Unusual Facts About Whether Sweet Potatoes Are Healthy And How To Make Sweet Potatoes Healthy. In this article you will find out which nutrients are in the orange tubers and which preparation method seems to be the most sensible and which, surprisingly, is probably not the best method for preparation. You will also receive a practical recipe with which you can put your new knowledge into practice and enjoy it straight away.
Are sweet potatoes healthy or unhealthy?
You have probably already asked yourself whether sweet potatoes are healthy or whether they may also contain unhealthy substances. On the Internet and in many books you read a lot about the fact that the orange tubers are supposed to be a kind of superfood. These are often fragments of information that usually deal with the topic in a very one-sided way. Since I myself cook with sweet potatoes frequently and possibly more and more often, I would like to get to the bottom of the matter with this article.
First the good news …
In the case of potatoes and sweet potatoes, the focus is initially on the carbohydrates, but it is more the vitamins, which is why the potatoes (another name for sweet potatoes) are particularly interesting. Rather than asking what vitamins are in sweet potatoes, it is better to ask which vitamins are not in them. The only 2 important vitamins that orange potatoes cannot provide are vitamin D and B12. However, this is not unusual for plant-based foods. (More about that in a moment)
That wasn’t all …
As far as micronutrients are concerned, the potatoes with their vitamin content have already won plenty of fans. However, that wasn’t all. The broad content of minerals is also impressive. The tubers have a lot to offer here, because they contain almost all minerals that are vital for us humans. Including magnesium, potassium, zinc and calcium. (see mineral table)
But there is also bad news :
Given the abundance of nutrients, one might initially assume that sweet potatoes are healthy and should be eaten more frequently from now on. So far we are correct. However, we must also note that sweet potatoes contain a substance called oxalic acid. This substance is problematic because it can block the absorption of nutrients.
What does that mean now?
Oxalic acid in sweet potatoes has the effect of an anti-nutrient.
How can you prepare sweet potatoes healthily?
In view of the vitamins, the question arises whether it makes sense to consume the tubers raw. The question is definitely justified, because many of the nutrients are not very heat-stable. However, this cannot be answered so easily by saying that beta-carotene is heat-stable compared to the other vitamins.
The special vitamin …
Sweet potatoes, especially the orange varieties of course, have a particularly high beta-carotene content. This carotenoid not only gives the orange color, but is also the precursor of vitamin A. One can say: the more intense the orange color, the higher the beta-carotene content.
Our body produces vitamin A itself from the orange plant substance. This happens after digestion and when beta-carotene is absorbed in the intestine. Both forms are fat-soluble, beta-carotene and vitamin A. For example, hands can quickly turn orange when peeling carrots if you have put cream on them beforehand. The fat on the skin layer dissolves the healthy coloring from the carrot.
So that we can absorb the vitamin A from sweet potatoes as effectively as possible, we should prepare sweet potato recipes with fatty ingredients such as coconut milk or olive oil.
The amazing thing is that by chopping and cooking the pulp, the beta-carotene can escape and be absorbed better. Put simply, this means that more vitamin A can be obtained from the body if the sweet potatoes are cooked and chopped up as well as possible. A sweet potato soup with a little fatty coconut milk would also be a suitable recipe idea for this.
Why steaming is not ideal …
The best way to prepare the sweet potatoes is to cook them so that they don’t become depleted. To my own surprise, I was able to find that steaming is not exactly the ideal cooking method. Obviously – contrary to what was expected – when steaming, the nutrients are wasted instead of conserved.
When steaming, the beta-carotene is literally washed out of the pulp by the steam.
The hot water runs over the cut pieces during the entire steaming process and is enriched with minerals and beta-carotene. The slightly orange water then drips back down to the bottom of the pot until a yellowish-orange broth is found after about 15 minutes. This broth is then usually quite nutritious and ends up in the drain.
However, it also contains starch, which after a while deposits as a white layer on the floor. Minerals and trace elements can also be removed from the pulp by steaming.
How to prepare sweet potatoes healthily:
If we take a closer look, the sweet potato would probably be optimally prepared in a cooked form. It doesn’t necessarily have to be raw food, as many vitamins and minerals are retained during cooking. Especially the beta-carotene, because the sweet potato is still orange after cooking. Even more intense orange.
