Skip to content

Sweet Potato

Importance, benefits and uses of sweet potatoes

Sweet potato, also known as sweet potato or sweet potato, is one of nature’s most nutritious vegetables . Find out below everything you need to know about this delicious tuber, its characteristics, properties, origin, types, nutritional information, healthy benefits, ways of preparation, possible contraindications and other information of interest about sweet potatoes.

What are sweet potatoes?

The sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas), also known as sweet potato, sweet potato or sweet potato, depending on the country you are in, is an edible tuber originating from South America . This tuberous root can have different shapes and colors; Depending on the variety grown, the skin and meat can be white, yellow or orange; It has a fibrous internal texture and its flavor, delicious sweet, resembles a mixture between pumpkin and potato.

Characteristics and data of interest about the sweet potato

  • Although the taste of sweet potatoes is sweet, it barely has 3% sugars among its components.
  • The term “sweet potato” comes from the Greek, and means “similar to potato.”
  • Its caloric value amounts to 90 calories for each serving of 100 grams.
  • It has 0% cholesterol and 0% fat.
  • The most important nutrient in sweet potatoes is vitamin C – a large sweet potato contains more than 70% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C, more than double that of potatoes!
  • In addition to the tuber, you can eat the leaves, shoots and stem of the plant, which are extremely nutritious and taste similar to spinach.

Potato types

There are more than 400 types of sweet potatoes , which differ from each other by their external appearance (color and texture) and internal appearance (main benefits). Here we describe 6 of the most common varieties:

  • Yellow sweet potato . Yellow sweet potatoes, also known as orange sweet potatoes, have a yellow rind and an orange interior. It is the sweetest and most widespread variety of sweet potato.
  • Purple sweet potato . The purple sweet potato owes its name to the purplish color it presents both externally and internally. This variety is popular in Mexico, although it also has a significant presence in China.
  • White sweet potato . The white sweet potato is the one that most closely resembles traditional potatoes. It is a very faint yellow color and is also rich in starch.
  • Red sweet potato . The red sweet potato is one of the less common types of sweet potato in Hispanic countries, however its production is very high in Japan. It is a tuber with a sweet taste and reddish skin, with a cream to yellow, almost orange interior.
  • Sweet potato from the hill . Although its name can cause confusion, in reality the sweet potato of the hill is a variety of wild yam that belongs to the Dioscorea genus of plants; popularly known as yams . By contrast, sweet potatoes belong to a different genus, called Ipomoea. The inside of this sweet potato is white and its skin is very similar to the color of wood; in fact, at first glance it is similar to a tree trunk. It is consumed mainly in Mexico, although it can also be found in other areas of Central America and the Caribbean. More in:  Camote del Cerro: Properties, Benefits and Consumption .
  • Wild sweet potato.  Like the hill sweet potato, the wild sweet potato  does not belong to the sweet potato family, but is a type of yam that grows wild, mostly in North America, the Caribbean and South America. Its appearance is very similar to that of other yams; It has a dark brown skin and its flesh is white. Although in some regions it is consumed as food, this tuber is used more as a supplement to alleviate various health conditions, especially the symptoms of menopause. More in:  Wild or Wild Sweet Potato: properties, what it is for and main contraindications

Nutritional properties of sweet potato

Sweet potatoes are one of nature’s most nutritious vegetables . Although the leaves and shoots of the plant are also edible, its tuberous roots are the most important product due to its high starch content. In some tropical areas it is a staple food, since in addition to being an important source of energy, it provides dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin B6.

Nutritional information (1 cup sweet potato, 133g):

  • Calories: 114
  • Grease: 0.1 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodio: 73 mg (3%)
  • Potasio: 448 mg (12%)
  • Carbohydrates: 27 g (9%)
  • Dietary fiber: 4 g (16%)
  • Azúcar: 6 g
  • Protein: 2.1 g (4%)
  • Vitamin A: 377%
  • Vitamin C: 5%
  • Calcium: 4%
  • Iron: 4%
  • Vitamin B-6: 15%
  • Magnesium: 8%

Importance, benefits and uses of sweet potatoes

Consuming sweet potatoes on a regular basis is said to help speed up metabolism and promote overall good health. It is a highly suggested food for those who:

  • suffer from constipation , as it is high in fiber; fiber is a fundamental component to achieve good digestion and promote regular bowel movements.
  • are trying to lose weight or gain muscle mass , since on the one hand it provides a feeling of satiety, and on the other, it constitutes a source of complex carbohydrates.
  • They practice sports or other high-impact physical activities, since thanks to its sugars, sweet potatoes are a natural generator of energy .
  • they are going through menopause or andropause , because the phytoestrogens present in this tuber help regulate the hormonal changes typical of both stages.

