Ah, the humble sweet potatoes—tasty, packed with carbs and a safe way to refuel after a workout, these starchy tubers provide flavor and variety to a Paleo plate while offering nutrients and fiber to boot. Here are the goods on these sweet spuds and how to incorporate them as healthful additions to a Paleo lifestyle.
POST WORKOUT SNACK
- With just about 100 calories and 24 grams of carbohydrate, a medium sweet potato does a great job of replenishing glycogen stores after intense exercise.
LOADS OF VITAMIN A
- essential for vision, gene transcription, boosting immunity, and skin health. Found to pack between 100-1,600 micrograms of the vitamin in every 3.5 ounces, even this small amount of sweet potato can meet at least 35% (in many cases an even higher percentage) of all our needs for Vitamin A.
- Add some fat to reap the full beta-carotene (the precursor to Vitamin A) benefits from sweet potatoes. Recent studies show that adding 3-5 grams of fat for a meal can significantly boost beta-carotene intake from sweet potatoes. Whether it’s a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil or a small part of grass-fed butter or coconut oil, fat can enrich both taste and nutrient value.
- Sweet potatoes are a decent source of fiber—and that’s good for the gut. A medium one will contain about 4 grams of fiber.
B6 AND POTASSIUM
- They’re good for your heart. Sweet potatoes contain high levels of both B6 and potassium, and both of these nutrients are important to heart health. B6 plays a key role in breaking down homocysteine, a substance that can lead to hardening of the arteries. Potassium is crucial for lowering blood pressure, as it helps rid the body of excess sodium and regulates fluid balance. It also helps normalize heart rhythm and helps maintain the function of the brain and nervous system.
- Look beyond the orange for even more nutritional bang for your buck. Sweet potatoes can also be a brilliant purple color on the inside. Sometimes it’s tough to tell from the outside just how purple the flesh inside will be. These purple varieties produce anthocyanin pigments—which have impressive antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Most notably, when passing through the gut, they have the ability to lower potential health risks from heavy metals and oxygen free radicals.
VITAMIN C AND E
- Sweet potatoes are also rich in Vitamin C and Vitamin E, other powerful antioxidants that help fight disease and contribute to our longevity.
QUICK AND SIMPLE
- They’re easy to make. Just cut them into ½ inch slices and steam for about 7 minutes. It enhances their great taste and helps maximize their nutrient profile. Shake in some cinnamon or nutmeg for extra flavor. Recent studies have shown that anthocyanins are best preserved with steaming, while others comparing boiling sweet potatoes to roasting have shown better effects on blood sugar by boiling them.
Whatever variety you choose, sweet potatoes give you some great options for healthy, flavorful and “safe” sources of carbohydrate and key nutrients. As with any dense source of carbohydrate, keep an eye on quantity as you watch your total carbohydrate intake. Many trainers and Paleo gurus recommend keeping your sweet potato enjoyment to the post-workout period only if weight loss is a goal.