A part of the starchy vegetables food subgroup -- a classification that also includes potatoes and lima beans -- sweet potatoes make a welcome addition to a balanced diet. They come loaded with beneficial fiber, manganese, copper and potassium to help support your health. Sweet potatoes also serve as excellent sources of vitamin A and provide smaller amounts of other essential vitamins.
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Sweet potatoes owe their rich orange hue to beta-carotene, a nutrient that your body converts to vitamin A. Just a single 1-cup serving of sweet potatoes -- a serving roughly equivalent to one 5-inch sweet potato -- contains 18,869 international units of vitamin A, or more than your entire daily vitamin A needs. Your body uses vitamin A to control gene activity, a process central to cell growth, and to maintain healthy vision. Including sweet potatoes in your diet fights vitamin A deficiency, a condition associated with night blindness.
Include sweet potatoes in your diet, and you'll also consume more vitamin B-5, or pantothenic acid. Each cup of sweet potatoes boasts 1.06 milligrams of pantothenic acid, which contributes 21 percent toward your recommended daily B-5 intake. Your body uses vitamin B-5 to make steroid hormones -- a hormone family that includes progesterone, testosterone and estrogen -- as well as cholesterol. It also aids in the production of myelin, a component of healthy nerve tissue, and plays a role in cell communication.
Sweet potatoes also provide a moderate amount of vitamin B-6. The vitamin B-6 in your system helps you produce glucose -- the primary source of fuel for your brain -- and activates enzymes needed for cellular metabolism. Getting enough vitamin B-6 also supports oxygen circulation because it aids in the development of oxygen-transporting red blood cells. A cup of sweet potatoes provides you with 278 micrograms of vitamin B-6, or 21 percent of your recommended daily intake.
Serving Tips and Suggestions
Sweet potatoes' starchy texture stands up well to baking and roasting. Try chopping sweet potatoes into cubes, coat them lightly with a mixture of olive oil and cayenne pepper and then roast until tender for a healthful side dish. Cut sweet potatoes into wedges and bake to make oven "fries." Alternatively, you can bake sweet potatoes whole -- try topping them with cottage cheese and steamed vegetables for a protein-packed side dish.