Sweet potato is a healthier alternative to normal potato. In this article, you discover why this is and what health benefits are.
At the bottom of this article, you will find 3 recipes so that you can conjure up delicious dishes with sweet potato on the table.
What you will learn in this article:
- What is sweet potato
- What the nutritional value of sweet potato is
- The 12 health benefits of sweet potatoes
What is sweet potato?
Sweet potato is a root vegetable that belongs to the Bind family. These starchy tubers can be cooked, fried, fried or eaten raw. This tuber is also called sweet potato, sweet sweet potato, sweet potato or yam.
The sweet potato can have a brown or purple skin. The inside can be orange, white or purple.
The variant with a brown skin and orange interior is most common in Dutch supermarkets. The purple can be found at some stores or specialty stores.
This sweet potato is a vegetable (a root vegetable) and not a family of the normal potato. The similarities are the way you can prepare them and they are both a good source of carbohydrates.
In the United States, they often call sweet potato (yam) sweet potato. The real yam, however, is another edible root tuber that resembles sweet potato only in terms of preparation.
On the image to the right, you see a yam.
Traditionally, sweet potato is served in the United States with Thanksgiving.
Other foods that are similar in preparation to potatoes are taro and Jerusalem artichoke. However, they are not related to the sweet potato or the normal potato.
Jerusalem artichoke grows just like potatoes underground. They are sweet and have a slightly nutty taste. Just like sweet and normal potato, Jerusalem artichoke is a good source of carbohydrates and fiber.
Taro are heavy root tubers that can weigh up to 4 kilos.
They consist of 25% starch and can be prepared in the same way as regular and sweet potatoes.
In 1492 Columbus probably brought the sweet potato to Europe.
In Central and South America the sweet potato has been grown for at least 10,000 years before it was brought to our continent.
From Spain and Portugal, the explorers took the sweet potato around the world. At the beginning of the 16 th century, the sweet potato had reached large parts of Africa, the Philippines, India, Indonesia and South Asia.
Large producers of sweet potatoes are China, Africa, Central and South America.
They are grown on a smaller scale in European countries such as Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy.
The Netherlands imports almost all of its sweet potatoes from the United States. In the Netherlands, experiments are being conducted on a small scale with the cultivation of sweet potatoes.
The sweet potato is gaining popularity. More and more people realize that the sweet potato can be a healthy alternative to the traditional potato. Domestic consumption of sweet potato is, therefore, growing by 10% to 20% per year.
You don’t expect it but sweet potatoes are sweet. This also makes them suitable for children who often prefer sweet.
They also have a little bit of a spicy taste. This made them suitable for both sweet and savoury dishes.
This way you can make sweet brownies but also a spicy curry. You will find the recipes for this at the bottom of this page.
Most people like sweet potatoes. They are even the dream of many vegetable haters; as sweet as candy and yet healthy.
Differences between a sweet potato and normal potato
A difference between the sweet potato and the normal potato is that the normal potato belongs to the nightshade family and the sweet potato does not.
Other well-known vegetable types that belong to the nightshade family are tomatoes, eggplant and red and green peppers.
Ordinary potatoes contain the toxic alkaloid solanine that can be used by people who are sensitive to this. These are complaints such as arthritis, painful knees and wrists and stiff joints.
When the potato plant came to Europe in the 17 th century it was initially thought that potatoes were not edible. This is because the berries, flowers and leaves of the plant turned out to be very toxic.
The potatoes were also found to be toxic, but not as bad as the rest of the plant.
A normal potato contains 40 mg of solanine per kilo. In places where the skin is green, or the potato is rotten, the potato contains more solanine. This can also be recognized by a very bitter taste.
An amount of 200 mg of solanine is harmful and a dose of 400 mg can even be fatal. This is equivalent to eating 10 kilos of potatoes.
Sometimes it is wrongly thought that only raw potatoes are toxic. However, this is not the case. Potato is just as poisonous as cooked.
