Do Sweet Potatoes Have Beta-Carotene?

Don't save sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving; eat them all year round for health benefits.
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Serve sweet potatoes more often and you'll reap the health benefits. A medium baked sweet potato with skin provides you with 15 percent of the daily value for fiber and potassium, 37 percent of the DV for vitamin C and 438 percent of the DV for vitamin A. Most of this vitamin A is in the form of beta-carotene, which acts as an antioxidant and may boost your immune function.

Beta-carotene Content

    The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends that adults get between 15 and 50 milligrams of beta-carotene each day from their diet. Each medium baked sweet potato with skin contains 13 milligrams of beta-carotene. Get the rest of your recommended beta-carotene from other orange or green vegetables, like tomatoes, winter squash, carrots, spinach, lettuce, broccoli and cantaloupe.

Potato Type

    When buying sweet potatoes, opt for the orange-fleshed sweet potatoes rather than white-fleshed sweet potatoes. While orange-fleshed sweet potatoes will increase your beta-carotene and vitamin A levels, white-fleshed sweet potatoes don't contain significant amounts of beta-carotene and thus aren't effective for this purpose. Sweet potatoes are also sometimes called yams in grocery stores.

Increasing Absorption

    The way you cook your sweet potatoes will influence how much beta-carotene you absorb. Beta-carotene is fat soluble, so you need at least some fat in your meal to absorb the beta-carotene. Boiling sweet potatoes decreases the amount of beta-carotene available for absorption, while stir-frying sweet potatoes with a small amount of oil doubles the amount of beta-carotene absorbed.

Preparation Ideas

    Top a baked sweet potato with chopped broccoli, salsa and a small amount of melted cheese for a delicious beta-carotene-packed meal. Slice sweet potatoes into fries, coat them with a small amount of olive oil and spices and bake them for a nutritious side dish. You can even have sweet potatoes for breakfast; just toss baked sweet potato, banana and chopped apple into your blender along with some low-fat yogurt and a little milk, 100 percent fruit juice or water to make a smoothie. For even more beta-carotene, add a handful of spinach to the blender as well.

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