A baked sweet potato is a nutritious side dish or main course if you avoid the common high-calorie and sugary marshmallow, butter and brown sugar toppings. Healthy sweet potato toppings can even turn this orange-fleshed vegetable into a complete meal.
Healthy fats, lean proteins and even added fruits or vegetables turn your sweet potato into a WOW for your taste buds, waistline and well-being!
Healthy sweet potato toppings include protein foods, such as black beans or shredded chicken, and healthy fats, such as avocado. These toppings make your potato even more nutritious — and delicious.
Sweet Potato Nutrition
You can't go wrong nutritionally when you start off with a sweet potato. The vegetable offers a lot of health benefits including fiber, potassium and antioxidants. A large baked sweet potato has 162 calories, 3.6 grams of protein and 37 grams of carbohydrates — with 6 grams of fiber. A baked sweet potato is naturally very low in fat and has 855 milligrams of potassium and 1.24 milligrams of iron. Sweet potatoes are also rich in vitamins A, B6 and C.
Sweet potatoes are rich in healing compounds that support a healthy metabolism and body. Food Research International published a paper in November 2016 noting that sweet potatoes are a good source of carotenoids, anthocyanins and phenolic acids. These are valuable antioxidants that help prevent your cells from damage and reduce inflammation.
A paper in the Journal of Medicinal Food published in July 2014 pointed out that the nutritional compounds in sweet potatoes give them anti-inflammatory capabilities.
Sweet potatoes can be found in the familiar orange variety as well as purple, white and yellow. The type richest in beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A and a major antioxidant, are the familiar orange-fleshed versions, explains a paper published in Food Science and Nutrition in May 2019.
Purple-fleshed sweet potatoes boast more anthocyanin. A review published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition in October 2016 explains that anthocyanins are beneficial antioxidants that help keep you healthy.
Healthy Sweet Potato Toppings
You may associate sweet potatoes with Thanksgiving and the sugary, marshmallow casseroles often served alongside the turkey. If you make a traditional sweet potato casserole topped with brown sugar, butter, half-and-half, candied walnuts and butter, you end up with a version that has 340 calories per cup and 20 grams of sugar. Fiber reduces to just 2 grams.
Instead of making a sugar bomb, try healthy sweet potato fillings that up the vegetable's nutrient content.
Black Beans Up the Protein
Black beans are a tasty foil for sweet potatoes, and they turn your potato into a complete meal. Adding one-half cup of cooked black beans gives 7.5 grams of protein and 7.5 grams more fiber. Plus, they add just 115 calories.
And, as an August 2015 issue of Nutrients shows, black beans are a valuable dietary addition for people with metabolic syndrome. The fiber content and antioxidant capacity in the beans helps moderate insulin levels to ease blood sugar. Metabolic syndrome is a condition in which you have a cluster of conditions including high blood pressure, a large waist circumference and high blood sugar.
To make your black bean-topped sweet potato even more delicious, add a squeeze of lime juice, a dollop of tangy Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of chili powder. Serve it alone as a savory vegetarian meal, or have it alongside fajita-style chicken or lean steak.
Toppings to Protect Your Heart
Pumpkin seeds add crunch to the mushy texture of sweet potatoes and provide an earthy kick. Sprinkle just a few of these awesome seeds that contain 40 calories and 1.75 grams of protein per tablespoon. They are rich in healthy fatty acids and offer a little iron, too.
A paper published in Circulation in July 2013 states that increasing your intake of seeds, including pumpkin seeds, is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Seeds contain multiple minerals, including potassium, calcium and magnesium, as well as folic acid and vitamin E. Some seed components, such as soluble fiber, unsaturated fatty acids and phytosterols, have the potential to reduce cholesterol.
Guacamole also makes a savory, healthy sweet potato topping that adds a dose of extra nutrition. A mixture containing avocados, tomatoes, lime juice, onions and spices contains 38 calories per 2 tablespoons and 2 grams of fiber. The 3 grams of fat in this serving are made up of mostly healthy, unsaturated fat.
Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition published research in May 2013 explaining that the avocado is rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, folate, vitamin B6, niacin, panthothenic acid, choline and riboflavin. Avocados and a dip made from them also offer phytosterols and lutein/zeaxanthin (an antioxidant).
The paper goes on to point out that multiple studies suggest that avocados support weight management, healthy aging and cardiovascular health.
Add a little salsa with the guacamole for spicy, savory, stuffed sweet potatoes with nominal calories and no additional fat.
Sweeten Up Your Sweet Potato
Bring out the sweetness in your sweet potato without the marshmallow toppings by adding sautéed apple and cinnamon. Cinnamon is a natural sweet potato flavor enhancer.
Another option for topping your baked sweet potato that makes a tasty snack, lunch or breakfast is berries and cottage cheese.
Cottage cheese adds just 81 calories per half cup, but ups your potato's protein content by 14 grams. With 1 gram of fat and 3 grams of carbs, as well as a bit of calcium (69 milligrams), cottage cheese simply makes your sweet potato more of a good thing.
To sweeten up the cottage cheese-topped potato, add a few blueberries or blackberries. The berries have valuable antioxidants and bioactive compounds, explains a paper published in Nutrition in May 2014, that give them potent anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-neurodegenerative and antimicrobial properties.
- Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: "Hass Avocado Composition and Potential Health Effects"
- Nutrients: "Black Beans, Fiber, and Antioxidant Capacity Pilot Study: Examination of Whole Foods vs. Functional Components on Postprandial Metabolic, Oxidative Stress, and Inflammation in Adults With Metabolic Syndrome"
- Circulation: "Consumption of Plant Seeds and Cardiovascular Health: Epidemiologic and Clinical Trial Evidence"
- USDA National Nutrient Database: "Cheese, Cottage, Lowfat, 1% Milkfat"
- USDA National Nutrient Database: "Sweet Potato, Cooked, Baked in Skin, Flesh, Without Salt"
- USDA Branded Food Products Database: "Sweet Potato Casserole"
- USDA National Nutrient Database: "Beans, Black, Mature Seeds, Cooked, Boiled, With Salt"
- USDA Branded Food Products Database: "Roasted, Salted Pumpkin Seeds"
- USDA Branded Food Products Database: "Guacamole"
- Nutrition: "Edible Berries: Bioactive Components and Their Effect on Human Health"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Sweet Potatoes"
- Food Research International: "Chemical Constituents and Health Effects of Sweet Potato"
- Journal of Medicinal Food: "Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas [L.] Lam)--A Valuable Medicinal Food: A Review"
- Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: "Health Benefits of Anthocyanins and Their Encapsulation for Potential Use in Food Systems: A Review"
- Food Science and Nutrition: "Review on Nutritional Composition of Orange‐fleshed Sweet Potato and Its Role in Management of Vitamin A Deficiency"