Potatoes are not eaten raw because otherwise, they are not digestible. You can then suffer from stomach cramps, flatulence and diarrhoea.
Because a sweet potato does not belong to the nightshade family, it is well tolerated by people who are sensitive to this.
In contrast to the normal potato, the sweet potato can also be eaten raw.
Nutritional value of sweet potato versus normal potatoes
Fun all those facts about sweet potatoes, but what you’re really interested in is of course why you should exchange your trusted potatoes for sweet potatoes.
To make the comparison with normal potatoes easier, I have put them next to each other in the table below.
I started with peeled (sweet) potatoes that are cooked without salt. If they are raw, baked or fried, the nutritional value will be different.
|Nutritional value||Sweet nature. / 100 gr.||Ordinary nature. / 100 gr.|
|Energy||76 kcal||86 kcal|
|Fat||0 grams||0 grams|
|Of which saturated||0 grams||0 grams|
|Carbohydrates||18 grams||20 grams|
|Of which sugars||6 grams||1 gram|
|Including fibres||3 grams||2 grams|
|Egg whites||1 gram||2 grams|
On some sites, they provide tables with very different values. For example, I have seen tables where, for example, baked sweet potatoes are compared to cooked regular potatoes. Then you get a weird comparison.
This is because the processing has a significant influence on the final nutritional value.
The potato absorbs moisture by boiling, increasing its weight.
For example, a cooked sweet potato contains 18 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams, while it contains 21 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams when baked.
Carbohydrates in sweet potato
As you can see from the table above, the sweet potato has slightly fewer calories and carbohydrates and gives you more fiber.
Although it doesn’t matter much in terms of carbohydrates whether you eat sweet potatoes (18 grams) or regular potatoes (20 grams), there is an important difference.
The difference is the way your body processes the carbohydrates. The carbohydrates of sweet potatoes will not digest your body as quickly as the carbohydrates of normal potatoes.
Sweet potato carbohydrates consist of 53% complex carbohydrates. Your body will first have to digest it into simple carbohydrates before the blood can absorb the glucose.
This ensures that blood glucose rises less. The advantage of this is that your body needs less insulin. The more insulin is made, the sooner your body will be inclined to store fat.
32% of sweet potato carbohydrates are simple carbohydrates. These cause blood glucose to rise quickly. Thanks to the dietary fiber this effect is damped.
The glycemic index (GI) is sometimes used to determine how quickly a food product increases blood glucose. The higher this value, the faster it makes blood sugar rise.
The GI of cooked sweet potato is 46 . That is a lot lower than the GI of regular boiled potato, which is 78.
Some people also call the sweet potato a ‘superfood’.
Sweet potato with weight loss
Even if you want to lose weight, sweet potatoes are preferred over regular potatoes.
They contain slightly fewer carbohydrates which, moreover, are absorbed more slowly by the blood (in the form of glucose).
The slower release of glucose prevents a peak in insulin production. If there is a lot of insulin in the blood, the body starts storing fat. This makes it difficult to burn fat.
Sweet potato fries
Tasty sweet potato fries tonight? Well, that might not be such a good idea (sorry).
The way you prepare sweet potato (and regular potato) has a major influence on the starch.
If you are going to fry or bake sweet potato, then the GI can go up to 94 depending on the preparation time!
That is almost as high as the GI of pure glucose (GI = 100). This will increase blood glucose very quickly. That is why it is better not to fry or bake sweet potato if you have diabetes or if you are dieting.
If you exercise a lot and are healthy, it won’t hurt much if you make sweet potato fries every now and then, assuming you use a healthy oil such as coconut oil .
