High in fiber and virtually fat-free, sweet potatoes may help lower rather than raise your cholesterol if you eat them baked or boiled. But sweet potatoes topped with butter, sour cream or cooked in high-fat, high-sugar casseroles could elevate your low-density lipoprotein cholesterol as well as your triglycerides, a type of fat that acts similarly to LDL – “bad” cholesterol – in your bloodstream.
Sweet potatoes rank on the list of superfoods compiled by the American Diabetes Association. Foods on the list provide high levels of nutrition with few calories and help control blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Sweet potatoes provide a good source of fiber and vitamin A. Fiber helps reduce LDL cholesterol, according to MayoClinic.com. Fiber also helps you lose weight, and losing just 5 lbs. to 10 lbs. can help you lower your cholesterol.
A medium baked sweet potato contains 105 calories. It provides 2.3 g of protein, 23.6 g of carbohydrate and 0.17 g of fat. Like all vegetables and plant-based foods, sweet potatoes contain no cholesterol. They fit comfortably within a healthy diet plan that limits fat consumption to 44 g to 78 g daily, saturated fat to 16 g to 22 g daily and carbohydrates to 225 g to 325 g, based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet. Restrict dietary cholesterol to 200 mg to 300 mg per day. Observe the lower limits if factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, genetics or obesity put you at high risk for heart disease.
Sweet potato casserole, however, may raise your cholesterol. Common ingredients in sweet potato casserole include eggs -- 212 mg of cholesterol each -- and butter, which contains 33 mg in 1 tbsp. Sugar elevates your triglycerides. A baked sweet potato includes a small amount of natural sugar -- 7.4 g per medium potato. But sweet potato casserole contains added sugars such as brown sugar and marshmallows. To manage your triglycerides and maintain a healthy weight, limit added sugars to 100 to 200 calories per day -- 5 percent to 10 percent of your daily total on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet.
To keep sweet potatoes cholesterol-friendly, top a baked sweet potato with broccoli, fresh tomatoes and black pepper. For a healthy fried potato, bake a sweet potato in the oven or microwave and slice it in half. Place it cut-side down in a frying pan lightly coated in olive oil. Cook until brown and crispy. Make a smoothie with leftover baked or boiled sweet potato with the skin removed; add a banana, nonfat milk, cinnamon and ice. You can also add leftover sweet potatoes to an egg-white omelet.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Database
- University of California San Francisco Medical Center; Cholesterol Content of Foods; February 2011
- American Diabetes Association: Food and Fitness – Diabetes Superfoods
- MayoClinic.com; Nutrition and Healthy Eating – Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet; November 2009