A sweet potato is an underground tuber which grows on the roots of a certain plant that is scientifically known as Ipomoea batatas. Sweet potatoes are very rich in beta-carotene, which is important in raising vitamin A levels in the blood. Sweet potatoes are nutritious, high fiber foods that have a delicious and sweet taste. You can consume them raw, baked, boiled, fried or steamed.
Sweet potato nutrition facts
Below are some facts about sweet potato nutrition:
- A raw sweet potato contains about 20.1g of carbohydrates.
- A sweet potato has 77% water, 1.6% protein, 3% fiber and negligible or no fat.
- Sweet potato calories are high in a baked potato compared to a boiled one.
- Sweet potatoes are a rich source of beta-carotene, potassium and vitamin C.
- Starch is the most abundant nutrient in a sweet potato.
- Sweet potatoes act as a major source of vitamin A. A large sized potato contains more than 100% of the daily recommended vitamin A.
- Vitamin A is considered an antioxidant powerhouse that helps prevent aging and also helps with maintenance of eyesight.
- Sweet potatoes have relatively low protein despite the fact that they are used as major source of protein in many countries.
What is the nutritional value of sweet potatoes?
Carbs in a sweet potato
A boiled medium sized sweet potato contains 27g of carbs. The major components include complex carbohydrates known as starch which makes up to 53% of the total carbs content. Simple sugars such as maltose, sucrose, fructose and glucose make up to 32% total carbs. Glycemic index of sweet potatoes varies from 44-96. Baked sweet potatoes seem to have high glycemic index compared to boiled ones.
Starch- Starches are grouped into three categories based on their properties during the time of digestion. They include:
- Resistant starch- They are 12% of the total starch in sweet potatoes. They escape digestion and act just like fiber. Cooling of sweet potatoes after cooking increases the level of resistant starch.
- Rapidly digested starch- They are the most abundant starch and are 80% of total starch. They are broken down very quickly and absorbed, increasing the glycemic index value.
- Slowly digested starch- These are 9% of the total starch. They are broken down easily, lowering the glycemic index value.
Fiber- There is high fiber in cooked sweet potatoes. Soluble fiber pectin is about 15-23% total fiber, while insoluble fiber such as cellulose, lignin, and hemicellulose are about 77-85%. Soluble fiber increases satiety, slowing down digestion of starches and sugars which helps blood sugar levels. Insoluble fiber helps improve gut health and lower diabetes risk.
Minerals and vitamins in a sweet potato
Sweet potatoes are very rich in minerals and vitamins, which makes them an excellent source of vitamin C, potassium and beta-carotene. Below is a list of minerals and vitamins in a sweet potato:
- Vitamin C- Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps improve skin health and decrease the period of common colds.
- Vitamin A- Sweet potatoes contain beta-carotene which is converted into vitamin A while in the body. You can achieve the recommended daily dose of vitamin by eating 100g of sweet potatoes daily.
- Manganese- Manganese is a micro-nutrient which is important in body development, metabolism and growth.
- Potassium- This is an important mineral or electrolyte that controls blood pressure, decreasing the risk of a heart attack.
- Vitamin B5- It is also known as pantothenic acid. It is usually found in almost all foods.
- Vitamin B6- Vitamin B6 is an important nutrient when it comes to conversion of food into energy.
- Vitamin E- It is a fat-soluble antioxidant that helps your body gets rid of free radicals such as ROS that may damage healthy cells and tissues.
Proteins in a sweet potato
You are likely to get 2g of protein in a medium sized sweet potato. This amount of protein is relatively low. Sweet potatoes also contain some unique proteins such as sporamins, which are more than 80% of the total proteins in a sweet potato. Despite having low protein, sweet potatoes are used as a major source of protein in many countries around the world.
How to cook a sweet potato
If you don’t know how to cook sweet potatoes, then you are not alone. A recent survey showed that more than 20% of youths feel that sweet potatoes are hard for them to cook. While baking is the major way to cook sweet potatoes, different countries use different ways to cook sweet potatoes and get their heavenly sweetness.