Vitamins in sweet potato
Compared to regular potato, sweet potato excels with vitamin A and beta-carotene. See the table below.
|Vitamins||Sweet nature. / 100 gr.||Ordinary nature. / 100 gr.|
|Vitamin A||15741 IU (315% RDA)||3 IU (0%)|
|Beta-carotene||9.44 mg||0 mg|
|Vitamin B1||0.1 mg (4% RDA)||0.1 mg (4% RDA)|
|Vitamin B2||0.05 mg (3% RDA)||0.01 mg (1% RDA)|
|Vitamin B3||0.5 mg (3% RDA)||1.3 mg (7% RDA)|
|Vitamin B6||0.2 mg (8% RDA)||0.3 mg (13% RDA)|
|Folic acid (vit. B11)||6 mcg (1% RDA)||9 mcg (2% RDA)|
|Vitamin C||12.8 mg (21% RDA)||7.4 mg (12% RDA)|
|Vitamin E||0.9 mg (5% RDA)||0 mg (0% RDA)|
|Vitamin K||2.1 mcg (3% RDA)||2.1 mcg (3% RDA)|
|Betaine (TMG)||0 mg||0.2 mg|
|Choline||10.8 mg||13.2 mg|
Vitamin A is important for growing children and is involved in the resistance, eyesight and health of the gums and skin.
If you eat normal and varied, then you don’t have to worry about a vitamin A deficiency.
Sweet potato is rich in beta-carotene. Beta-carotene provides the orange color of sweet potato and also gives carrots their orange color.
This bioactive substance has a function as pro-vitamin A and possibly as an antioxidant.
The liver stores beta-carotene and releases it, if necessary, for the production of vitamin A.
Minerals in sweet potato
Sweet potato and regular potato do not differ much when it comes to minerals. All minerals and trace elements that occur in sweet potatoes are also in normal potatoes.
Sweet potato versus regular potato (cooked).
|Minerals||Sweet nature. / 100 gr.||Ordinary nature. / 100 gr.|
|Calcium||27 mg (3% RDA)||8 mg (1% RDA)|
|Magnesium||18 mg (5% RDA)||20 mg (5% RDA)|
|Potassium||230 mg (7% RDA)||328 mg (9% RDA)|
|Phosphorus||32 mg (3% RDA)||40 mg (4% RDA)|
|Sodium||27 mg (1% RDA)||5 mg (0% RDA)|
|Iron||0.7 mg (4% RDA)||0.3 mg (2% RDA)|
|Manganese||0.3 mg (13% RDA)||0.1 mg (7% RDA)|
|Zinc||0.2 mg (1% RDA)||0.3 mg (2% RDA)|
|Copper||0.1 mg (5% RDA)||0.2 mg (9% RDA)|
|Selenium||0.2 mcg (0% RDA)||0.3 mcg (0% RDA)|
Health benefits of sweet potato
It may be clear that thanks to the many vitamins and minerals, a vegetable such as a sweet potato is good for your health.
For example, it contains a lot of vitamin C that is generally known to be good for resistance.
One portion is good for 40% to 50% of your daily vitamin C needs.
I am not going to explain here all the individual vitamins and minerals of sweet potato as health benefits. These vitamins and minerals are found in more vegetable types and if you eat a varied diet you do not have to worry that you will get a shortage of one of these.
Health benefit # 1: Good source of fiber
You probably already knew that fibers are important for your health.
Most guidelines assume 14 grams of fiber for every 1000 calories you eat. This means that the average man should eat 38 grams and the average woman 25 grams of fiber per day.
Boiled sweet potatoes give 3 grams of fiber per 100 grams. This amounts to around 6 to 7.5 grams of fiber per serving.
Sweet potatoes contain both soluble (15 to 23%) and insoluble (77 to 85%) fibers.
The soluble fiber in sweet potato is pectin (a polysaccharide) which has the property of forming a gel with sugar . This gel prevents sugars from being absorbed by the blood quickly.
The insoluble fibers are good for the health of the intestines and act as prebiotics ( source ).
Health benefit # 2: Good source of antioxidants
Antioxidants are bioactive substances that capture free radicals. Free radicals can damage the cells and tissue, which in time will increase the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Antioxidants contained in sweet potato are beta-carotene, chlorogenic acid, esculetin, scopoletin and umbelliferon.
