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Sweet potato is a staple food and a popularly used vegetable across the world. This root vegetable is used to make savoury as well as sweet dishes. In India, sweet potatoes are also sold as a popular street food in parts of North India and used extensively in cooking during the winter months. Sweet potatoes come in many colours, including orange, white and purple.

Like most vegetables, sweet potatoes are packed with carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Being so nutritionally packed makes sweet potatoes a healthy food that you should include in your regular diet. However, excessive consumption of sweet potatoes may also have adverse effects on your health. This is why it is important to consume sweet potatoes moderately and consult a nutritionist or doctor about how much to consume, how to cook and which variety to eat if you have any underlying health conditions, are on medications or are experiencing any side effects.

Did you know?

Many people assume that sweet potato is healthier than the regular white potato, but the fact is that these varieties of potatoes have very small nutritional differences. Sweet potatoes are a bit sweeter in taste and packed with more vitamin A, while white potatoes are savoury and have a higher concentration of potassium. Since both potato varieties consist of carbohydrates, it is recommended that you watch your intake of both as it can lead to weight gain.

Some basic facts about sweet potato:

  • Botanical name: Ipomoea batatas
  • Family: Convolvulaceae
  • Common name: Sweet potato, shakarkandi, ranga aloo
  • Sanskrit name: Mishtalukam
  • Parts used: The entire root vegetable, including the skin
  • Native region and geographical distribution: Sweet potato is produced in 117 countries of the world, with China being both the largest producer and consumer of this root vegetable. It is produced in almost all the states of India, with Odisha, Kerala, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh being the lead producers.
  1. Sweet potato nutrition facts
  2. Benefits of sweet potato
  3. Side effects of sweet potato
  4. Takeaways
Doctors for Sweet potato: Nutrition facts, benefits, side effects

Like most root vegetables, sweet potatoes are packed with macronutrients and micronutrients that have many benefits to offer. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the following are the nutritional facts for raw sweet potatoes. These nutritional values may change once the sweet potatoes are cooked and changes may also depend on the cooking method used.

Nutrient Value per 100g
Water 77.28 g
Energy 86 kcal
Protein 1.57 g
Total lipid (fat) 0.05 g
Carbohydrate, by difference 20.12 g
Fiber, total dietary 3 g
Sugars, total including NLEA 4.18 g
Vitamins  
Vitamin A, RAE 709 µg
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid 2.4 mg
Vitamin E 0.26 mg
Vitamin K 1.8 µg
Minerals  
Calcium 30 mg
Iron 0.61 mg
Magnesium 25 mg
Phosphorus 47 mg
Potassium 337 mg
Sodium 55 mg
Zinc 0.3 mg
Manganese 0.258 mg

Sweet potato is a versatile vegetable which is packed with carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. What’s more, sweet potato also contains beta-carotene, anthocyanins and phenolic compounds in high amounts. These antioxidants also add to the nutritional value of sweet potatoes and help impart many health benefits. Sweet potatoes are also a good baby food option when infants are to start on solid foods. The following are all the health benefits you can get from consuming sweet potatoes.

(Read more: Best foods for your six-month-old baby)

Sweet potato improves digestive health

Sweet potato, like all root vegetables, is packed with dietary fiber. This fiber in sweet potato is both soluble and insoluble in nature and can therefore benefit your digestive system in many ways. Not only can it add bulk to your stool to relieve constipation but can also promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria and keep your intestinal lining in good working order. This way, eating sweet potatoes can help prevent digestive disorders, diarrhea, stomach pain and other issues. Some studies show that sweet potato consumption may also lower the risk of colorectal cancer.

(Read more: Fiber-rich foods)

Sweet potato helps maintain vision health

Vitamin A is a vital nutrient for vision and eye health. Vitamin A deficiency can damage your vision and lead to the development of eye diseases. Sweet potatoes are packed with beta-carotene and vitamin A, both of which are required to prevent blindness, night blindness, cataracts and macular degeneration. Consuming sufficient amounts of sweet potatoes may also help prevent and aid recovery from eye infections.

