Sweet potatoes, often called yams, are botanically unrelated to the true yam plant. Sweet potatoes belong to the Morning Glory family and originated in tropical regions of the Americas. In the U.S., they grow primarily in southern Florida. Sweet potatoes are thick with tapered ends, and their moist flesh is bright yellow or orange. Packed with nutrients, an 8-ounce sweet potato offers several health benefits in only 200 calories.
Protein is essential for building and repairing muscle and organ tissue in your body. It is also necessary for enzyme and hormone synthesis, and may serve as an energy source if your diet lacks carbohydrates. An 8-ounce sweet potato, baked with the skin on, provides nearly 5 grams of protein to your diet. However, most plant proteins do not contain all the essential amino acids your body needs, explains the University of Illinois McKinley Health Center, so sweet potatoes alone do not fully satisfy your body’s protein needs.
A baked, skin-on 8-ounce sweet potato offers 45 grams of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates break down into simple sugars, which your body uses as its preferred source of fuel. Consuming adequate carbs allows your body to preserve your dietary protein for other uses, rather than using protein for fuel. Each sweet potato also supplies 7.5 grams of fiber, with 25 percent of the fiber located in the skin. The Institute recommends that women consume 25 grams of fiber daily in order to improve your digestive health and lower your risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease and colon cancer.
Sweet potatoes are extremely low in fat, with an 8-ounce serving supplying less than half a gram of fat. Although fat is a necessary nutrient--cushioning your organs, supplying fat-soluble vitamins and maintaining healthy cell membranes--a high fat intake may lead to obesity and heart disease. Including sweet potatoes as a regular part of your fitness plan may help curb your overall fat consumption.
Vitamin A, by far the most abundant vitamin in sweet potatoes, is critical in maintaining healthy mucous membranes throughout your body. Each sweet potato contains more than 200 percent of your recommended daily intake for this vitamin. An 8-ounce portion of sweet potato also provides between 20 and 50 percent of your daily need for vitamin C, an important antioxidant, and the B-vitamins B-6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin and pantothenic acid, all necessary for food metabolism and maintenance of healthy cells, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Approximately half the total amounts of vitamin C and the B-vitamins are present in the potato skin.
One 8-ounce sweet potato supplies you with roughly half your daily requirement of the trace minerals copper and manganese. Copper helps your body synthesize both hemoglobin and melanin, and it also functions in collagen production. The role of dietary manganese is somewhat unclear, states the Texas Heart Institute, although it is a necessary component of good health.
- University of California Cooperative Extension: Sweet Potato or Yam?
- University of Illinois McKinley Health Center: Macronutrients: the Importance of Carbohydrate, Protein, and Fat
- Colorado State University: Dietary Fiber
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamins
- Texas Heart Institute: Trace Elements: What They Do and Where to Get Them
- HealthAliciousNess: Sweet Potato Raw Unprepared
- Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.