So it would be ideal to use a cooking method in which the temperatures are as low as possible. This would ensure that as many vitamins as possible, such as vitamins B, C and E), which are not formed from beta-carotene, are retained as well as possible.
When cooking or stewing, we have relatively low temperatures compared to baking, deep-frying or roasting. The temperature when cooking is around 90 degrees. When baking and deep-frying, however, the temperatures are around 180 degrees.
It is generally believed that high temperatures destroy more micronutrients. Since we often bake sweet potatoes in halves or whole, the time it takes to bake them is also longer. That means high temperature over a longer period of time.
Now another factor comes into play. ..
We have already discussed that water washes out the pulp and absorbs some of the valuable nutrients such as potassium, zinc and beta-carotene. If we make sweet potato recipes in which the water is poured down the drain, we are at a loss.
But if we prepare recipes in which we use the water for the dish, then we have visibly less loss. So it means more nutrients and therefore a healthy preparation.
How to prepare sweet potatoes healthily – did you know that?
So it would be ideal not to pour the water that was used for cooking into the drain afterwards. Both when steaming and cooking, the water takes nutrients out of the sweet potato pulp. These nutrients collect in the dripping water, creating a nutrient-rich broth that would be a shame to throw away.
So it would be smart to cook a sweet potato soup or a sweet potato curry that uses the boiling water. A sweet potato puree could also be a suitable dish, if the little remaining liquid is used. Steaming with as little water as possible would also be a gentle cooking method.
An aha moment!
The interesting thing about cooking sweet potatoes is that the beta-carotene and mineral content is hardly lost. The beta-carotene, which is a precursor of vitamin A, is released more strongly during the cooking process and made more available to the body. Since orange vegetables such as pumpkin, carrots and sweet potatoes are mainly characterized by their beta-carotene content, they are sometimes more valuable for nutrition when cooked.
In practical terms, this means that sweet potato soup or sweet potato puree are good ways to get the most vitamin A from sweet potatoes. Since the tubers are valued primarily for their vitamin A content, sweet potato dishes like this are the most beneficial.
If you want to pay attention to your vitamin C intake, you should also plan for foods that you already eat raw and fresh. Because vitamin C is not as heat-stable as beta-carotene.
Conclusion: are sweet potatoes healthy?
Because sweet potatoes have almost all vitamins and are particularly rich in beta-carotene, vitamin E and vitamin C, they can be considered a very valuable food. The large number of minerals such as potassium, magnesium and zinc ensure that sweet potatoes are healthy and make an optimal contribution to a wholesome diet. The critical substances hydrogen cyanide and oxalic acid are neutralized, especially in gently cooked form. which is also found in the orange tubers, is only contained in particularly small amounts. In order to suffer poisoning, 5 kg of raw sweet potatoes would have to be consumed at once.
Healthy sweet potato recipes: This is how you conserve vitamin A and minerals during preparation.
Sweet Potato Nutrients: Which Ingredients Are Found?
Naturally, the nutritional values can fluctuate widely. This is also due to the fact that there are different varieties . Some varieties look very similar to the Beauregard, Orleans and Covington varieties because they are orange. However, there are also variants that look completely different in color, such as white and purple sweet potatoes.
The sweet potato consists on average of 77% water and has a comparatively low 110 kcal per 100 grams of ready-to-eat tuber. With less than one gram of fat, it is absolutely “ low-fat ” and is therefore suitable for a fat or calorie-reduced diet. If you see an important nutrient in oil or fat, you also have the opportunity to be a little more generous with coconut or olive oil.
The sweet potato carbohydrates
Sweet potatoes are often compared to potatoes, especially when it comes to the carbohydrates. Compared to ordinary potatoes, the sweet potatoes have a little more carbohydrates. However, the difference is relatively small.
The sugar content
The almost 25 percent carbohydrates in sweet potatoes are mainly composed of starch (polysaccharides – approx. 20 percent of them) and sugar (approx. 5 percent of them). The sugar component is made up of glucose (grape sugar), fructose (fruit sugar) and sucrose (beet sugar).
The sugar content of sweet potatoes is thus higher than that of ordinary potatoes. That influences the taste and probably also contributes significantly to the name.
This changes little in terms of the calorie content, because overall the fat content is very low, which in turn makes the potatoes a low-calorie food.
Sweet Potato Fiber
The fibrous dietary fiber reduces the glycemic value and makes the sweet potato a blood sugar-friendly food. Sweet potatoes have an average glycemic index of 50, but this can vary greatly from person to person.
Anyone who has ever prepared a sweet potato puree with a potato press has probably already seen how the fibers from the pulp can clog the holes in the press. The fiber from the shell has long been removed during peeling.
The combination with other high-fiber, protein-containing and fatty foods is always best. This keeps the overall glycemic value as low as possible compared to food consumed individually. In the sweet potato recipe here on this page you can find out how you can put this into practice.
Sweet Potato Calories and Nutrition Facts
The potato contains heat-stable as well as less heat-stable nutrients. A raw vegetable salad with sweet potatoes and boiled sweet potatoes each have their advantages. This composition makes the popular orange tuber a valuable food both cooked and raw.
|Nutritional values||per 100 g|
|of which sugars||5 g|
But in addition to these ingredients, the tuber contains a large amount of vitamins and minerals. Of these, it is mainly vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene (retinol – vitamin A) that stand out.
Minerals and trace elements
(Only nutrients that occur in significant quantities are mentioned here, mg = milligrams for minerals & µg = micrograms for trace elements). 1 g = 1,000 milligrams – 1 milligram = 1,000 micrograms.
|Minerals & trace elements||per 100 g|
|Salt / sodium||23 mg|
Sweet Potato Vitamins
(Only vitamins that occur in particularly high quantities are mentioned here, mg = milligrams & µg = micrograms)
|Vitamins||per 100 g|
|Beta-carotene (vitamin A)||(Retinol) 8000 µg|
|Vitamin B1||(Thiamine) 60 µg|
|Vitamin B2||(Riboflavin) 50 µg|
|Vitamin B3||(Niacin) 550 µg|
|Vitamin B5||(Pantothenic acid) 850 µg|
|Vitamin B6||(Pyridoxine) 250 µg|
|Vitamin B7||(Biotin) 4 µg|
|Vitamin B9||(Folic acid) 10 µg|
|Vitamin B12||(Cobalamin) not included|
|vitamin C||(Ascorbic acid) 28,000 µg|
|Vitamin D||(Calciferol) not included|
|Vitamin E.||(Tocopherol) 4,500 µg|
|Vitamin K||(Phylloquinone) 20 µg|
Can you eat sweet potatoes raw ?
If you want to eat sweet potatoes raw, you are very likely to intend to consume more vitamins. If you omit the heating, the numerous vitamins would be significantly spared. According to this, for example, you would have a very vitamin-rich raw sweet potato salad on your plate.
One thing is clear, you can theoretically and practically eat sweet potatoes raw. Nothing bad happens and it actually tastes pretty good. Tastes a bit like carrot. You can also cut the batata into small cubes and nibble them raw .
But it works better if you grate the tubers and use them to prepare a salad that resembles a grated carrot salad.
Grated sweet potato salad
- 400 g grated sweet potatoes (peeled and unpeeled)
- 1 teaspoon honey or xylitol
- Squeezed half a lemon
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 100 ml of water
- half a teaspoon of salt
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2-3 tbsp yogurt (optional)
- Grate the sweet potatoes and place in a bowl.
- Add all ingredients and mix together. Then let it steep for at least 20 minutes.
- Then mix again and use as a side dish.
There are 3 things to consider:
Oxalic acid, hydrocyanic acid and starch in sweet potatoes
Like many of our foods, our orange super bulbs also have their downsides!
It is recommended not to eat normal potatoes raw and to check for green spots. The reason for this is solanine. Unlike sweet potatoes, potatoes are a nightshade family, which also includes tomatoes. If tomatoes and potatoes are green in places, then they contain poisonous solanine. Sweet potato tubers are never green and do not develop solanine.