Below are different ways to cook sweet potatoes:
Baked sweet potatoes
Just like the name implies, a sweet potato is sweeter than the white, gold or red cousins. They are rich in vitamin C, vitamin A and fiber making them very nutritious. Do you know how to bake sweet potatoes? One of the ways to cook and enjoy sweet potatoes is by baking them. Baking of sweet potatoes is a popular, healthy and an easy way to prepare the vegetable at about 400 F. Below are steps you can follow while baking sweet potatoes:
Step 1: While you prepare your sweet potatoes for baking, preheat your oven to about 400 F.
Step 2: Scrub your sweet potatoes using a vegetable brush and cold water to make them clean. Remove all the fiber-like eyes that may protrude from the potato. After that, dry the sweet potatoes using a paper towel.
Step 3: Poke each of the sweet potatoes several times with a fork. The small vent holes you make will prevent your potatoes from exploding when in the hot oven.
Step 4: Wrap each of your potatoes with aluminum foil in case you prefer a softer skin. If you want to enjoy your meal with a crisper skin, keep your potatoes unwrapped.
Step 5: Put a baking sheet at the bottom rack of your oven. If you happen to bake your naked potatoes in a 400 F oven, natural sugars may ooze out during the process. You can use a baking pan to collect the drippings.
Step 6: Place your sweet potatoes on the middle rack of your oven and then set the kitchen timer for 40 minutes. Within that time, your potatoes will be tender and ready.
Step 7: Make pierces on the skin of your potatoes using a fork to check whether they are fully baked. The flesh of the potatoes should allow your utensil to slide in and out without any resistance.
Step 8: Finally, cut open your baked sweet potatoes and then season them with any toppings such as salt, cinnamon or margarine.
Boiled sweet potato
You boil sweet potatoes simply by adding 1-inch thick slices to a boiling pot of water and then cook them for about 15 minutes.
Sautéed sweet potato
Sautéed sweet potato is cooked by first slicing or dicing the potato and then tossing it in oil. Let the potato slices or dices cook for about 10 minutes before serving.
Grilled sweet potato
First, cut the sweet potato in two halves lengthwise and then grill for about 25 minutes. Make sure they are tender before serving.
Steamed sweet potato
You can prepare steamed sweet potatoes by putting them over simmering water. Allow to cook for about 25 minutes.
Micro-bake sweet potato
You can cook it by microwaving the whole sweet potato for about 5 minutes. Afterwards, bake them at 450F for about 10 minutes.
Microwaved sweet potato
It is prepared by microwaving a whole potato for about 5-8 minutes.
Healthy sweet potato recipes
If there is one complex carbohydrate you must have in your diet and include in your fitness plan, it is the sweet potato. Depending on how they are prepared, sweet potatoes can satisfy your cravings for sweet meals without derailing your diet plan.
Sweet potatoes will offer you a great and slow-digesting fuel for your fitness goal and even boost your overall health. Sweet potatoes are very rich in vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, manganese, pantothenic acid and copper.
You can therefore reap the health benefits of sweet potatoes by resisting that urge to microwave your buttered sweet potatoes, which is not a healthy way to cook them. Here are six easy and healthy sweet potatoes recipes.
1. Sweet potato soup
- 1 chopped onion
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- ½ clove minced garlic
- 1 cup of chicken broth
- 1 peeled and sliced sweet potato
- 4 large peeled and slice carrots
- 1 red peeled and slice pepper
- ¼ cup of fat Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon of chopped ginger
- Cilantro (optional)
- Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan. Add garlic and onion and then cook for about 2-3 minutes until the onion becomes tender.
- Add the low–sodium chicken broth and 2 cups of water. Let it boil.
- Add the carrots, red pepper, ginger and sweet potatoes and reduce the heat. Let them cook for about 15 minutes.
- Remove the pan from heat and then allow it to cool in a fridge for about 25 minutes. By use of a slotted spoon, remove all the vegetable pieces and then blend the soup until thick.
- Poor the vegetables back into the soup and then return them to heat again. Cook for 15 minutes until the soup thickens.
