Is sweet potato bad for you?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Is sweet potato bad for you?” and will discuss some health benefits of sweet potatoes.

Is sweet potato bad for you?

No, sweet potato is not bad for you. Sweet potatoes, with their higher levels of fiber and vitamins, are often recommended as a health alternative as a carbohydrate source. 

Sweet potatoes can have a lower glycemic index and be safely ingested by diabetics, depending on their cooking method. In addition, they are rich in fiber, and have a high amount of beta carotene (2).

What are the health risks of sweet potatoes?

The risks of eating sweet potatoes are of fermentation of the resistant starch in the intestine, resulting in increased production of colonic gas, leading to bloating and a distended abdomen (9).

Resistant starch present in sweet potatoes are dietary fibers that are formed by incomplete cooking processes followed by cooling. Their consumption is related to health benefits, such as alleviation of constipation and controlling of diabetes.

However, the excessive intake of resistant starch can lead to side effects, such as abdominal discomfort and cramps. In addition, the excess of fibers may also reduce the absorption of nutrients, such as proteins and minerals.

Sweet potatoes contain proteins which act as trypsin inhibitors. Protease inhibitors that are not degraded could impact the degradation of amylase and thereby affect starch digestion. However, most protease inhibitors are degraded through thermal treatments, such as boiling and baking (7). 

Finally, eating too much sweet potatoes can lead to weight gain. Sweet potatoes, although considered a low glycemic index when properly cooked, is a source of carbohydrates and calories, which, when consumed in excess, can lead to obesity.

 Although overeating of carbohydrates does not necessarily lead to obesity, the caloric intake which is not expended during the day, will be converted to fat reserves  by the body (6).

What are the health benefits of sweet potatoes?

Sweet potato is a rich source of β-carotene (pro-vitamin A) and a good source of minerals (magnesium, iron, copper, manganese, calcium, potassium), vitamins (B1, B6, C, E), and dietary fibers (1). You may get several advantages from eating sweet potatoes. They may improve a person’s health in the following ways:

Improve diabetics’ ability to use insulin

Sweet potatoes have shown promise as low-cost anti-diabetic agents and thus can be effectively utilized as a food aid to help manage Type-2 Diabetes. Due to the presence of phytochemicals such as flavonoids, phenolic acids, anthocyanins, saponins, alkaloids, glycosides and terpenes, sweet potatoes are able to mimic the activity of insulin in the so-called beta cells. 

The bioactive compounds in sweet potatoes help regulate the production and utilization of insulin by the cells, resulting in an improvement of the insulin sensitivity in the patient´s organism (1,2). 

The benefits of diabetes management is also achieved by the high amount of fibers in sweet potatoes. Fibers act by delaying the starch digestion and consequently delaying the release of sugars in the bloodstream, which is beneficial for managing diabetes (7).

If you eat half a cup of mashed sweet potato, you’ll get roughly 2.5 grams of fiber (2). Consuming between 22.4 g and 33.6 g of fiber per day, depending on age and gender, is recommended by the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (5).

Help prevent heart disease

Sweet potatoes contain potassium, which helps reduce the risks of heart disease. Potassium content in a 100-gram serving of mashed sweet potatoes is 337 milligrams or about 7% of the daily value for an adult (2). 

Male adults should ingest 3,400 mg of potassium daily, while female adults should ingest 2,600 mg daily, according to current recommendations (8).

Insufficient potassium intake can increase blood pressure, kidney stone risk, while severe potassium deficiency can cause hypokalemia, leading to hospitalization. Low potassium intake increases the risk of heart disease.

According to research, in high-cholesterol diet-fed male Wistar rats, tablets prepared from purple sweet potato exhibited cardioprotective effects by reducing the total cholesterol, triglyceride, and LDL-cholesterol levels while increasing HDL-cholesterol concentration in blood (1).

Lower cancer risk

Beta-carotene (a precursor of vitamin A) and anthocyanin are both plant pigments with improved antioxidant effects that are found in sweet potatoes. 

Many forms of cancer, including prostate and lung cancer, may be reduced by antioxidants. This may be done by taking antioxidants like beta-carotene, which can protect cells from harm caused by free radicals and reduce or inhibit mutagenesis in cells, acting as anticarcinogens (2). Cellular damage may occur if quantities of free radicals in the body are too high, raising the risk of certain illnesses.

Dietary sources of antioxidants, such as fruits and vegetables, may help prevent cancer and other diseases.

Studies showed that anthocyanin rich extract, from purple sweet potato, supplemented diet manifested anti-cancer activity. In studies performed in animals, supplementing diets with purple sweet potato flesh, skin or anthocyanin rich extract from purple sweet potato for 18 weeks resulted in the reduction of carcinogenic abnormalities in the animal tissue in the intestine (1).

What is the best method to cook sweet potatoes?

The best methods to cook sweet potatoes are the ones that result in the low glycemic index of the tuber. The glycemic index, which measures how quickly and how high those foods cause increases in blood glucose levels, is low for boiled sweet potatoes (46) and high for baked potatoes, having values from 82 to 94 (7).

Studies show that the cooking methods significantly affect the glycemic index of food and, depending on the cooking methods, sweet potatoes have a higher glycemic index than regular potatoes. Boiling potatoes is a method to keep the glycemic index of sweet potatoes low and safe to the consumption even by diabetics.

On the other hand, microwaving and baking can improve the glycemic index of sweet potatoes and mashing can significantly increase the glycemic response by 15-20%.

Other FAQs about Potatoes that you may be interested in.

How to Keep Potatoes from Sticking

How many potatoes do you need to make mashed potatoes for 20?

Can you eat old potatoes?

How many potatoes do you need per person to make mashed potatoes for 10?


In this brief guide, we answered the query, “Is sweet potato bad for you?” and discussed some health benefits of sweet potatoes.


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  2. Mohanraj, Remya, and Subha Sivasankar. Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas [L.] Lam)-A valuable medicinal food: A review. J medicin food, 2014, 17, 733-741.
  3. Alam, Mohammad Khairul, et al. Minerals, vitamin C, and effect of thermal processing on carotenoids composition in nine varieties orange-fleshed sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas L.). J Food Compos Anal, 2020, 92, 103582.
  4. Mehta, Amit K., et al. Choline attenuates immune inflammation and suppresses oxidative stress in patients with asthma. Immunobiol, 2010, 215, 527-534.
  5. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans
  6. Wurtman, Judith, and Richard Wurtman. The trajectory from mood to obesity. Curr obes reports, 2018, 7, 1-5.  
  7. Allen, Jonathan C., et al. Glycemic index of sweet potato as affected by cooking methods. (2012).  
  8. Potassium. Health professional health sheet. National Institute of Health.
  9. Tan, Kok-Yang, and Francis Seow-Choen. Fiber and colorectal diseases: separating fact from fiction. World j gastroenterol, 2007, 4161.