Okay, sweet potatoes don’t have solanine, so everything’s fine, right?
1. Oxalic acid
Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, are bindweed that contain oxalic acid (ethanedioic acid). This acid is known as an anti-nutrient because it inhibits the absorption of nutrients such as minerals (calcium, magnesium and iron, for example).
Does the oxalic acid heat up?
That is a paradox!
Heating does not destroy the oxalic acid or does not destroy it directly. However, boiling can significantly reduce the oxalic acid content if the cooking water is thrown away. This is considered to be the most effective measure to reduce the oxalic acid content. Yes, that’s right, that again contradicts the method of preparation, which is also gentle on vitamins. (So there is no perfect way.)
It would also mean that all baked sweet potato recipes do not advocate healthy sweet potato preparation. The only exception is sweet potato fries, which are soaked in water before baking (if soaking oxalic acid drains away). Accordingly, this could also be the main reason for this measure.
And what’s next?
Apparently, there is nothing to be said against the moderate consumption of raw sweet potatoes , as long as you don’t eat oversized portions of them on a regular basis. Grated sweet potatoes can therefore be seen as a vitamin-rich side salad that can be combined well with a fresh yogurt dressing or almond dressing from time to time.
However, you should know that consuming more raw sweet potatoes can lead to nutrient deficiencies and kidney problems. The oxalic acid influences the uptake and processing of some vital nutrients and can result in excessive consumption of the body to defects and, in the worst case, a malfunction.
However, you only have to worry about oxalic acid if you consume sweet potatoes regularly or frequently and take in little calcium. This could be the case with a vegan diet with little broccoli or kale.
It all depends on the combination!
The possible lack of minerals due to oxalic acid can be compensated for by suitable accompanying foods that are rich in minerals. If you consume sweet potatoes regularly (whether raw or cooked), you should aim for a combination with foods rich in calcium or magnesium.
- Dairy products such as yogurt
Calcium, for example, worsens the bioavailability of oxalic acid. For example, yogurt dressing with grated sweet potato salad can help reduce the amount of oxalic acid that the body can absorb.
Who should be especially careful?
The German Federal Center for Nutrition recommends people who do not eat dairy products or who follow a vegan diet to be particularly careful about regular consumption of raw sweet potatoes. Since these are more often affected by deficiencies in calcium and magnesium. So if you are low on calcium foods, you should eat less raw sweet potatoes.
However, since oxalic acid does not seem to be completely degradable when heated, the German Federal Center for Nutrition recommends not to use the boiling water in such a case. The oxalic acid would thus be significantly reduced. However, this would again have the disadvantage of losing vitamins and other nutrients.
Look at your lifestyle and keep this in mind:
Seen in this way, baking would not be optimal either, since there is no washing out of oxalic acid. Funnily enough, on the same page there is a recipe with baked sweet potatoes without any accompanying food. For this reason, I think it is a better idea to specifically combine foods rich in calcium or magnesium with sweet potatoes. That would be a solution if you occasionally eat potatoes. Those who eat them constantly and several times a week should rather steam or boil their tubers and then dispose of the water. This also applies if it reduces the content of important nutrients.
2. Hydrocyanic acid
Hydrocyanic acid is a poisonous substance that unfortunately occurs naturally in sweet potatoes, as well as in almonds, flax seeds, yam roots, bamboo shoots and lima beans. When eating foods containing hydric acid, symptoms of poisoning can occur. The content of hydrogen cyanide in sweet potatoes is considered to be low, but there is hardly any data on this.
The hydrogen cyanide content in bamboo shoots is particularly high. If these are not cooked, hydrogen cyanide can cause poisoning. In Asian countries where bamboo shoots are consumed more frequently, symptoms of poisoning occur again and again.
Hydrocyanic acid is soluble in water, particularly sensitive to heat and evaporates from 26 degrees. This means that prussic acid can be removed from sweet potatoes using various methods of cooking with water. In particular, cutting into pieces paves the way for the poison to escape.
