Potatoes have plenty of nutrients for any healthy whole food diet but sweet potatoes are even better in almost every way. Sweet potatoes have more fiber and more vitamins A and C than white potatoes. Sweet potatoes have fewer calories and fewer total carbohydrates, although they are higher in sugars. Faster cooking times and better retention of nutrients when cooked are also qualities in favor of the sweet potato.
Steaming and boiling until just soft are the best ways to cook sweet potatoes for maximum nutrition. Baking destroys more of the great variety of antioxidant compounds present but is really the way I enjoy them most. Please leave the skin on sweet potatoes to take advantage of every bit of dietary fiber and sporamins, the protective anti-oxidative storage proteins unique to this tuber.
A regular serving of sweet potato can often have more than 100% of our daily vitamin A needs. Always eat a little fat with sweet potato to get maximum absorption of this important nutrient. Vitamin A is one of the fat-soluble vitamins and will not be absorbed by the stomach or intestines unless accompanied by fat. That fat can be grass-fed butter, olive oil, chicken fat or another fat of your choice. The fat does not necessarily need to be added as it would be an unusual meal that does not have at least a few grams of fat included.
Like most whole foods, sweet potatoes are good for our health in a number of different ways. They contain a wide range of antioxidant phytonutritents. They contain compounds that induce our fat cells to produce a protein hormone that regulates insulin metabolism. Sweet potatoes also contain resin glycosides that show strong anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
Sweet potatoes are a different plant family from either white potatoes or yams. Most varieties of sweet potato are orange-fleshed and the amount of beta-carotene(the precursor of vitamin A) varies with the intensity of the color. Some sweet potatoes have purple flesh and also contain anthocyanins with even stronger anti-oxidative activity. There is very little difference in the flavor between the two types. White fleshed sweet potatoes, called “Jersey”, are available that have less beta-carotene but are still high in other nutrients. The leaves of the sweet potato plant are edible and also contain antioxidant compounds.