggs, or just coat them with olive oil and sprinkle on your favorite seasonings — sweet potatoes are easy to incorporate into your diet. And they’re as healthy as they are versatile and delicious.

A good source of nourishing fiber, vitamins, and minerals, sweet potatoes pack a powerful nutritional punch.

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Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes have a variety of nutrients, according to The Nutrition Source. For starters, they contain beta carotene — which the human body converts into vitamin A, an antioxidant that promotes healthy brain function, healthy skin, and good vision. Vitamin A also supports heart, kidney, and lung function.

Sweet potatoes also provide vitamin B6 and vitamin C, which have powerful health benefits. Vitamin B6 bolsters brain development in children and brain function in adults. B6 also helps the body produce serotonin, a hormone that regulates mood and helps you cope with stress. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that protects your cells from free radicals.

In addition, sweet potatoes are high in potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure and improve kidney function. Potassium also helps maintain your muscles, metabolism, and hydration levels.

Tips for Cooking Sweet Potatoes

The evidence is clear that sweet potatoes are highly nutritious — and here are some ways to include them in your diet.

You can prepare this versatile, starchy root vegetable in variety of ways, including baking, grilling, steaming, roasting, or boiling. Here are some tips to get the most nutrition out of sweet potatoes.

Try steam. Steaming is an effective way to cook sweet potatoes and retain the most nutrients. Steaming avoids the excessive heat that can deplete nutrients.

Bake them. Baking is probably the most common way to prepare sweet potatoes. Though the high temperatures of baking can affect nutritional value, baking does not require additional high-calorie fats or oils.

Mind the fat. If you do prepare them with fats, choose healthy alternatives such as olive oil instead of butter. Sweet potatoes contain no saturated fats or cholesterol — so avoid adding any! And their naturally sweet flavor can satisfy your sweet tooth without adding sugar or syrup.

Keep the skin on. Scrub your sweet potatoes, then roast or bake them with the skin on. Because the skin has good nutritional value, try one of the many recipes online to make sweet potato skins.

To learn more about good nutrition or how to develop a healthy diet plan, visit Nutrition Services at UPMC.