Sweet Potato: Important Facts, Health Benefits, and Recipes

Explore the health benefits, nutritional information, and various uses of sweet potatoes, including their role in different cuisines and delicious recipes to try at home.

What Is a Sweet Potato?

  • The sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is a plant that belongs to the bindweed or morning glory family . Its large, starchy , sweet-tasting (some say tastes similar to pumpkin ), tuberous roots are used as a root vegetable .
  • The young shoots and leaves are sometimes eaten as greens .
  • Sweet potatoes are considered root vegetables. Both sweet and regular potatoes grow under the soil, but they are very different in flavor and nutrition.

Are Sweet Potatoes Good For You?

Yes! Sweet potatoes are full of nutrients. Sweet potato varieties with dark orange flesh have more beta-carotene (converted to a higher vitamin A content once digested) than those with light-colored flesh.

Health Benefits Of Sweet Potatoes

  1. Sweet potatoes are a great source of fiber. One cup of cooked sweet potato has almost 7 grams fiber (soluble and insoluble), therefore good for cholesterol and for helping us stay full longer and keep a healthy digestive tract.
  2. Sweet potatoes are a good source of Vitamin A, which is good for our vision and to help prevent macular degeneration. One cup of cooked sweet potato has 769% of our Daily Needs.
    1. Sweet potatoes with orange flesh are richest in beta-carotene. Sweet potatoes with purple flesh are richer in anthocyanins. Beta-carotene and anthocyanins are naturally occurring plant “phyto” chemicals that give vegetables their bright colors.
  3. Sweet potatoes are a good source of antioxidants from beta-carotene,chlorogenic acid and anthocyanins, which can help our immune system.
  4. Sweet potatoes are part of almost every diet and lifestyle: vegetarian, vegan, carnivorous, paleo, gluten-free.
  5. Sweet potatoes may help with diabetes control. Compounds in sweet potatoes could help control blood sugar . When boiled, sweet potatoes are low on the glycemic index (GI), which means they won't raise your blood sugar as quickly as high-GI foods.
  6. Sweet potatoes are a good source of potassium, which is good for keeping blood pressure levels down. One cup of cooked sweet potatoes has 27% of the daily needs.

History, Background, and General Facts About Sweet Potatoes

  • The origin and domestication of sweet potato occurred in either Central or South America .
  • In Central America, domesticated sweet potatoes were present at least 5,000 years ago, with the origin likely between the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico and the mouth of the Orinoco River in Venezuela .
  • China is the world’s largest producer of sweet potatoes
  • In the US, most sweet potatoes are grown in the State of North Carolina, however other states such as California, Louisiana, and Mississippi also grow the crop.

What Are The Cuisines That Regularly Include Sweet Potatoes?