(Read more: Eye disorders)

Sweet potato may boost immunity

Your immune system requires sufficient amounts of macronutrients and micronutrients to function properly. Sweet potatoes are packed with many essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that can give a weak immune system a much-needed boost. Vitamin A and C and minerals like iron, potassium, phosphorus and calcium are all required by your immune system to gain strength - and these are all the nutrients found in large concentrations in sweet potatoes.

Sweet potato may benefit brain health

Sweet potatoes are exceptionally packed with antioxidants that are known to improve brain health. These antioxidants like anthocyanins and beta-carotenes not only protect your brain from inflammation, oxidative stress and free radical damage but are also believed to improve memory, learning and other cognitive functions. Some studies show that eating sweet potatoes may also reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

(Read more: Home remedies to improve memory)

Sweet potato may promote fertility

Infertility is a problem on the rise globally and it affects both men and women. In the case of women, iron deficiency, anemia and vitamin A deficiency can contribute to infertility. This is why women of childbearing age must consume plenty of iron and vitamin A through their diet. In fact, dietary supplements for iron and other micronutrients may also be prescribed to women who want to get pregnant. Sweet potatoes are packed with these micronutrients and so, consuming this root vegetable may improve fertility.

(Read more: How to get pregnant)

Sweet potato may reduce inflammation

Choline is a micronutrient that helps reduce inflammation of all types and is found in abundance in sweet potatoes. Choline not only reduces intestinal inflammation but may also reduce lung inflammation linked with asthma. In fact, a high dosage of choline supplements is provided to people with chronic inflammation too. This apart, vitamin C, beta-carotene and anthocyanins also help reduce internal and external inflammation.

(Read more: Inflammatory disease)

Sweet potato may help blood sugar control

In diabetes or prediabetes, doctors recommend you eat low-glycemic index foods for better insulin control. Sweet potatoes have a low glycemic index of 46, which means that consuming them in moderate or low proportions is safe for diabetes patients. This root vegetable is also packed with dietary fiber, which can help control blood sugar and may improve insulin sensitivity. However, excessive consumption of sweet potatoes may lead to adverse blood sugar effects, so consult a doctor or nutritionist to know the amount you can safely consume.

(Read more: Insulin resistance)

Sweet potato may aid weight gain

Sweet potatoes are packed with carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that not only improve your immune system but may also help you gain weight. This root vegetable also contains a large amount of starch, which assists in weight gain. Proper weight gain is very important for those recovering from infections or those who suffer from malnutrition. Sweet potatoes are easy to digest and help add mass to your body.

(Read more: Weight gain foods)

Sweet potato may lower cancer risks

Some test-tube studies have shown that the anthocyanins produced in sweet potato may lower the risk of certain cancers like colon cancer, stomach cancer, bladder cancer and even breast cancer. Other studies show that the beta-carotene in sweet potatoes may help prevent ovarian cancer in postmenopausal women. However, more scientific evidence is required to establish these claims.

There are many benefits to consuming sweet potatoes. However, excessive consumption of sweet potatoes may also cause negative health effects. Sweet potatoes are, after all, primarily a type of carbohydrate. The micronutrients that make sweet potatoes beneficial may also lead to toxicity if you consume them in large quantities. The following are the side effects of eating sweet potatoes.

Sweet potato may worsen kidney problems

If you have a weak kidney or suffer from a diagnosed kidney disease, then doctors may advise you to stay away from foods that contain potassium. Sweet potatoes contain high levels of potassium, so if you do have any kidney problems then avoiding this root vegetable, or only consuming small or limited amounts on the recommendation of a doctor, is important. Further, sweet potatoes are also high in calcium and oxalates, which can accumulate in your kidneys and make kidney stones.

(Read more: Kidney stones diet)

Sweet potato may react with medications - Shakarkandi ke nuksan in hindi

If you are on certain kinds of nutrients or compounds through medications then dietary sources of the same compounds must be controlled. If not, excess amounts of this compound may lead to toxicity and adverse reactions in your body. If you are on beta-blockers for a diagnosed heart condition like arrhythmia, then you may have to reduce or avoid eating sweet potatoes. This is because sweet potatoes contain high levels of potassium, which can lead to potassium toxicity in your body when combined with beta-blockers.

