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Sweet Potatoes

Updated: Jul 28, 2020

Sweet potatoes are native to Central and South America and are considered one of the oldest root vegetables.  They vary in skin and flesh colors from almost white, cream, yellow, orange, pink or deep purple.  The skin and flesh of the sweet potatoe provide different concentrations of antioxidants. 

The intensity of the sweet potato's yellow or orange flesh color is directly correlated to its beta-carotene content.  Our bodies typically produce vitamin A from the beta-carotene in orange-fleshed sweet potatoes.  Since vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin, it is helpful to include some fat in your sweet potato-containing meals in order to receive the full beta-carotene benefit.. 

Often sweet potatoes and yams are lumped together as being the same, yet they are a completely different food and belong to different plant families.  In the US, sweet potatoes are more highly available. Yams are native to Africa and Asia and have the potential to grow to a very large size.

Nutrient Profile:

Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene).  They are also a very good source of vitamin C, manganese, copper, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6.  Additionally, they are a good source of potassium, dietary fiber, niacin, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, and phosphorus.  They are also rich in phytonutrients.

Health Benefits:

  • Antioxidant Activity: The flesh and skin contain a variety of antioxidants. In addition, there are storage proteins (calledsporamins) in sweet potatoes that also have antioxidant activity. These antioxidants help prevent oxidative damage to our cells.

  • Anti-Inflammatory Nutrients: The anthocyanins and other color related pigments have been shown to play a key role in reducing the development of unwanted inflammation.

  • Blood Sugar Regulation: The presence of fiber in sweet potatoes helps keep blood sugar steady and regulated.

Selection and Storage: Choose sweet potatoes that are firm and do not have any cracks, bruises or soft spots. Avoid those that are displayed in the refrigerated section of the produce department since cold temperatures negatively alter their taste.

Sweet potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark and well-ventilated place, where they will keep fresh for up to ten days.  They should be kept out of the refrigerator. 

Individual Concerns: Sweet potatoes and oxalates:  Sweet potatoes are among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates (naturally occurring substances found in plants, animals, and human beings).  When oxalates become too concentrated in body fluids, they can crystallize and cause health problems.  For this reason, individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating sweet potatoes.

Recipe suggestion: This is a family favorite! Spicy roasted sweet potato wedges with a yogurt sauce, from

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