So many of us love sweet potatoes. Perhaps it is because they can be made into both savory and sweet dishes. Maybe it is because of their delicious flavor. Or maybe it is because we think that they are a healthy addition to our diet. But are they? I am going to give you the facts about sweet potatoes and you can decide for yourself if these beautiful, orange root vegetables should be a staple in your diet or a once in awhile treat.
Sweet potatoes are a root vegetable and while not all root vegetables are starchy, these are higher in starch than others. High starch means that they are higher in carbohydrates than other veggies. For example, one half cup of mashed sweet potatoes has about 29 grams of carbs whereas the same amount of carrots has about 7. One way to look at this is to say that you should not make sweet potatoes a big part of your diet if you are trying to control carbs. But, if you are carbo-loading or need to add healthy carbs to your meal plan, sweet potatoes are a good way to go. Sweet potatoes can also be a better choice than regular potatoes because they are higher in fiber and contain antioxidants.
The rich orange color in sweet potatoes comes from beta carotene which is a rich antioxidant providing protection from free radical damage in cells in our bodies. It can not only aid in prevention of serious diseases and illnesses, it can reverse some of the damage that we have already incurred from dietary and environmental factors. It is said to facilitate lung strength while aging and lower the risk of getting cancer and heart disease. Scientists have reported since 2007 that beta carotene is directly related to better cognitive abilities when taken long term. So start incorporating sweet potatoes into your diet now to stack up the health benefits!
As far as calories go, sweet potatoes fair pretty well. In the 1/2 cup serving we have been discussing, there are only about 125 calories. With 7% of the calories being from protein and only 2% being from fat, it sure is obvious that there are some great advantages to eating sweet potatoes while watching the carbs. The real calorie issue comes into play when people add toppings to their sweet potato. Butter, brown sugar, cottage cheese and other toppings make those calories add up fast! People add more toppings than needed to make the sweet potato less dry but this can lead to over eating unwanted calories and fats. Sweet potatoes are healthier in the body when taken with a small amount of natural fats though, so a light drizzle of olive oil is perfect to moisten and add a bit of flavor. You can always add water or healthy nut milks as well.
Protein and Other Nutrients
Eating sweet potatoes raises the levels of Vitamin A in our blood stream which undoubtedly promotes better vision, jump starts the immune system, promotes cell growth and increases the health of our internal organs. Additionally, in a 1/2 cup serving, there is a little more than 2 grams of protein to build lean muscle, 4 grams of dietary fiber for digestive health and 35% of what you eat is packed with Vitamin C. The Vitamin C provides immune protection as we all know, but also heals wounds and supports the growth and repair of bones, cartilage and teeth.
Are Sweet Potatoes Healthy?
By reading the information above it is obvious that sweet potatoes have many incredible health benefits that come from their powerful ingredients. Being cognizant of the fat and calories in toppings and recipe ingredients will help keep the portions beneficial to dietary goals. Overall, sweet potatoes are not only useful to the human body but actually necessary for both immediate and preventative health.
If you would like some recipes and ideas for how to prepare sweet potatoes you may enjoy these articles:
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