Should You Worry About the Carbs in Sweet Potatoes?

carbs in sweet potatoes

When you think of sweet potatoes, do you think of that sugary, buttery casserole your grandmother makes at Thanksgiving? I think most people do. It seems like this portrays the vegetable in the wrong light making everyone think it’s “unhealthy”.

In spite of this image, they’re actually a great source of high fiber carbohydrates. In addition, there’s so much you can do with them, so it’s a great way to add variety to your diet as well!

Keep reading to find out why you shouldn’t worry about the carbs in sweet potatoes.

Related: Why I Don’t Feel Guilty About Eating Carbs

Types of Carbs

There are 3 different types of carbohydrates:

  • Simple (sugar)
  • Complex (starch)
  • Fiber (nondigestible).

None of these types of carbs are better than the other. They all have different purposes and benefits. Sugar provides quick energy, starch provides slow-burning and long-lasting energy, and fiber helps regulate cholesterol, hormones, and your digestive system.

To determine the carbohydrate composition of a specific food, first, look at the total carbohydrates, and then look at what’s listed underneath. It should be broken down with subcategories of fiber and sugar. Whatever number is left over is how much starch is in that food.

carbs in sweet potatoes

Breakdown of Carbs in Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes have a total carbohydrate count of 27g (per medium potato)1. This is equal to approximately 2 servings of carbohydrates. For perspective, an average balanced meal would typically have 3 servings of carbohydrates. 
There are 3.8g of fiber in each medium sweet potato (above average for carbohydrates), and 8.7g of sugar1. This means that 14.5g comes from starch. In other words, sweet potatoes are good for your cholesterol, hormones, digestive health, quick energy, AND long-lasting energy. So… I don’t know, I don’t see a reason the carbs in sweet potatoes should make me stay away. Do you? 😉

What is the Glycemic Index?

The glycemic index of a food is the measurement of how high and how quickly a food raises your blood sugar. The higher the index, the higher and more quickly your blood sugar will spike. The lower the index, the steady your blood sugar stays. 

The GI of a sweet potato depends on how it’s cooked. For instance, a boiled sweet potato has a GI of only 46, but a baked sweet potato is 942. One thing you can do to make sure that your blood sugar is controlled is to eat the skin. This is where most of the fiber is.

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Other Benefits of Sweet Potatoes

So, we’ve already established that the carbs in sweet potatoes have benefit, but are there any others? Here are some additional reasons to include sweet potatoes in your balanced diet:

  • High in Vitamin A1
    • Vitamin A is important for vision, a healthy immune system, your reproductive health, lowering your risk of cancer, and helping organs like your heart, lungs, and kidneys to function3.
  • High in Potassium
    • Potassium is essential for fluid regulation in your body, which reduces fluid retention/swelling and helps to regulate your blood pressure. Plus, this protects your kidneys and your heart4.
  • Sweet potatoes also have calcium, vitamin C, and iron1. All of which are essential to your optimal health!
carbs in sweet potatoes

My Favorite Sweet Potato Recipes

Quick and easy:

  • Microwaved potato: Wrap in plastic wrap, poke with a fork a few times, and heat on high for 7 minutes. Cut open, add a little butter, and sprinkle some brown sugar and/or black pepper.
  • Roasted: Chop sweet potatoes and place in a bowl. Then, toss them with olive oil until coated and season with black pepper and salt. Next, place in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake in the oven at 400 until tender and crisp.
  • Boiled: After boiling, save them for cold salads, or add them to black bean tacos or chicken and rice bowls

Fun Recipes!

References:

  1. Nutritionix: Sweet Potato. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nutritionix.com/food/sweet-potato
  2. The Glycemic Index for Sweet Potatoes. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.livestrong.com/article/295025-the-glycemic-index-for-sweet-potatoes/
  3. Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin A. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-Consumer/
  4. Office of Dietary Supplements – Potassium. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Potassium-HealthProfessional/
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