For thousands of years, humans have been eating sweet potatoes, and for good reason. The vegetable is packed with vitamins-specifically vitamin A, which supports organ health; minerals; and powerful plant compounds called phytonutrients. Today? They’re still a favorite among athletes who cook up the veggie as natural fuel, for a little bit of natural sweetness and flavor (without reaching for the Skittles), and as a solid source of carbs.
But since not every single vegetable is created equal-and sweet potatoes are carb-packed beasts, whereas other veggies such as cucumbers are north of 90-percent water-if you’re trying to drop pounds, it’s easy to wonder if sweet potatoes are good or bad for your weight loss goals.
Love ‘em? Here, where sweet potatoes stand on the scale-and how to make sure the vegetable isn’t sabotaging your efforts.
First, change the way you think about sweet potatoes.
Sure, they’re a vegetable. But that’s not always the best way to think about them, says Brian St. Pierre, R.D., C.S.C.S., director of performance nutrition at Precision Nutrition and a member of the Men’s Health advisory board. “I would suggest folks think of sweet potatoes like a starchy carbohydrate-the same way they might think of whole grains.” After all: Sweet potatoes are a solid carb source with almost 24 grams in a medium potato, he notes.
Here’s why the mindset shift matters: If you think about sweet potatoes as a carb, you’re less likely to overdo it with carbs later but also better able to portion. For general health and a bit of body fat loss, you want to aim for one to two handfuls of quality carbs per meal as a starting point, St. Pierre suggests: “Sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, beans and lentils, whole grains and fruit would all be great options to flesh out those carb sources.”