Purple sweet potato also contains the antioxidant anthocyanin and higher concentrations of the aforementioned antioxidants ( source ).
Purple sweet potato powder is also available. This extract contains a high concentration of anthocyanins.
The antioxidant effect of purple sweet potatoes is three times higher than that of blueberries! And we know that blueberries contain a lot of antioxidants ( source ).
The darker the color of a vegetable or fruit, the more antioxidants it will contain (generally).
Health Benefit # 3: Helps prevent bad eyes
Vitamin A deficiency can cause permanent eye damage, which can even cause blindness. Sweet potato contains so much vitamin A that with a few bites you will have all your daily recommended amount.
Vitamin A also plays a role in protecting the skin against harmful influences of UV radiation and the resistance to pathogens.
In the Netherlands, vitamin A deficiency is not an issue because we have enough and varied food here.
But in developing countries, a vitamin A deficiency is a serious and major health problem, especially among children and pregnant women ( source ).
Vitamin A is also found in animal products such as liver, meat, fish, egg and dairy . It is also added to margarines and baking and roasting products. The body can also produce it from beta-carotene.
If you use vitamin A supplements while you also regularly eat diet rich in vitamin A, you run the risk of getting vitamin A poisoning . Which gives all sorts of annoying symptoms such as headache and fatigue.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin. By eating sweet potato in combination with something fatty, the vitamins are better absorbed. A tablespoon of olive oil is enough.
Health benefit # 4: Good source of vitamins
Sweet potatoes are rich in many vitamins and minerals and offer an excellent source of beta-carotene and vitamin C.
Beta-carotene is converted in the human body to vitamin A. The recommended daily amount of vitamin A can be achieved by eating only 100 grams of sweet potatoes.
Vitamin A is crucial during pregnancy and during breastfeeding. Vitamin A has an important role in the healthy development of the fetus and the newly born baby ( source).
Health Benefit # 5: It is rich in the “anti-stress mineral”
Sweet potatoes contain a good amount of magnesium, which is an essential mineral for the normal functioning of the body ( source ).
One of the most important benefits of magnesium is that it helps to reduce stress and anxiety ( source ). For example, sweet potatoes can supplement the magnesium level in the body and alleviate the symptoms of depression and anxiety in people with magnesium deficiency.
In addition, magnesium has been found to reduce insomnia in older people ( source .) Insomnia is a trigger for stress, depression and anxiety, which is annoying because more than 50% of the elderly suffer from some form of lack of sleep.
Health Benefit # 6: Good for digestion
Sweet potatoes contain large amounts of fiber that contribute to good intestinal health and improved digestion ( source ).
The high fiber content of sweet potatoes can also help prevent constipation in both children and adults.
Health Benefit # 7: Promotes fertility
Sweet potatoes contain a healthy dose of iron. This mineral can help promote fertility in women of childbearing age.
Research shows that anemia or iron deficiency is a cause of infertility in women ( source ).
Researchers have shown that the treatment of an iron deficiency (by increasing the iron intake through food) can lead to women getting pregnant again several months to a year after treatment.
Health advantage # 8: Anti-inflammatory effect
Sweet potatoes contain a significant amount of vitamins, most of which have powerful anti-inflammatory properties.
Research into the purple sweet potato has shown that the extracts of the vegetable variant had the capacity to inhibit inflammation in the body ( source ).
Sweet potatoes also have a high concentration of choline, which is an essential nutrient. One of the main benefits of choline is that it reduces inflammatory responses in the body, resulting in lower inflammatory activity ( source ).
Other studies have shown that extracts of the purple sweet potato contain anthocyanins (natural colorants), which have been found to be essential in reducing and preventing inflammation in colon cancer cells, as well as the reduction of cell growth in specific cancer cells ( source ).
In short, the presence of anthocyanins and choline in sweet potatoes make these types of potatoes an important source of nutrition in preventing and reducing chronic inflammation in the body.
