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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Beta-carotene
- USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory: Sweet Potato, Cooked, Baked in Skin, Without Salt
- Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry: In Vitro Bioaccessibility of Beta-carotene in Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas, Lam.)
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Calculate the Percent Daily Value for the Appropriate Nutrients
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.