The weight loss industry is full of myths. As a result, it’s sometimes challenging to figure out the best choices you can make in the kitchen – for instance, whether or not sweet potatoes are good for weight loss.
While potatoes are high in carbohydrates, sweet potatoes have added benefits that can actually help you lose weight when you incorporate them into your weekly nutrition plan.
With Weight Loss, Quick is Not the Answer
If you’ve ever tried to lose a few pounds, you’ve likely wanted to lose them quickly. However, people who seek to permanently change their eating habits and lifestyle choices will lose weight gradually, and will have a higher likelihood of keeping it off. That’s because weight loss should not be about following a specific diet or program, but rather, it should become an ongoing lifestyle of permanent, long-term changes in your diet and exercise.
Alternatively, there’s a long list of health conditions that are associated with being overweight, some of which include:
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
- Kidney disease
- Certain cancers
- Heart disease
- Sleep apnea
Once you’ve committed to losing weight, it can be challenging to lose 1 or 2 pounds a week. However, that’s the safest and most sustainable way to lose weight. It’s also helpful to remember that even a small weight loss of 5% to 10% of your body weight can produce health benefits, like normalizing your blood cholesterol and blood sugars or lowering your blood pressure.
Another important factor in moderate weight reduction is a decrease in inflammation. Studies show that fat cells can produce a large number of inflammatory substances, which increase your risk of stroke and heart attack. Just a 10% reduction in inflammation removes much of that risk already.
Mistakes That Pack on the Pounds
Even simple mistakes in your diet can sabotage your weight loss efforts. For instance, eating carrot sticks is good – dipping them in bleu cheese dressing, however, is not so good. With diet, it’s often a question of being able to balance healthy food choices.
Although your body needs healthy fat, it can also be easy to overdo it. Olive oil gives you the right kind of fat to help lower your cholesterol, but if you don’t measure the amount, you’ll end up being surprised the next time you stand on the scale. Salads are another place where you might be surprised by the number of calories you’re eating, due to the use of dressing and toppings.
Nuts are healthy sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. However, did you know that a mere seven walnuts make up a serving? This shows it’s easy to go well over the serving limit when you grab a handful for the top of your salad. Other toppings like cheese, dried fruits, and croutons can also add more than you’re bargaining for. Instead of using several toppings, try picking one or two calorie-dense and nutritious toppings. Use lime juice or salsa as your salad dressing, and suddenly the salad is a lot healthier.
These are just a few of the many examples of easy mistakes people often make in their dietary habits. One food that is rarely ever a mistake when it comes to nutrition, however, is the sweet potato.
Nutritional Benefits of Sweet Potatoes
When you think of sweet potatoes, what do you think of? There are a number of different cooked and baked uses for sweet potatoes, including sweet potato pie. While the base of this classic Thanksgiving side is the same sweet potato, the end result is not. Taken on its own, one cup of cooked sweet potato has 180 calories, 4 grams of protein, 41 grams of total carbohydrate, and 6.6 grams of fiber.
The deep orange color lets you know it’s high in beta-carotene, and the vegetable itself has 769% of the daily value for vitamin A. It’s also rich in vitamin C, folate, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin B6. Sweet potatoes are not short on minerals either, as they are packed with magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, and manganese.
This rich combination of nutrients helps to support healthy vision, the immune system, heart health, and it also helps to combat the physical effects of stress. The high number of carotenoids may even help lower your risk of cancer. The high beta carotene content along with zinc and vitamin A benefit your skin, and also help to heal wounds.
To get the full benefit of the beta carotene in sweet potatoes, it’s helpful to eat some healthy fats alongside them to increase your body’s ability to absorb the beta carotene. Healthy fats include olive and coconut oils, avocado, and nuts. The mix of antioxidants and anthocyanin, a color pigment in sweet potato, have anti-inflammatory properties that also play a role in your neurological health.
Sweet potatoes have a low-to-medium glycemic index rating, and can also potentially improve blood sugar regulation. Vegetables that are high in carbohydrates are usually converted into simple sugars in the body, and therefore contribute to insulin resistance. Yet, the sweet potato has 6.6 grams of dietary fiber that help with blood sugar regulation, also helping to reduce total carbohydrates.
Is it a Sweet Potato or a Yam?
While the terms sweet potato and yam are often used interchangeably in the U.S., these are actually two completely different foods, from different plant families. Sweet potatoes are more available in the U.S. than yams, so in most grocery stores you can assume you’re buying a sweet potato, even if the sign says yams. Both are root vegetables that come in a variety of colors, so it’s also not accurate to use the color of the flesh to determine if you’re getting a sweet potato. If you’re looking for a true yam, however, you may have to go to an international food store that specializes in importing foods from tropical countries.
How Sweet Potatoes Help You Lose Weight
So, are sweet potatoes good for weight loss?
The short is answer is yes.
How you use sweet potatoes will determine whether or not they help you in your weight loss goals. Sweet potatoes are a good source of quality carbohydrates, and come in a range of sizes. As a result, not every sweet potato has the same number of carbohydrates. A large sweet potato weighs about 12 ounces, and once cooked, it’s about a cup and a half, equaling 250 calories with 60 grams of carbs.
The energy you get from sweet potatoes is sustained over a longer period of time than you would from other carbohydrates, since the fiber extends the length of time it takes your body to digest the food. This, combined with high water content, means you’ll feel fuller for longer. Compare that against sweet potato chips, which are lightweight and calorie-dense – it won’t be long before you’re reaching for another handful of chips to stave off hunger pangs.
How you prepare your sweet potatoes is also important in how they fit into your diet plan. While making sweet potato fries in oil is not the most weight loss-friendly idea, since it adds calories, it’s instead wise to bake, boil, steam, or roast sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes can also be paired with other warm spices, like nutmeg, sweet paprika, allspice, and ginger. Warm spices have a deep aroma and strong taste that complement the flavor of sweet potatoes. Try mixing a few together for a satisfying and tasty treat at dinner.
Pick Your Potato
For the best culinary results, choose potatoes that are firm without cracks. You’ll want to avoid those from the refrigerated section, because cold temperatures alter their taste. You can also consider looking for a local organic farmer, since repeated studies have shown that exposure to pesticides used in traditional farming methods is not healthy. Of course, there are some fruits and vegetables that have a heavier pesticide burden than others. Unfortunately, the potato crop made the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list of produce with the greatest pesticide burden.
Store your sweet potatoes in a cool, dark, and well-ventilated area in your home. This can keep them fresh for up to 10 days. While the refrigerator is cool, dry, and dark, it is too cold and will harm the taste. Most people do not have root cellars, so try a loose paper bag with multiple holes in a cupboard away from your stove and oven.
Sweet potatoes are a delicious addition to your nutrition plan. However, like most things in life, too much of a good thing doesn’t make it better. Instead, it’s best to enjoy your foods in moderation; sweet potatoes included. This helps ensure you’ll provide your body’s cells with the nutrition they need, while making sure you don’t get tired of the foods you’re eating!