  • African
    • Uganda -Amukeke (am-you-keek)(sun-dried slices of root) andinginyo(sun-dried crushed root) are a staple food.Amukekeis mainly served for breakfast, eaten with peanut sauce.Inginyois mixed with cassava flour and tamarind to makeatapa (millet bread).
    • Kenya - mashed form and as flour from the dried tubers for baked products. A nutritious juice drink is made from sweet potatoes, and deep-fried snacks
    • Egypt - sweet potato tubers are known as "batata" and are a common street food in winter. They are also baked at home as a snack or dessert, drenched with honey .
    • Ethiopia - commonly found varieties are black-skinned, cream-fleshed and called "bitatis" or "mitatis"
  • Asian
    • In East Asia, roasted sweet potatoes are popular street food .
    • In China, sweet potatoes, typically yellow varieties, are baked in a large iron drum and sold as street food during winter.
    • In Korea, sweet potatoes, known asgoguma, are roasted in a drum can, baked in foil or on an open fire, typically during winter.
    • In Japan, a dish similar to the Korean preparation is called yaki-imo (roasted sweet potato), which typically uses either the yellow-fleshed "Japanese sweet potato" or the purple-fleshed "Okinawan sweet potato", which is known asbeni-imo.
    • ​​ In Fujian cuisine and Taiwanese cuisine , sweet potato is often cooked with rice to make congee.
    • ​​In northeastern Chinese cuisine , sweet potatoes are often cut into chunks and fried, before being drenched into a pan of boiling syrup.
    • ​​In some regions of India, sweet potato is roasted slowly over kitchen coals at night and eaten with some dressing while the easier way in the south is simply boiling or pressure cooking before peeling, cubing and seasoning for a vegetable dish as part of the meal.
    • In Pakistan , sweet potato is cooked as a vegetable dish and also with meat dishes ( chicken , mutton or beef ). The ash roasted sweet potatoes are sold as a snack and street food in Pakistani bazaars especially during the winter months
    • In Sri Lanka, it is called 'Bathala', and tubers are used mainly for breakfast (boiled sweet potato is commonly served with sambal or grated coconut) or as a supplementary curry dish for rice.
    • In Malaysia and Singapore , sweet potato is often cut into small cubes and cooked with taro and coconut milk (santan) to make a sweet dessert called " bubur cha cha ".
    • ​​In Vietnamese cuisine sweet potatoes are cooked with a sweetener such as corn syrup , honey, sugar, or molasses.
  • United States
    • Candied sweet potatoes are a side dish made of sweet potatoes prepared with brown sugar , marshmallows , maple syrup , molasses . It is often served in the US on Thanksgiving . Sweet potato casserole is a side dish of mashed sweet potatoes in a casserole dish, topped with a brown sugar and pecan topping
    • Sweet potato pie is also a traditional favorite dish in Southern U.S. cuisine .
    • Sweet potato fries or chips
    • Sweet potato mash is served as a side dish, often at Thanksgiving dinner or with barbecue .
  • South American
    • In Peru , sweet potatoes are called "camote" and are frequently served alongside ceviche . Sweet potato chips are also a commonly sold snack, be it on the street or in packaged foods.
    • Dulce de batata is a traditional Argentine , Paraguayan and Uruguayan dessert , which is made of sweet potatoes. It is a sweet jelly , like a marmalade because of its color and sweetness but it has a harder texture, and it has to be sliced in thin portions with a knife as if it was a pie. It is commonly served with a portion of the same size of soft cheese on top of it.
  • European
    • In Spain, sweet potato is calledboniato. On the evening of All Souls' Day , in Catalonia (northeastern Spain) it is traditional to serve roasted sweet potato and chestnuts, panellets and sweet wine.
    • In the Veneto ( northeast Italy ), sweet potato is known aspatata mericanaand it is cultivated above all in the southern area of the region it is a traditional fall dish, boiled or roasted.

What Is The Best Way To Store Sweet Potatoes?

  • If you keep your sweet potatoes in a dry area with lots of airflow, they'll last about a week or two. Don't put them in the refrigerator unless they're cooked. The cold will make them hard in the middle and will change their taste.

What Are The Different Types of Sweet Potato?

Beauregard. The most common sweet potato variety in American grocery stores. If you see a bin simply labeled "sweet potatoes" it's likely you're either buying Beauregards or jewels. Beauregards have purplish-red skin and a deep orange interior. Their flesh is slightly stringier and more juicy than some other varieties when cooked, so they're good for mashing and cooking in baked goods and desserts

Jewel. Jewels have light orange skin, and are less intensely sweet than Beauregards, but can be used in many of the same recipes. They pack a lot of moisture, and take well to boiling, baking, and making into casseroles.

Garnet. Dark orange-red skin with bright orange flesh. They have more moisture than jewels or Beauregards, which makes them great for baking: sweet potato pie , mashed sweet potato casserole , and mashed sweet potatoes .

Hannah. White-fleshed sweet potatoes like the Hannah were some of the first to be farmed and eaten in America. They have a slight flakiness similar to a regular potato. Hannahs are dense, firm, and creamy, and much less prone to becoming waterlogged than orange sweet potatoes.

Okinawa. Hawai'in potato salad. Okinawa sweet potatoes, also known by their Japanese name,beni-imo, have off-white or dusty purple skins with vibrant purple flesh.

Satsuma-Imo. They have beautiful dark-purple skin and pale yellow flesh that darkens as it cooks. These sweet potatoes aremuchdenser than most of the orange varieties, and starchier, too. The flavor is actually more subdued and subtle than other breeds.

Yams. Real yams are native to Asia and Africa, and have scaly brown skin with very starchy white flesh. They’re not nearly as sweet as sweet potatoes and take best to boiling and slow braising.

In US grocery stores, sweet potato varieties are often mislabeled as yams.

Toxicity and Side Effects Of Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are considered fairly high in substances called oxalates, which may increase your risk of kidney stones. Individuals who are prone to getting kidney stones may want to limit their sweet potato intake.

Best Sweet Potato Recipes