Sweet Potatoes: Health Benefits & Fun Facts | The Old Farmer's Almanac

Sweet Potato Facts and Health Benefits

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Are Sweet Potatoes the Healthiest Vegetable?

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Twenty years ago, our Almanac declared sweet potatoes to be the “healthiest vegetable of them all.” This fleshy root vegetable is indeed highly nutritional and low in calories, and, for the chef, it is easier than pie to use.

Sweet Potato Facts and Health Benefits

Did you know that before George Washington became a general and the first U.S. President, he was a sweet potato farmer? These tasty tuberous vegetables are native to the Americas and are a great addition to your diet. Here are just a few fun facts about the sweet potato and its myriad benefits:

A Sweet Potato is not a Potato … Nor a Yam

  • “There is one thing that a sweet potato is not. And that is a potato.” A sweet potato is a root. Potatoes are tubers. Since sweet potatoes are unrelated to white potatoes, the two should not be used as substitutes when cooking.
  • The orange-fleshed sweet potato is often called a yam. Again, the two are unrelated. True yams are starchy, underground tubers that likely originated in Africa. See the difference between yams and sweet potatoes.

#1 Most Nutritious Veggie?

  • Sweet potatoes as the #1 most nutritional vegetable,with more nutrients than even spinach or broccoli!
  • Benefits of the sweet potato include high levels of Vitamins A and C, iron, potassium, and dietary fiber.
  • Especially important is the high percentage of beta-carotene found in sweet potatoes. This is converted into Vitamin A, which has the ability to reduce the risk of certain cancers.
  • Sweet potatoes because they have almost no fat which also makes them great for those watching their weight. With their low carbohydrate content and high fiber content, sweet potatoes keep you full for longer and give you all the essential nutrients.

Easy to Grow in the Garden

  • Sweet potatoes aren’t just nutritious, but also fairly easy to grow and harvest.
  • The tropical origin of the plant means that it is drought- and heat-tolerant and susceptible to very few pests and diseases. Sweet potatoes grow best in the southern United States or other warm parts of the country, as the crop can not tolerate the cold.
  • However, sweet potatoes can be cultivated in northern climates if planted after the soil has warmed in the spring and harvested before the first frost in the fall.

See more information on growing and planting sweet potatoes.


Sweet Potatoes in the Kitchen

  • Do NOT refrigerate sweet potatoes unless they have already been cooked. Refrigeration prior to cooking will harden the core of the vegetable, create sunken spots, and create an off-taste. This will lead the vegetable to spoil much faster than at if it had been at room temperature.
  • Store sweet potatoes in a dry, cool place (55 to 60° F). They can keep for weeks. Do not wash sweet potatoes until you plan to use them; any moisture promotes spoilage.
  • Sweet potatoes taste best when baked. They can be scrubbed, poked with a fork, and baked at 400°F for 35 minutes to an hour, until they give a little when you squeeze them.

Our Favorite Sweet Potato Recipe

Sweet potatoes are not only delicious but also easy to cook and very versatile. Turn sweet potatoes into fries or chips. Bake or boil them to make a side for meat dishes. Sauté them along with other vegetables. See 10 delicious sweet potato recipes.

Try sweet potatoes in this fantastic recipe for Pecan-Crusted Sweet Potato Casserole.

Sweet potato casserole
Photo by Becky Luigart-Stayner

Do you like sweet potatoes—either growing them yourself or simply enjoying them at dinnertime? Let us know your favorite recipes for sweet potatoes below!

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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