Sweet potato can affect skin health

While sweet potatoes are packed with vitamins A and E, both of which are beneficial for your skin health, there are some adverse effects of consuming too much of this vegetable too. Sweet potatoes have high amounts of vitamin A and which the body stores very easily. If there is an excess of vitamin A stores in your body then it can lead to an orange-ish tinge on your skin. Thankfully, stopping or minimising the consumption of sweet potatoes when this symptom appears will return your skin complexion back to normal soon.

Sweet potato may cause weight gain

Sweet potatoes are carbohydrates that are starchy in nature. If you suffer from malnutrition or any other nutritional deficiency then eating sweet potatoes may not cause you much harm, especially if you are doing so under the guidance of a doctor. However, if you already are overweight or prone to obesity then consuming excess amounts of sweet potatoes can cause your weight to spike and lead to issues like morbid obesity.

Sweet potatoes are a staple food in countries like India where large amounts of this root vegetable are produced and consumed on a regular basis. Sweet potatoes are made into a variety of curries, stuffed breads and other recipes in India. This inclusion of sweet potatoes in the regular Indian diet has its benefits and side effects too. On the plus side, consuming sweet potatoes may boost your immune system, reduce inflammation, promote fertility and even help prevent cancer. On the other hand, excessive consumption of sweet potatoes can cause weight gain and kidney stones. Sweet potatoes may even negatively interact with medications for heart diseases. 

(Read more: Healthy recipes)

The best way to deal with this dilemma regarding whether or not to consume sweet potatoes is to consult a doctor with a comprehensive medical history for yourself and your family. The expert may help you decide how much sweet potato you and your family members can consume safely. This apart, you should also opt for healthy methods to cook sweet potatoes. Since this vegetable is already starchy, avoid adding too many spices, oils, fats and cheese to it and try not to pair it with more carbs like rice or roti. Boiling, steaming, baking and roasting may be the healthiest ways to cook sweet potatoes.

Dt. Akanksha Mishra

Dt. Akanksha Mishra

Nutritionist
8 Years of Experience

Surbhi Singh

Surbhi Singh

Nutritionist
22 Years of Experience

Dr. Avtar Singh Kochar

Dr. Avtar Singh Kochar

Nutritionist
20 Years of Experience

Dr. priyamwada

Dr. priyamwada

Nutritionist
7 Years of Experience

References

  1. FoodData Central. United States Department of Agriculture. Washington D.C. USA; Sweet potato, raw, unprepared (Includes foods for USDA's Food Distribution Program)
  2. Bovell-Benjamin, Adelia C. Sweet Potato: A Review of its Past, Present, and Future Role in Human Nutrition. Advances in Food and Nutrition Research Volume 52, 2007, Pages 1-59.
  3. Tanaka, Masaru. et al. Functional components in sweetpotato and their genetic improvement. Breed Sci. 2017 Jan; 67(1): 52–61. PMID: 28465668
  4. Neela, Satheesh and Fanta, Solomon W. Review on nutritional composition of orange‐fleshed sweet potato and its role in management of vitamin A deficiency. Food Sci Nutr. 2019 Jun; 7(6): 1920–1945. PMID: 31289641
  5. Wang, Sunan. et al. Chemical constituents and health effects of sweet potato. Food Res Int . 2016 Nov;89(Pt 1):90-116. PMID: 28460992
  6. Dincer, Cunait. et al. Effects of baking and boiling on the nutritional and antioxidant properties of sweet potato [Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam.] cultivars. Plant Foods Hum Nutr . 2011 Nov;66(4):341-7. PMID: 22101780
  7. Garner, Tyler. et al. Sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) attenuates diet-induced aortic stiffening independent of changes in body composition. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab . 2017 Aug;42(8):802-809. PMID: 28288284
  8. Jaarsveld, Paul J van. et al. Beta-carotene-rich orange-fleshed sweet potato improves the vitamin A status of primary school children assessed with the modified-relative-dose-response test. Am J Clin Nutr . 2005 May;81(5):1080-7. PMID: 15883432
  9. Ooi, Cheow Peng. et al. Sweet potato for type 2 diabetes mellitus. Cochrane Database Syst Rev . 2012 Feb 15;(2):CD009128. PMID: 22336861
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