- Add yogurt and then stir. You can top with cilantro if you want. Serve the soup when it is hot.
This recipe yields 4 servings with each serving having 237 calories, 3.6g protein, 18g fat and 16g carbs.
2. Cilantro-lemon sweet potato fries
- 1/3 cup of olive oil
- 1/3 cup of finely diced cilantro
- 4 large clean and sliced sweet potatoes
- 1 clove garlic
- Pepper and salt to add taste
- 2 tablespoons of grated lemon zest
- Preheat a sauce pan before anything else.
- Mix garlic and half of the cilantro in a food processor until you get a good blend. Pour the mixture in a Ziploc bag together with olive oil and then add sweet potatoes. Shake the mixture to fully coat the potatoes.
- Once all the potatoes are coated, place wedges on the sauce pan and cook for about 3 minutes to achieve desired tenderness.
- Remove from heat and serve when still hot.
This recipe has 4 servings with each serving containing 270 calories, 18g fat, 2g protein and 26g total carbohydrates.
3. Cinnamon sweet potato fries
- ½ tablespoon of cinnamon
- ½ tablespoon of brown sugar
- Sliced sweet potatoes
- Flavored-butter cooking spray
- Preheat an oven to 375F.
- Spray the flavored butter on a pan and then place the sliced sweet potatoes on top. Spray the potato chips lightly.
- Bake the chips for about 7 minutes until the chips turn brown. Flip and bake for another 10 minutes.
- Remove the chips from the oven and sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon.
- Transfer the chips into a bowl and then serve.
Each serving contains 135 calories, 0g fat, 2g protein and 32g total carbohydrates.
4. Banana bread muffins with sweet potatoes
- 3 tablespoons of coconut flavor
- ½ cup of white eggs
- ½ cup of banana-flavored protein powder
- ½ cup of mashed banana
- ½ cup of mashed sweet potato
- 1 cup of almond milk
- Preheat your oven to 350F.
- Spray a cooking pan with a non-sticky spray.
- Combine the mashed banana and sweet potato until they fully mix.
- Add the remaining ingredients.
- Bake the mixture for about 40 minutes until fully cooked.
The recipe yields 10 servings with each serving containing 6.6g protein, 61 calories, 1.1g total fat and 6.2g total carbohydrates.
5. Chocolate chip sweet potato cookies
- ½ tablespoon of salt
- Boiled and mashed sweet potato
- 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- ½ cup of coconut flakes
- ¼ cup of dark chocolate chips
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
- ¼ cup of peanuts
- 1 scoop of chocolate protein powder
- ¼ cup of almond milk
- Preheat your oven to 375F.
- Mash the sweet potatoes and add coconut oil until blended. Combine the remaining ingredients in another bowl.
- Add sweet potatoes in the mixture and stir until you form cookie dough. Put the dough on a baking sheet and bake it for about 10 minutes. Make sure it turns brown.
- Serve immediately.
For this recipe, you will have 12 servings. Each serving contains 4.4g protein, 108 calories, 6.8g total carbohydrates and 7.8g total fats.
6. Rosemary parmesan roasted sweet potatoes
- 1 minced clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Pepper and salt to add taste
- 1/8 of low-fat parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup of chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 large-sized sweet potatoes
- Preheat your oven to about 400F.
- Cut the sweet potatoes into cubes as you wait for the oven to preheat.
- Mix the garlic, rosemary, cheese, olive oil and parmesan in a Ziploc bag and then add sweet potatoes. Toss to coat the potatoes.
- Place the pan or dish in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes. Flip the sweet potatoes and continue baking for another 25 minutes.
- Remove the potatoes from the oven and serve them when hot.
This recipe yields 2 servings where every serving contains 281 calories, 9g protein, 27g total carbs and 16g total fat.
- A raw sweet potato contains about 20.1g of carbohydrates.
- It has 77% water, 1.6% protein, 3% fiber and negligible or no fat.
- Sweet potatoes are very rich in minerals and vitamins.