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The Health Benefits Of Sweet Potatoes

Posted by Daniel Sanelli, M.Sc. on Oct 7, 2011 6:00:00 AM

health benefits sweet potatoes

Is that a sweet potato? Or is that a yam? Good question! I was confused myself for so long. But now I know there is a distinction. That orange colored flesh of the picture on the left is the sweet potato, though it is often labeled as a "yam." It comes from the plant family known as Convovulaceae, or Morning Glory. It is very different from the yam that comes from the Caribbean, which is an edible root of the Discorea genus. The true yam is rough and scaly. And its nutrient content is much different from the sweet potato. There are several varieties and colors of the sweet potato. To make matters even worse, the sweet potato is not a potato either!


The sweet potato is considered one of the most nutritious vegetables around. It is nutritionally unique from the potato and the yam. It is very high in beta-carotene, providing several times the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A. This root vegetable is also packed with potassium, manganese and copper. It is a good source of vitamins C and B6. The sweet potato is high in fiber but you have to eat the skin!

The white potato is a species belonging to the nightshades. These are foods that cause inflammation that are especially a problem for those with arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. Other nightshades include tomatoes, eggplant, capers and peppers. Fortunately, the sweet potato is NOT a nightshade. In fact they contain quercetin, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory.


The low-carb craze, just like every diet craze that's in vogue, will often leave innocent victims in its path. When the no-carb prophets began their crusade, this vegetable was dropped like a hot potato (Sorry, I couldn't resist)! They do have carbs, but I venture to say it's not the same as eating pasta or bread. The sweet potato has a glycemic load of somewhere between 11-20 depending on the variety. So if you're trying to lose weight, or you are diabetic, you will want to manage your consumption of this starchy carbohydrate. If you don't have blood sugar issues, I think these are a great food!

If it wasn't for the sweet potato I don't know what I'd do! I follow the Paleo approach to eating for the most part. I can't eat grains or legumes because they trigger my autoimmune condition and my Celiac Disease. I'm not strict paleo because I will do a little bit of dairy occasionally, and I enjoy root vegetables without much restraint. If I didn't eat sweet potatoes, I think my weight would drop too low (at least for my preference... and my mother's!).


sweetpotatoes resized 600


  • 2 Lb of sweet potatoes cut in large wedges, with or without the skin
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil, coconut oil or ghee (clarified butter). You can also use 1/2 olive oil, 1/2 coconut oil so as not to burn the olive oil
  • 2-3 teaspoons or your favorite fresh or dried herb
  • Sea salt and cracked pepper


  • Preheat your oven to 425 F. Toss sweet potato wedges in a bowl with oil and herbs to coat them evenly.
  • Add the salt and pepper to taste
  • Place the wedges on a baking tray in a single layer so they cook evenly
  • Roast sweet potato fries for about 20 minutes
  • If the tip of a knife easily slips in they are ready, if not then bake for another 5 minutes and try again.

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Topics: whole foods, anti-aging, weight management, diet direction