Incorporating sweet potato into your meals will provide you with the following benefits:

  • Improves digestion . Sweet potato is rich in fiber, in fact, it contains more fiber than potato. The fiber, together with other minerals present in the sweet potato, such as magnesium, makes this tuber an excellent facilitator of digestion; It is a soothing food for the stomach and intestines, which favors the purification of toxic agents and their expulsion from the body.
  • Helps treat inflammation. Thanks to their beta-carotene, vitamin C, and magnesium content, sweet potatoes have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Helps boost the immune system. The sweet potato is an excellent stimulant of the immune system thanks to its content of beta-carotene (antioxidant), B-complex vitamins, vitamin C and minerals such as iron and phosphorus. All of these nutrients help strengthen immunity and maintain a healthy body.
  • Helps treat asthma and bronchitis . The concentration of vitamin C, iron and other nutrients in this tuber helps to cure diseases of the respiratory tract. Sweet potato has traditionally been used to relieve congestion in the nose, bronchial tubes, and lungs. Sweet potatoes are believed to be capable of warming the body, possibly due to the sweetness and other nutrients that activate metabolism and affect body temperature. This property is beneficial for people suffering from asthma and bronchitis.
  • Helps reduce arthritis pain. Beta-carotene, magnesium, zinc, and B vitamins make sweet potatoes a useful food in controlling arthritis. In fact, the water in which sweet potatoes are boiled has traditionally been used as a home remedy for relieving arthritis pain.
  • Helps treat cancer. Beta-carotene, one of the most powerful antioxidants, is the pigment responsible for giving sweet potatoes their color. This compound, together with vitamin C, creates a very beneficial combination for the natural treatment of various types of cancer, mainly colon, bowel, prostate and kidney cancer, among others.
  • Helps treat stomach ulcers. Its soothing action on the stomach and intestines, the healing power of its main nutrients, its laxative and antacid effect, as well as its anti-inflammatory properties, make the sweet potato an excellent ally to prevent and treat stomach ulcers.
  • Helps to control diabetes. Contrary to popular belief, sweet potatoes are beneficial for diabetic patients. Its consumption has been proven to help regulate blood sugar levels and promote proper insulin secretion. This does not mean that people with diabetes should eat sweet potato in large portions, but it is certainly a healthier option compared to other foods such as rice, potatoes, bread or refined carbohydrates.
  • Promotes the health of the heart system. Sweet potato is excellent for improving blood circulation and this in turn affects the health of the entire cardiovascular system.
  • It is compatible with a vegan diet. The sweet potato has become one of the essential vegetables in the vegan diet, since it provides numerous nutrients to the body, including proteins that are usually found in foods of animal origin.
  • It is a restorer of vision : Some studies claim that sweet potatoes may have a beneficial effect for people with reduced night vision.

How to use sweet potato in the kitchen?

Sweet potatoes are a recurring ingredient in cuisines and recipes around the world. They can be consumed:

  • Baked sweet potato : without accompaniment, filled with cream, ground beef, or roasted with other vegetables.
  • Fried sweet potato:  once fried, it can be sprinkled with the condiments or dressings of your choice.
  • Boiled or Pureed Sweet Potatoes : Some people prefer to boil their sweet potato for faster cooking. It can be served sprinkled with a fine herb, such as thyme, or mashed into a puree.
  • Sweet Potato Smoothie:  Place ice, milk, banana, and sweet potato chunks in a blender for a delicious sweet potato smoothie.
  • Snack : it is an option to replace French fries. If you like to experiment, cut a sweet potato into very thin slices and place on a baking sheet; cook until they reach the desired crisp point and sprinkle with oregano, chili, pepper or the spice of your choice.
  • Sweet Potato Sweet:  To prepare a homemade sweet potato sweet recipe you first need to boil 2 sweet potatoes and mash them, reserving while you cook a syrup. Once you get the syrup, you should add the sweet potato paste and mix very well. Next, heat water with gelatin in a separate pot and add a splash of vanilla essence. Finally, add the sweet potato paste, mix everything, place in a mold and put it to cool in the fridge.

To learn how to cook sweet potatoes step by step, follow the instructions in the following video:

Contraindications and side effects

Although the sweet potato is a safe food and constitutes one of the most popular root vegetables along with potatoes, beets and carrots, it is not without its contraindications. In the first place, its consumption can cause side effects in people who have hypersensitivity to any of the chemical components of this plant species. It is generally considered one of the least allergenic foods, however there have been cases of babies with sensitivity to sweet potatoes; many believe this may be due to the presence of immature gut flora.1

There is also the possibility of experiencing an allergic reaction to mold toxins in sweet potatoes infected with the Rhizopus stolonifer fungus (soft rot), which can be very harmful to human health. 2

In case of excessive consumption, the person may experience hypercarotinemia . This refers to a noticeable yellow discoloration of the skin caused by the high carotene content present in sweet potatoes (in the same way as carrots ). It should be noted that hypercarotinemia is a temporary effect; it disappears once the consumption of the vegetable is suspended.