A piece of advice that doesn’t help
Some blogs recommend simply buying sweet potato varieties with less hydrogen cyanide so that you can eat them raw without hesitation. However, I wonder how to do that. It’s not like that in the supermarket I have to choose between varieties with more or less hydrogen cyanide. In addition, probably no employee in the supermarket will be able to give me advice on this. There is also the fact that almost no one knows certain varieties that are considered to be particularly low in hydrogen cyanide.
In principle, one can assume that new varieties and breeds contain less hydrogen cyanide. One of them is the Covington variety, which is an American sweet potato variant. However, it is also utopian to hope that you will find the appropriate varieties when you buy them.
Don’t get confused
Hydrogen cyanide and cyanides are another term for hydrogen cyanide. It can easily be confused with the term anthocyanins, which stands for antioxidants. These anthocyanins are also found in sweet potatoes, but they are non-toxic and instead more beneficial to health.
3. Starch in raw foods
With a starch content of around 20%, you should first approach slowly if you want to eat large quantities of sweet potatoes raw. It differs from person to person and some people tolerate uncooked starch less well than others. This can lead to flatulence and indigestion. Therefore, you should eat raw sweet potatoes in moderation at first.
Due to the lack of a cooking process, the starch cannot be digested. Basically, starch is considered indigestible. The starch grains only swell or burst when heated. Cooking thus ensures that starch is partially or more easily digested.
With normal potatoes, for example, the starch develops into what is known as resistant starch after it has cooled down again. This resistant starch is now considered a healthy dietary fiber that is supposed to promote a healthy intestinal flora.
Is the peel of the sweet potato edible?
Unlike conventional potatoes, the peel of sweet potatoes, sweet potatoes or bindweed as it is also called does not form any toxic substances such as solanine. Therefore, the shell can be consumed without any problems. Similar to apples, it can be eaten raw or cooked, provided it has been thoroughly cleaned.
In fact, above all in and under the skin of the sweet potato you will find a health-promoting substance that can support high cholesterol and diabetes values and is called Caiapo.
Before consumption, the sweet potato should be cleaned thoroughly with lukewarm water and ideally with a vegetable brush or a separate sponge under running water. The purchase of organic quality is recommended in order to avoid pesticides that are in and on the peel as much as possible.
Do sweet potatoes have lectins?
Anyone who has ever dealt with the subject of lectins in food knows what influence these can have on our intestines. There is still a lot of confusion in the discussion about lectins, but interest in this topic is growing nonetheless.
The American cardiologist Steven Gundry writes in his book that sweet potatoes are suitable for a lectin-free diet. In his book “Bad Vegetables” he puts them on the list of desirable foods for his nutritional concept.
It must be said that this concept is very radical as it also excludes legumes such as chickpeas and tomatoes as unhealthy foods. Also, some nutritionists consider his view unsustainable. I sometimes don’t know what to think of it myself, but I found the point of view very exciting.
Are Sweet Potatoes Healthier Than Potatoes?
If you ignore the name, the two types of vegetables have little in common. One thing they have in common is how they are prepared, because both types can be boiled, deep-fried, made into puree or baked. When comparing the macronutrients, the potato varieties mainly differ in the proportion of carbohydrates.
Overall, sweet potatoes provide a whopping 10 grams more carbohydrates and 5 grams more sugar per 100 grams than a normal potato. The fat and protein content is almost identical and hardly differs.
With the micronutrients, however, the differences become more visible, because the sweet potato can score with a large proportion of calcium, potassium, iron, phosphorus and folic acid. This mix of minerals helps keep bones healthy, supports blood formation and regulates the fluid balance of the human body.
In addition, sweet potatoes contain almost four times the concentration of manganese compared to the potatoes we know. Manganese is involved in some metabolic processes and promotes, for example, the development of cartilage and connective tissue and the bones.
In conclusion, it can be said that sweet potatoes provide slightly more calories than their European relatives, but are apparently healthier due to their higher nutrient density. Dealing with toxins is also easier and safer with sweet potatoes. While the solanine content of a somewhat green potato can hardly be neutralized, this can easily be done in a sweet potato in terms of oxalic acid. Heating and combining with foods rich in calcium neutralize the acid. Solanine, on the other hand, is relatively heat-stable and potatoes with green spots should ideally be completely sorted out.
Can you lose weight healthily with sweet potatoes?
