I grew up with ooey-gooey marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes, though I no longer make them that way. I have many fond memories attached to this vegetable. When I eat them now, they’re usually roasted, piping hot from the oven with nothing added or, for a change of pace, topped with cinnamon for a soul-warming treat with an anti-inflammatory kick.

Sweet potatoes are high in vitamins and other nutrients.

As a registered dietitian, I see sweet potatoes as one of nature’s greatest gifts. Naturally delicious and versatile, sweet potatoes are among the most nutritious foods on the planet. They’re a tasty source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which is important for bowel health, cholesterol management, healthy digestion and blood sugar control.

High nutrition and low calories

The orange variety is most popular, but they also come in white, red, pink, violet, yellow and purple. Its high nutritional value and low calories – if you leave off the butter, sugar and marshmallows – makes it a superfood.

They contain vitamin A, precursor to beta-carotene for vision health. They also contain vitamin C for immunity, vitamin B6, manganese, potassium, niacin, and protein. (Yes, plant foods have protein.)

Purple sweet potatoes have the added bonus of high anthocyanins, one of many phytonutrients – plant properties that promote health and fight chronic disease.

Along with other vegetables and fruits, sweet potatoes have complex carbohydrates, meaning they aren’t quickly converted to sugars in the body. Instead, they provide long-lasting energy to fuel your muscles, brain and other cells.

Loaded with potassium

One medium sweet potato contains up to 50% of the recommended daily amount of manganese, a trace element that can help brain function and mood swings. They’re also loaded with potassium to help regulate blood pressure.

To use healthy, economical, delicious sweet potatoes:

  • Buy local whenever possible.
  • A deeper orange color means sweeter taste.
  • Choose frozen options that avoid added fat.
  • Store in a cool, dry, dark place, such as a pantry. Don’t refrigerate.
  • Use within a week of purchase.
  • Use instead of white potatoes in dishes like shepherd’s pie or hash browns.
  • Batch-bake and keep in your fridge for quick weekday use. They’re great for breakfast, too!

Need recipe ideas?

Oven baked sweet potato fries are a delicious and healthy alternative to deep frying.

Two more recipes

February is also African American Heritage Month, and West African sweet potato peanut stew is a great addition to our traditional foods.

Top a healthier Sweet Potato Casserole with chopped pecans and spices for extra nutrition. Yum!

I hope this has inspired you to move beyond sugar and marshmallows when making this amazing vegetable. Healthier cooking options will help you reap full sweet potato nutrition benefits.

Franella Smith Obi is a registered and licensed dietitian nutritionist with over 20 years of clinical nutrition experience. She provides nutrition and health counseling to Veterans at the VA Outpatient Clinic in Greenville, South Carolina, and teaches nutrition to nursing students at USC Upstate. She spends her free time writing and raising her Schnauzer, Winston.

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Published on Feb. 1, 2021

Estimated reading time is 2.6 min.

Views to date: 183


  1. Frederick Leeman February 6, 2021 at 11:10 am

    The sweet potato stew I picked up at the Dayton, OH VA’s MOVE Program is wonderful; and anytime I get recipes like this one, I do what I can to substitute ingredients (PB powder vs peanut butter, for example) to reduce sodium, fats, and calories. I miss the kitchen classes at the center – suspended because of the pandemic – .an am looking forward to their resumption. Once again, a shout out to the folks in the Move Program at the Dayton, OH VA; you folks are the best!..

  2. Mark Peterson February 5, 2021 at 2:44 pm

    Peal a sweet potato. Wrap it snugly in plastic wrap. Tape the end of the wrap down with a piece of Scotch Green-Plaid tape. Microwave at 1/2 power for about 6 minutes. Let sit a few minutes. Cut open the wrap and enjoy. YUM!!!

  3. Charlotte Siedsma February 4, 2021 at 9:12 pm

    Sweet Potato Pie. Yum yum

  4. Jose rodriguez February 1, 2021 at 10:22 am

    thank you for that information, which just reminded me to start eating sweet potato fries rather than just fries.

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