Health Benefit # 9: Good for diabetics
As mentioned earlier, the GI value of the sweet potato is much lower than the normal potato.
The relatively low value means that the sweet potato slowly releases sugar into the bloodstream, unlike other starchy products.
This steady release of sugar into the bloodstream helps to stabilize blood sugar so that it does not get too low or too high. In this way, sweet potatoes can be used to regulate blood sugar levels, especially in people with diabetes ( source ).
Sweet potatoes are rich in insoluble fiber. Insoluble fibers have their own role in the fight against diabetes.
Sweet potatoes are also an important source of magnesium. A magnesium deficiency is associated with the development of type 2 diabetes ( source ).
This does not mean that sweet potato is still a very carbohydrate-rich food.
Attention should therefore be paid to the portion of large, sweet potatoes that do have a major influence on blood glucose!
But if you have to choose between normal potatoes or sweet ones, you better go for the sweet potato.
Health benefit # 10: Provides antimicrobial properties
Despite the fact that studies on the antimicrobial properties of sweet potatoes are limited, a number of scientific studies have shown that the sweet potato has antimicrobial properties ( source ).
This means that consuming sweet potatoes can be useful in combating infections.
Health benefit # 11: Can help against ulcers
An ulcer occurs when inflamed tissue is expelled from the mucosa or skin. An ulcer can be quite painful.
Animal studies have shown that the methanol extract from the root of a sweet potato can protect the digestive organs against stomach ulcers caused by, for example, the use of aspirin ( source ).
Health Benefit # 12: Slow carbohydrates
You can eat sweet potatoes as a carbohydrate source, for example instead of potato, rice or pasta. They have a health benefit over these traditional carbohydrate sources; the carbohydrates are converted to glucose less quickly.
All sugars and carbohydrates that you eat are broken down into glucose, after which the blood can absorb this. To be able to absorb the glucose from the blood, your pancreas produces insulin.
The insulin acts as a kind of key on your cells and opens the ‘doors’ of the cells so that they can absorb the glucose from the blood.
Your pancreas needs to produce more insulin the more glucose there is in the blood.
If the insulin values are high, the body will store and retain fat. This allows you to arrive and it is difficult to burn fat. Insulin is therefore also called the thickening hormone.
For our health it is therefore important that the insulin values do not rise too high after meals. Eating the complex carbohydrates that sweet potatoes contain helps with this.
Because it takes a lot of time for your body to break down the complex carbohydrates into glucose, a more gradual release of glucose into the blood results. This means that less insulin is needed.
You can eat, cook or steam sweet potato raw to take advantage of the slow carbohydrates.
As soon as your sweet potato starts to bake or deep-fry, the chemical structure changes so that the carbohydrates will be absorbed by the blood much faster. You can therefore best cook or steam them.
Sweet potato recipes
Want to eat something with sweet potato tonight? This vegetable is so versatile that you can use it as a starter, main dish and dessert. Hopefully I can inspire you with the recipes below.
When preparing sweet potato, you can choose to leave the skin on. This is where most nutrients are found. You have to wash the sweet potato well and remove any hard or bad pieces.
Recipe # 1: starter – spicy sweet potato carrot soup
This soup is a true beta-carotene bomb thanks to the use of sweet potato and carrot, both of which are rich in this.
The olive oil in the soup ensures your daily dose of healthy fatty acids and that the vitamins can be properly absorbed by the body.
The curry spices provide a wonderfully spicy taste. You can also use turmeric as a variation on this, which is also very tasty and you then immediately benefit from the many health benefits of turmeric .
- 3 sweet potatoes
- 2 large roots
- 2 shallots
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 chicken or vegetable stock cube
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Peel the sweet potatoes and the carrots with a peeler. Cut them into cubes of approximately one centimeter.
- Peel the shallots and cut into large pieces.
- Finely chop the garlic or use a garlic press.
- Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and fry them for 3 minutes.
- Then add the sweet potato, sausage, ginger and curry powder. Bake for 2 minutes while constantly stirring.
