According to nutritionists at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the single most important dietary change for most people, including children, would be to replace fatty foods with foods rich in complex carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes.
CSPI ranked the sweet potato number one in nutrition of all vegetables. With a score of 184, the sweet potato outscored the next highest vegetable by more than 100 points. Points were given for content of dietary fiber, naturally occurring sugars and complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins A and C, iron and calcium. Points were deducted for fat content (especially saturated fat), sodium, cholesterol, added refined sugars and caffeine. The higher the score, the more nutritious the food.
Sweet potato baked 184
Potato, baked 83
Mixed Vegetables 52
Winter Squash, Baked 44
Brussels Sprouts 37
Cabbage, Raw 34
Green Peas 33
Corn on the Cob 27
Green Pepper 26
Romaine Lettuce 24
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, Washington D.C.
The reasons the sweet potato took first place? Dietary fiber, naturally occurring sugars, complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins A and C, iron and calcium. The sweet potato received a score of 184; the vegetable ranked in second place was more than 100 points behind with a score of 83.
Sweet potatoes are high in the following: beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin B6 and vitamin C; fiber, thiamine, niacin, potassium and copper. They are also a good source of protein, calcium, vitamin E.
The numbers for the nutritional sweet potato speak for themselves: almost twice the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A, 42 percent of the recommendation for vitamin C, four times the RDA for beta carotene, and, when eaten with the skin, sweet potatoes have more fiber than oatmeal. All these benefits with only about 130 to 160 calories!
Sweet Potato Nutrition Facts (for one medium size sweet potato)
Fat 0.39 g
Protein 2.15 g
Net Carbs 31.56 g
Dietary Fiber 3.9 g
Calcium 28.6 mg
Sodium 16.9 mg
Potassium 265.2 mg
Folate 18.2 mcg
Vitamin C 29.51 mg
Vitamin A 26081.9 IU
Source: US Department of Agriculture
See also: Sweet Potato Antioxidants
Among root vegetables, sweet potatoes offer the lowest glycemic index rating. That’s because the sweet potato digests slowly, causing a gradual rise in blood sugar so you feel satisfied longer. It’s time to move sweet potatoes to the "good" carb list. Many of the most popular diets these days have already.
(See also: Sweet Potato Recipes)
SWEET POTATO NUTRITIONAL ASPECTS AND POPULAR DIETS
South Beach Diet
For the nearly 12 million Americans counting carbohydrates as part of the Atkins or South Beach plans, the glycemic index plays a critical part in determining acceptable foods. The index ranks how quickly the body converts carbohydrates into sugar; the lower the glycemic index in a food, the less it will cause weight gain. Sweet potatoes rank significantly lower than white potatoes in the glycemic index, which explains why both carb-counting diets encourage substituting yams for Idaho potatoes. Sweet potatoes are introduced in the later phases of these diets as an acceptable food because they are nutrient-rich.
The Atkins Diet recommends introducing 10 grams of carbs in Phase 3 of the diet plan. Sweet potatoes have 10 grams of carbohydrates for every 1/4 cup. Sweet potatoes are on the safe list as a great substitute for other starches such as rice, potatoes and corn.
The popular "Sugarbusters" diet that swept the nation is also a strong advocate of including sweet potatoes in a healthy diet. The Sugarbusters diet recommends sweet potatoes as a great substitute for other foods high in sugar and carbohydrates such as rice, pasta and corn.
One of the Sugarbusters book's authors reports that the part of a carrot that's healthy is the beta carotene necessary for visual activity and needed for the retina that's found in the pigment, not the fleshy part of the carrot that's full of sugar. You can also get the beta carotene from sweet potatoes, which are not full of sugar.
Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry