Can Sweet Potatoes Help Lower Cholesterol?

Delicious, nutritious and rich in fiber, sweet potatoes can also lowers cholesterol, says the Alabama Cooperative Extension. Whether you feature them as a side dish or the main course, leave off the butter, brown sugar and marshmallows as these contain saturated fat and empty calories that can exacerbate cholesterol problems. Consult with your doctor about changing your diet to treat high cholesterol.

Sweet potatoes for sale at a market. (Image: jacky9946/iStock/Getty Images)

Sweet Potatoes and Cholesterol

Low cholesterol is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. Sweet potatoes lower cholesterol because they are a source of water-soluble fiber, says MayoClinic.com. One half of a sweet potato cooked without its skin contains 3.9 grams of fiber. Water-soluble fiber binds to bile acids helping the body to excrete cholesterol. Removing the peel of the sweet potato reduces its fiber content, but if you don't like the flavor of the peel, you can remove it; peeled sweet potatoes remain a fiber-rich vegetable.

High Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a wax-like substance found in your blood. While a certain level of cholesterol keeps you healthy, high cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease. When you have high cholesterol, blood has trouble flowing through your arteries, increasing the risk that you will have a heart attack or stroke. Making changes in your diet and exercise routines can help you reduce high cholesterol. MayoClinic.com recommends reducing sodium and eating a wide variety of foods rich in nutrients including magnesium, potassium and calcium to lower cholesterol.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are the edible underground tubers of a perennial vine. They are the sixth largest food crop in the world. Sweet potato skin may be brown, white, red or purple. Its flesh color can be white, yellow, orange or purple. Some cultures include sweet potato leaves and greens in their diets. Japanese and American Indian cultures use the sweet potato to help manage symptoms of diabetes. Research about the beneficial effects of sweet potatoes is ongoing.

Serving Suggestions

Bake sweet potatoes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about one hour or until they are tender. Allow them to cool, then eat them plain or add a dash of cayenne pepper sauce, a dollop of vegetable chili or a sprinkling of pepper for additional flavor before serving. You could also use them in a recipe. Peel and puree baked sweet potatoes with low-fat milk or soy milk to make soup; add spices, such as cinnamon or curry to taste. Complete the soup with chopped fresh parsley, chives or cilantro. Avoid canned sweet potatoes as they are often preserved in sugar syrup that adds empty calories, lessening their nutritional value.

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