- Add 750 ml of water and the stock cube. Stir everything so that the block can dissolve. Then put the lid on the pan and let it simmer for 20 minutes on low heat.
- Add salt and black ground pepper to taste.
- Finally puree everything nice and smooth with a hand blender.
To make the soup creamier, use less water and add a can of coconut milk when pureeing. You can also put a tablespoon of yogurt or cream in every dish when serving.
To make the soup a little fresher you can squeeze the juice of half a lime over the pan of soup. It is also nice to garnish the soup with a handful of freshly sliced coriander.
Recipe # 2: main course: vegetarian sweet potato curry
We have this super healthy version for curry lovers.
There is no meat in this curry, but you don’t have to worry about proteins, the chickpeas take care of that. These contain no less than 19 grams of protein per 100 grams.
You can serve this curry with (brown rice) or quinoa to make it extra healthy.
- 1 large sweet potato
- 1 can of chickpeas of 400 grams
- 1 can of 400 gram tomato cubes
- 1 can of coconut milk (400 ml)
- 1 yellow onion
- 1 red chili pepper
- 1 beef tomato
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 teaspoon finely sliced fresh ginger
- 50 grams finely sliced fresh coriander
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- ½ teaspoon of cinnamon powder
- ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon of coriander seeds
- ½ teaspoon of ground cumin seeds
- ½ teaspoon of crushed cloves
- Salt to taste
- Finely chop the onion and put them in a large pan and fry for a few minutes in the coconut oil.
- Meanwhile, finely chop the garlic and chili pepper.
- Add the garlic and chili to the onions and all herbs with the exception of the fresh coriander. Leave everything on a low heat for a few minutes while you stir it, this way all flavors are released.
- In the meantime, peel the sweet potato and cut it into cubes of approximately one centimeter. Also dice the beef tomato.
- Open the can of chickpeas and drain them and add them to the pan. Also add the tomato cube from the can, the beef tomato, the coconut milk and the diced sweet potato.
- Lower the heat and put a lid on the pan. Let everything simmer for 30 to 45 minutes so that the flavors can absorb well. Stir everything occasionally. Halfway you add the salt and you can taste if you have used enough herbs.
- Stir in the freshly cut coriander at the last minute.
- Serve the curry with (brown rice) rice or quinoa
Recipe # 3: dessert: sweet potato brownies
Brownies are a real treat, as desserts or as a snack. It is just such a shame that they are made from large quantities of butter, flour and sugar. So many calories and refined carbohydrates.
This sweet potato variant is less calorie-rich than traditional brownies. Thanks to the use of avocado , these healthy fatty acids and the eggs provide healthy proteins.
Now you may wonder if the brownies will not taste like vegetables because of the sweet potatoes or have a strange structure?
The opposite is true. The sweet potatoes are perfectly suited to give these brownies the structure that resembles that of regular brownies and they are delicious.
The sugar has been replaced by honey and apple sauce which is better than refined granulated sugar.
- 1 sweet potato
- 1 avocado
- 4 eggs
- 100 ml apple sauce
- 80 ml of honey
- 30 grams of coconut flour
- 125 grams of cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- Peel the sweet potato and cut it into cubes of approximately one centimeter.
- Boil the sweet potato for 20 minutes and drain the water.
- Mash the sweet potato with a mashed potato mash.
- Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius.
- Coat a baking dish with coconut oil so that you can easily remove the brownie later.
- Peel the avocado and cut it into pieces.
- Put the sweet potato puree, avocado, honey, apple sauce and vanilla in a large bowl and stir well with a fork or use a powerful food processor. Once you have a nice whole, add the cocoa powder and stir it well.
- Then add the eggs, 1 by 1.
- In a separate bowl, stir together the coconut flour, the arrowroot, baking powder and salt. You then add this to the large bowl, after which you mix all the ingredients well.
- Put the whole in the baking dish and bake it for 30 minutes until the brownie has a nice brown crust.