Nutritional Benefits of Sweet Potatoes

Looking to feed your family more vegetables? Try sweet potato. Your kids will love the sweet taste and fun colour. Sweet potatoes can be used instead of regular potatoes in most recipes. Here are some tasty ideas to enjoy sweet potatoes.

Sweet potatoes are a nutritious choice

  • Sweet potatoes have 10 times more vitamin A than regular white potatoes.
  • Sweet potatoes contain carotenoids. Carotenoids are phytonutrients that may help reduce the risk of eye disease, some cancers and heart disease. Foods that are brightly coloured, such as dark green, orange, yellow and red vegetables and fruit, contain carotenoids. Note: it is best to get carotenoids from foods. Supplementing with carotenoids has not been found to help. 
  • Unlike regular potatoes, sweet potatoes are a low glycemic food. Substituting high glycemic foods for low glycemic foods can help people living with diabetes, or who are at risk for diabetes, control blood sugars.
  • A medium sweet potato with the skin on has 4 grams of fibre and no fat.
  • Canada’s Food Guide recommends filling half your plate or bowl with vegetables, like sweet potato. 

Buying local sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are grown in Canada and are available all year long. When you buy local food, you support farmers so they can keep producing high quality, affordable food we can all enjoy. Also look for them at your local farmer’s market. 

How to buy and choose sweet potatoes

  • Sweet potatoes come in a variety of colours, shapes and sizes. Sweet potatoes are different from yams, but sometimes these two are confused. Yams have a rougher brown exterior, while sweet potatoes have a smoother skin. 
  • Choose small to medium-size firm sweet potatoes with smooth skin and no bruises or cracks.
  • Look for frozen sweet potato cubes which are already peeled and diced, making it easy to add to various recipes like soups and stews.  
  • Pre-bagged sweet potatoes may be a better buy than individual pieces.

Storing sweet potatoes

Keep sweet potatoes in a cool, dry, dark place. Use within a week. Do not refrigerate. Handle with care as they bruise easily.

Tips for cooking sweet potatoes

  • Before using, scrub sweet potatoes with a produce brush while rinsing under cool water. Cut off any bruised parts.
  • For added fibre, leave the skin on. Just like regular potatoes, you can eat the skin.
  • Cooking releases the sweetness and wonderful taste. Choose cooking methods such as grilling, stir frying, roasting, steaming, boiling, sautéing or cooking in the microwave.

5 things to do with sweet potatoes

1. Basic sweet potato side dish

  • Microwaving is a fast and easy way to cook sweet potato.
  • Scrub, rinse then prick sweet potatoes with a fork.
  • Microwave on high for 10-12 minutes, until tender.
  • Let it cool. Slice in half. Scoop the flesh (the insides) out with a spoon.
  • For extra flavour, try adding 1-2 tablespoons (15-30 mL) of frozen concentrated orange juice to the flesh, then mash and return to the potato skins.

2. Baked sweet potato fries

  • A delicious alternative to French fries!
  • Scrub, rinse and cut sweet potato into fries. The thinner the fries, the crispier they will be. Leave the skin on for added fibre.
  • Toss fries in a bowl with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with garlic powder (not garlic salt).
  • Spread fries in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 425F for 10 minutes on each side or until nicely browned.
  • For flavour try adding chilli powder, cumin, paprika or pepper.

3. Grilled sweet potato

Add to wraps, lower-sodium vegetable soups, or mix in with couscous, frozen peas and canned chickpeas.

  • Scrub, rinse and boil potatoes with skins on. Cook until tender but firm. Let potatoes cool.
  • Slice potatoes in half lengthwise then into three or four wedges.
  • Brush the wedges with olive oil.
  • Add any seasoning you like: paprika, garlic powder, thyme, chilli powder, pepper or low-sodium seasoning mix. Whisk maple syrup with a little Dijon mustard together and brush on wedges during the last couple minutes of cooking. Wrap in foil.
  • Grill (or broil in the oven) for about 6 minutes. Top with chopped parsley.

4. Shepherd’s pie

Try mashed sweet potatoes or half regular and half sweet potatoes to top your next Shepherd’s pie. Let the kids help with:

  • Scrubbing and rinsing
  • Scooping out the flesh
  • Mashing

5. More ideas! Soups, salads, stir fry, stuffed potatoes

  • Use extra mashed sweet potato to thicken homemade vegetable soups.
  • Use mashed sweet potato to make dumplings using wonton wrappers, like in this breakfast dumpling recipe. 
  • Replace regular potato with sweet potato in potato salad.
  • When using sweet potato in a stir fry, cook just until tender, not mushy.
  • Need a quick meal? Bake and slice potatoes in half. Top with leftover chilli and grated cheese; black beans and salsa; baked beans; or scrambled eggs.

How can a dietitian help?

Dietitians can support you throughout many phases of your life from pregnancy to eating well when you are older. Counselling sessions with a dietitian can also help you to prevent and treat health conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Your dietitian will work with you to give you personalized advice that meets your lifestyle and goals. Connect with a dietitian today! 

Bottom line

Sweet potatoes are a nutritious choice and can be substituted for potato in any recipe! Look for local sweet potatoes. Enjoy them with the skin for added fibre.