Due to its high water content and the extremely high amount of healthy ingredients, the sweet potato is ideal for a low-calorie, low-fat and vegan diet.
The carbohydrates saturate and the fiber saturate. Meals like the sweet potato curry will keep you full for a long time with moderate calories of 550 to 750 calories per meal. With the help of the potatoes, the amount of calories in hearty meals that contain fatty ingredients can be maintained.
The high-fiber and low-calorie tuber is mostly used in main meals. According to the American institute CSPI (Center of Science in the Public Interest), the sweet potato is the healthiest vegetable in the world.
Lose weight with sweet potatoes
For some years now, the sweet potato has been enjoying increasing popularity and is increasingly finding its way into the low-calorie and health-conscious diet of many Germans. Due to their high proportion of filling fiber, the likewise high water content and the comparatively low calorie content, the sweet potato is ideal as an energy donor and satiety maker.
In addition, it is versatile and extremely tasty when cooked, baked and deep-fried. In order to be able to incorporate the sweet potato perfectly into a diet, a gentle and low-calorie preparation method is recommended.
These mainly include steaming and cooking in a pot. This ensures that the health-promoting vitamins, minerals and trace elements remain intact until they are consumed and that the amount of calories does not increase due to added fats and oils.
Since sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic index, they ensure a longer satiety than normal potatoes. The carbohydrates of the orange tubers need more time to move
Healthy sweet potatoes for diabetics?
The caiapo contained in abundant sweet potatoes has been shown to improve the effectiveness of the insulin produced in the pancreas. This has a positive effect on the body’s own production and synthesis.
With regular consumption, the increased cholesterol level and blood sugar are lowered, so that it is beneficial for diabetics. In Kagawa, Japan, there are hardly any diabetes sufferers due to the sweet potato, as it is a staple food there.
The effects of the low glycemic index due to the high fiber content should also be mentioned: this only causes the blood sugar to rise slowly, so that the pancreas is spared and ideal production is promoted.
Why should you water sweet potatoes?
Sweet potatoes are high in carbohydrates. These carbohydrates are mainly made from starch. Since the starch plays an important role in further processing for some recipes, the freshly peeled and cut potatoes are placed in a container with cold water for a few hours.
The water removes some of the starch from the sweet potato over the course of the hours . This makes them more suitable for processing into french fries or potato sticks afterwards .
Sweet Potato For Building Muscle?
The body mainly needs proteins or so-called proteins to build muscle.
The sweet potato provides the body with around 1.6 grams of protein per 100 grams. This is not a very large amount, but the tuber has such a high quality protein that, according to the Canadian McMaster University, it can be used to maintain or build muscle mass. In addition to the highly potent protein, the potato has a large proportion of vitamins, carbohydrates, minerals and trace elements that are helpful for building muscle and an all-round healthy body.
Origin and economic importance of the sweet potato
The sweet potato we know has its origin in Central and South America and was cultivated as a useful and cultivated plant in these regions very early on. To this day it is cultivated in large parts of South America and shipped all over the world as food or export good. It is on the 3rd place in the world production of root and tuber food crops.
As a result of their millennia-old history, several hundred different varieties with their own shapes, colors, consistencies and nutritional values have developed.
Worldwide, by far the largest proportion of sweet potatoes is produced in the People’s Republic of China with almost 52 million tons per year.
In second place is the East African country of Malawi with 5.9 million tons produced, closely followed by Nigeria, which also produces a considerable amount of almost 4.5 million tons annually.
For comparison: the continent of Europe and all of its member states produced around 94 million tons in 2019.
Storage of the sweet potato:
When storing the sweet potatoes, make sure that the location is cool, dry and protected from light. Under these circumstances, the tubers have the longest shelf life and retain most of their valuable ingredients.
If the temperature is too high, the sweet potatoes may begin to ferment. It is advisable to consume them promptly and not to store them for more than 1-2 weeks, as sweet potatoes are more prone to discoloration or rotten spots due to their high water content.
Hi, my name is Matthias. I am a trained chef and have worked in restaurants for years. I turned my back on work in the restaurant so that I can realize my vision for healthy eating.