TBH, it's a little surprising in this carb-phobic climate that sweet potatoes are still so beloved. After all, they do have 26 grams per cup. But here's the thing, according to 80 Twenty Nutrition founder Christy Brissette, RD: Carbs aren't inherently "bad." "Carbohydrates from produce are different than carbs from processed, flour-based foods," she says, adding that carbs really only get problematic when people overdo their portions. (She says an appropriate serving should be about the size of your fist.)
Now that the carb myth is straightened out, we can focus on the major reason why healthy eating pros are into 'em: all their glorious benefits. Keep reading to see the nutritional benefits of sweet potatoes, plus easy ways to add them to your diet.
The top sweet potato benefits:
1. They're a good source of vitamin A. "This is the major difference between sweet potatoes and white potatoes," Brissette says of SP's high beta carotene content. Beta carotene is the precursor to vitamin A (meaning it gets converted to vitamin A in the bod), key for maintaining a strong immune system. It's also good for your eyes. A word to the wise: Vitamin A is fat-soluble, so Brissette suggests eating your sweet potato with a tablespoon of butter or EVOO to help your bod better absorb the vitamin. Okay, if you insist.
2. Sweet potatoes contribute to glowing skin. Vitamin A is also linked to preventing and treating acne, which means that a diet that incorporates sweet potatoes is also good for your skin. They may also help protect the skin against UV damage (although don't think eating them is a replacement for your daily SPF).
3. They're full of fiber. One cup of sweet potatoes has 4 grams of fiber, a nutrient majorly linked to good digestion and a healthy metabolism. Brissette's pro tip for maximizing the amount of fiber you get from your tuber: Eat the skin.
4. They're a good source of potassium. Bananas may get all the attention when it comes to potassium, but one serving of sweet potatoes—with the skin on—actually has more of the nutrient, roughly 950 milligrams. (A banana has 422 milligrams.)
5. They're a good post-workout snack. Unlike white potatoes, which Brissette says are high on the glycemic index, sweet potatoes are more of a slow burn. "Because of that, it actually makes them a great workout recovery food," she says. "They have a little bit of protein, 2 grams, and gives more of a slow energy than a fast burst of it, so that helps the body replenish what's lost."
How to incorporate sweet potatoes into your meals
Now that you've been schooled on all the benefits, now comes the fun part: deciding how you want to eat them. Similarly to avocado, this is one healthy food that works for breakfast, lunch, snack time, dinner, and dessert.
1. Breakfast: Sweet potato and avocado scramble. Combine the tuber with avocado (remember, those healthy fats will make the vitamin A better absorbed), and eggs for added protein and you've got yourself a power breakfast. It's sure to fill you up until lunchtime.
2. Lunch: Healthy loaded sweet potato. Roast your sweet potato for about 40 minutes and then fill it with chickpeas, coconut yogurt, and some spices for a protein-filled lunch. Want to add a little heat? Add a tablespoon of salsa.
3. Snack time: Sweet potato fries with maple butter sauce: You know when 4 p.m. hits and you just need a little something sweet? That's where sweet potatoes come in. This recipe also calls for a drizzle of peanut butter, and the protein will help leave you satisfied.
4. Dinner: Vegetarian sweet potato chili. There's nothing that can hit the spot on a cold winter night quite like a big bowl of chili. The best part about a dinner recipe like this is you can throw essentially any veggies you want into the pot and the end result will taste delicious. Because everything goes with sweet potatoes, right?
5. Dessert: S'more stuffed sweet potatoes. Top your tater off with melty marshmallows, graham cracker crumble, dark chocolate, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. You just flat out won dessert night.
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