Sweet potatoes are popular for many reasons, including their versatility, vibrant color, and natural sweetness. If you aim to lose weight, you may wonder whether eating these starchy, nutritious tubers supports your goal.
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as a yes or no answer.
Generally, sweet potatoes can support healthy weight management, but there are many factors to consider, such as cooking methods and condiments.
This article explores how sweet potatoes may affect your weight.
Sweet potatoes & weight management
Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are a type of nutrient-dense root vegetable.
They contain complex carbs. These are carbs that link together three or more sugars, including fiber.
Complex carbs pack more nutrients than simple and refined carbs — the ones you’ll find in foods like white bread or table sugar.
Other vegetables — fruits, whole grains, and legumes — are examples of other foods rich in complex carbs.
Sweet potatoes keep you feeling fuller for longer, thanks to their high fiber content.
Specifically, they contain viscous soluble fiber. This type of fiber forms a gel-like consistency in your digestive tract to slow down digestion.
As a result, you may feel like eating less food. And that’s why foods rich in soluble fiber, like sweet potatoes, are helpful for weight management.
Weight loss results from a calorie deficit. In other words, it occurs when you eat fewer calories — or energy — than you burn. By promoting fullness, sweet potatoes may help you eat fewer calories.
Uncooked sweet potatoes are 77% water and 13% fiber. This means they can keep you feeling full on not a lot of calories while providing lasting energy.
One review of 48 studies found that eating more fiber over at least 12 months was associated with sustained weight loss of at least 5% of a participant’s body weight.
A small 8-week study on 58 people working in offices had similar findings. Participants who replaced one meal per day with a meal replacement formula containing 132 grams of white sweet potato had a 5% decrease in body weight, body fat, and mid-arm circumference than a control group.
However, these results likely resulted from replacing a daily meal with a formula that was lower in calories. Sweet potatoes have no magic ingredient that causes weight loss or gain.
And remember that meal replacement diets are not ideal for long-term weight loss. A more sustainable option for healthy adults is a balanced and varied diet rich in fruits and vegetables that you feel good sticking to.
Weight gain may be a goal if you are underweight or aiming to build muscle — or you may be trying to avoid it if you’re already at or above a healthy weight.
Generally, weight gain occurs when you eat more calories than your body uses. The excess calories are stored in your liver or muscles or as body fat.
Sweet potatoes have nearly no fat and scant protein, with only 2 grams per 4.5-ounce (130-gram) serving, accounting for 7% of its total calories. This means it’s a rich source of carbs.
Because there isn’t a lot of protein and fat available to slow down how fast the carbs are absorbed into your bloodstream, your blood sugar may spike after eating these tasty tubers. This is worth considering because blood sugar management can be critical in sustaining a healthy weight.
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One sizeable 4-year study in nearly 200,000 U.S. health professionals associated increased potato intake with more significant weight gain. However, the study didn’t consider whether people ate regular or sweet potatoes.
It was also found that three servings per week of potatoes increased the risk of diabetes, depending on how they were prepared. Boiled, mashed, or baked potatoes increased diabetes risk by 51%, while French fries increased the risk by 54%.
Summary: Sweet potatoes promote fullness due to their high fiber and water content. This may lead you to eat fewer calories, leading to weight loss.
Sweet potatoes are packed with nutrients
Sweet potatoes bring many nutrients to the table.
One medium 4.6-ounce (130-gram) sweet potato packs the following:
- Calories: 112
- Carbs: 26 grams
- Protein: 2 grams
- Fat: 0.1 gram
- Fiber: 3.5 grams
- Vitamin A: 102% of the daily value
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): 11% of the daily value
As mentioned, sweet potatoes’ high fiber and water content mean they’ll keep you full for longer, potentially reducing your overall food intake.
That’s not all. Fiber also helps manage your blood sugar, boosts gut health, and improves digestion.
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This may make you less prone to experience blood sugar spikes, which could otherwise lead to insulin resistance and other health problems over time.
Sweet potatoes are also a good source of vitamin B6, a water-soluble micronutrient essential for functions that regulate your metabolism.
Summary: Sweet potatoes deliver fiber and water, which means they’ll keep you feeling full for longer. They’re also a good source of vitamin B6, which helps regulate your metabolism.
Best and worst cooking methods for sweet potatoes
While there isn’t a magical component in sweet potatoes that’ll make you lose weight, you should consider how they’re cooked and what they’re served with.
Cooking sweet potatoes alters their chemical composition. Their impact on your blood sugar is lowest when you boil them, making the starches easier to break down by enzymes in your body.
Some people avoid starchy foods like sweet potatoes because of their glycemic index (GI), which can be high, depending on how they’re cooked.
The GI measures how food affects your blood sugar. GI is rated from 0–100. A GI below 55 is considered low, 56–69 is medium, and above 70 is high.
Sweet potatoes can have a GI as low as 46 when boiled for 30 minutes or as high as 94 when baked for 45 minutes. However, this data is based on a small study on only ten adults.
Some lighter recipe ideas for sweet potatoes include:
- boiled and mashed with a pinch of salt
- boiled skin-on and topped with a dollop of guacamole
- sliced into thick disks, seasoned with rosemary and lemon juice, and roasted
On the other hand, deep-frying potatoes increase the calories. This is because fat is retained from the frying oil.
If weight loss is your goal, limiting how much and how often you eat deep-fried foods, including sweet potatoes, is best.
Remember that overeating just about any food can contribute to weight gain. Weight management happens regarding what else you’re eating and how much you’re moving.
To ensure you get all the fiber and nutrients that sweet potatoes offer, try enjoying sweet potatoes with their skin on — just wash them thoroughly before cooking.
It’s also important to consider what you serve them with. For example, limit condiments high in sugar or fat, like ketchup or mayonnaise. You can swap these condiments with spices, herbs, crushed garlic, or Parmesan.
Combined, these considerations enable you to make a nutritious meal if cravings for sweet potato fries arise. Simply cut unpeeled potatoes into wedges, toss with seasonings of your choice, and roast them in the oven or an air fryer rather than using a deep fryer.
On the other hand, enjoy high sugar dishes like sweet potato casserole or pie only occasionally and in moderation. Eating these regularly is an easy way to consume many calories, which isn’t ideal if you’re trying to maintain or lose weight.
Summary: No components in sweet potatoes will make you magically lose weight. Still, you can enjoy them in moderation — ideally boiled or roasted, while limiting high fat and high sugar condiments like ketchup and mayonnaise.
Sweet potatoes can either boost or curtail weight loss, if that’s your goal, depending on how you enjoy them.
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They’re wonderfully delicious, nutrient-rich, and high in fiber. This means that they can help you lose or maintain weight by keeping you feeling full for longer.
However, depending on how they’re cooked and any condiments or sides, they can also spike your blood sugar and have high amounts of added fat, sugar, and calories.
For the most weight loss-friendly version, boil sweet potatoes for 30 minutes and enjoy with herbs, spices, hot sauce, a little Parmesan, or garlic.
Keep in mind that overeating any food — nutritious or not — can contribute to weight gain. Variety and moderation are good rules of thumb if you’re aiming to maintain or lose weight.