Other contraindications of sweet potato to take into account are:

  • Avoid regular consumption if you have kidney disease. People who suffer from kidney disorders, or are prone to stones, should eat sweet potatoes in moderation, as its oxalate content can promote the formation of stones in the kidneys.3 4
  • Do not eat the raw sweet potato. This tuber contains dioscorin, an alkaloid-type plant toxin whose action on the central nervous system can cause serious adverse effects, such as seizures, depression and delusions. Its toxicity also causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, irritation in the mouth, etc.5 To destroy the dioscorin, simply cook the sweet potato at a high temperature.

In general, eating sweet potatoes as part of a balanced diet is safe for most people, including pregnant women and people with diabetes or other chronic health conditions. Just be sure to take the following precautions :

  • Cook the sweet potatoes very well, either cooked in water or baked. We will know that they are ready when they feel completely tender when pierced with a fork. This way we make sure that the dioscorin has disappeared.
  • Always buy in stores that maintain adequate storage and good hygiene of their products. Avoid buying sweet potatoes that look very old, have damaged skin, or feel soft to the touch.
  • Do not eat the sweet potato if peeling or chopping it shows signs of fungal infection (blue-black spots, abnormal smell)
  • Store in a dry place with good air flow.
  • Suspend its consumption if it is associated with any type of allergic reaction.

Frequent questions

What is the origin of the sweet potato?

The first records of the cultivation of sweet potatoes date back to 750 BC. C. in Peru, although archaeological evidence shows that the domestication of this tuber could have begun around the year 2500-1850 BC, more than 5,000 years ago.

Before the arrival of the Spanish conquerors to America, sweet potato cultivation had spread throughout the region, including the Caribbean and what is now the southeastern United States. Some time later, the sweet potato was brought to Europe by Spanish and Portuguese explorers, from where its cultivation spread throughout the world.

What is the sweet potato plant like?

The sweet potato plant is a climbing vine that branches and grows with heart-shaped leaves . It has white or lavender flowers and vines that can reach 4 meters in length.

Its roots or tubers are variable in shape and can be red, yellow, brown, white or purple.

How is the sweet potato grown?

Sweet potatoes should be planted in full sun, they grow very well in tropical / subtropical climates and are sensitive to cold weather. Plants require plenty of space, as vines will spread around large areas.

The sweet potato is grown using the shoots that are obtained from a mature tuber . The easiest way to create these sprouts is to place a sweet potato in a bowl of water with chopsticks to hold it, place it in a sunny window, and wait until it sprouts. Some of the shoots will develop roots, some will not; Rooted shoots can be separated from the main tuber and planted in individual pots.

Sweet potato sprouts should be planted in the spring, in full sun, after the winter season has passed, in 15 cm deep holes and spaced 30-45 cm apart.

Sweet potatoes require weekly watering, especially during dry spells. It is important to stop watering the plants 3-4 weeks before harvest. They should be left to dry for 10 to 14 days before use, storing them in a warm and dry place. Under these conditions, the tubers will stay fresh for about six months.

Does sweet potato make you fat?

Due to its nutritional value, sweet potato is an excellent food to include in the diet on a regular basis, however it is still a starchy tuber, relatively high in carbohydrates and calories (1 serving of 133 grams has approximately 114 calories and 27 grams of carbohydrates). That is why it is always recommended to consume sweet potatoes in moderation , especially if you want to lose weight.

It is highly recommended for people who maintain a good level of physical activity, as it is a good source of complex carbohydrates and increases natural energy levels. However, its regular consumption can gain weight if it is a sedentary person.

How to freeze the sweet potato?

Raw sweet potatoes do not freeze well , so if you want to further extend the shelf life of this tuber, you will need to cook it before freezing.

To freeze potatoes:

  • Wash, peel and boil the sweet potatoes until tender.
  • Chop or puree the sweet potato, garnishing with a small amount of lemon juice to prevent discoloration.
  • Let it cool and place it in airtight containers or freezer bags.

Can you give sweet potatoes to a puppy?

Sweet potatoes are known for their ability to add a lot of shine to dogs’ coats, as well as to improve their overall digestive system. In fact, there are many brands of dog food that advertise sweet potato among their main ingredients. However, care must be taken in this regard. Adult dogs can safely eat a few pieces of sweet potato , but this is not recommended for puppies as it could cause looser bowel movements, diarrhea, unpleasant breath and infections. If in doubt, it is best to go to the vet.

What does sweet potato taste like?

The meat of the sweet potato has a fibrous internal texture, with a sweet taste very similar to the mixture between a pumpkin and a potato .

What other names does it have?

Other common names for sweet potatoes are bataca, sweet potato, buniato, sweet potato, moniato , moniatos, Malaga potato, sweet potato, minina and chaco. Its scientific name is Ipomoea batatas.