This article has been Fact-Checked by Kendall Kennedy MS, RD, RYT
To some people, sweet potatoes are known as a great health food. Is this true and are sweet potatoes good for weight loss too?
Sweet potatoes have partly gained their health reputation because the Okinawans, the inhabitants of a Japanese island, supposedly have a diet high in sweet potatoes. The Okinawans are famous for the high amount of people reaching old ages.
This might be an indicator that sweet potatoes contain some good things but it’s probably not the only thing going on in Okinawa.
The way you prepare your sweet potatoes makes a big difference in how healthy they are. That being said, let’s see how good sweet potatoes actually are for weight loss.
Calories in sweet potatoes
The number of calories in a type of food is not the only important thing when it comes to losing weight. What types they are matters too.
At the same time, how many calories sweet potatoes contain does offer some valuable information about how good they will be for weight loss.
100 grams of sweet potatoes cooked in their skin contain around 90 calories per 100 grams (1).
A small sweet potato weighs about 60 grams so that comes down to about 54 calories. A medium sweet potato (114 g) will be about 102.6 calories. And a large sweet potato (180 g) is about 162 calories.
There are food categories like vegetables and fruits that tend to be lower in calories.
However, it is still reasonable to say that sweet potatoes are relatively low in calories compared to many other foods.
Something to note is that sweet potatoes contain around 20.7 grams of carbohydrates (including 3.3 grams of fiber) per 100 grams. This is typically too much for low-carb diets like a ketogenic diet.
Micronutrients in sweet potatoes
The first thing to look at is the amount of micronutrients in sweet potatoes.
Micronutrients are a group of nutrients your body absolutely needs to survive and thrive. Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals. These are involved in basically every aspect of your health, including weight loss.
100 grams of sweet potatoes cooked in their skin provides you with approximately (1):
- Vitamin A: 384% of the DV (Daily Value)
- Vitamin C: 33% of the DV
- Manganese: 25% of the DV
- Potassium: 14% of the DV
- Vitamin B6: 14% of the DV
- Vitamin B5: 9% of the DV
- Copper: 8% of the DV
- Thiamin: 7% of the DV
- Niacin: 7% of the DV
- Magnesium: 7% of the DV
- Riboflavin: 6% of the DV
- Phosphorus: 5% of the DV
And a few other nutrients in smaller amounts. Sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin A and a decent source of some other micronutrients.
In general, the skin of fruits and vegetables contains a relatively big amount of nutrients (for example fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants) compared to the flesh of the food (5, 6). For that reason you preferably want to eat your sweet potatoes with their skin if you’re looking to lose weight and get healthier. Don’t forget to wash them first of course.
Fiber in sweet potatoes for weight loss
Another very important factor for weight loss is the amount of fiber in your food.
Sweet potatoes contain around 3.3 grams of fiber per 100 grams.
This is a good amount of fiber per 100 grams compared to many other whole foods.
Fiber has multiple benefits. First of all, it feeds your microbiome, the microbes that live in your intestines. The health of your microbiome influences your body’s health and weight. Feeding it well is usually not a bad idea.
Fiber also helps you feel less hungry without adding a lot of calories to your diet. Hunger and cravings can be a big pitfall for people trying to lose weight, so avoiding this is a big plus.
With the amount of fiber in sweet potatoes you can reduce the time you spend craving for food a good amount.
Do sweet potatoes help you lose weight?
By now, it should be clear that sweet potatoes are reasonably low in calories, contain nice amounts of vitamins and minerals, and contain a nice amount of fiber.
The result of this is that sweet potatoes can help you feel fuller and provide you with valuable nutrients without adding too many calories to your diet.
These can help you avoid foods that are less optimal for losing weight. In turn, you can say that sweet potatoes can be good for weight loss.
If you are gaining weight while eating sweet potatoes, you likely want to look at the rest of your diet and other lifestyle habits first. Sweet potatoes are generally not fattening.
At the same time, you need to keep in mind that just adding sweet potatoes on top of your current diet without making other changes can make you gain weight.
Additionally, there are foods that are even more helpful for weight loss too.
Can you eat sweet potatoes every day?
Nutrition is always a bit of a puzzle in terms of what the perfect diet looks like. It’s a pretty individual thing that depends a lot on your goals.
Even so, most people can eat sweet potatoes every day while still hitting their daily nutrient goals.
Keep in mind that variety of foods is a good principle when it comes to nutrition.
Best time to eat sweet potato for weight loss
The calories in sweet potatoes are mainly from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates raise insulin. Insulin in turn can mess with the production of sleep hormones. Sleep is important for your weight loss and health.
That’s one of the reasons why you preferably want to consume sweet potatoes earlier in the day or at least not right before bed.
Sweet potatoes will likely not be that fattening at night that they mean the end of your weight loss journey but you preferably want to stop eating them a while before bedtime.
How to cook sweet potatoes for weight loss
The way you prepare sweet potatoes has an impact on the composition of complex vs simple carbohydrates. There is a difference between simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates when it comes to losing weight.
Complex carbohydrates get processed slower by your body which is something you want. It spikes your blood sugar less and it helps you feel less hungry.
The preferred way of preparing sweet potato for weight loss is by boiling it in its skin. This will retain more complex carbohydrates.
There are also other ways to prepare sweet potatoes. You have to decide for yourself if the extra calories are worth the taste. If you don’t like what you’re eating on your weight loss diet it will be harder to stick to it.
Sweet potato fries
There are 2 ways to make sweet potato fries and the difference in calories and calorie sources is very important for weight loss.
The first way is frying your sweet potato fries. You should avoid this preparation method if you’re looking to lose weight. The amount of calories in fried sweet potato fries can go up to 259 calories per 100 grams (7). This is 2.8 times the amount of regular boiled sweet potatoes.
You can also bake sweet potato fries. The amount of calories in those depends on how much oil you add. Important to note is also that baking them will remove more water from them than boiling.
Water is extremely convenient for weight loss. By removing water you also increase the amount of calories per 100 grams. So 100 grams of sweet potato fries will contain more calories than a boiled sweet potato. Baking will also most likely result in more simple carbohydrates than cooking. This is not great for weight loss and health.
All in all, sweet potato fries are not very healthy compared to a regular boiled sweet potato. Even more so if you fry them instead of baking.
Sweet potato chips
The story of sweet potato chips is similar to sweet potato fries.
You can make sweet potato chips both by frying and baking. Eating fried sweet potato chips is really bad if you want to lose weight.
By baking or frying them you add more calories to sweet potato and you remove water from this food.
This results in a snack that’s really easy to overeat on. The amount of calories in sweet potato chips can go up to 529 calories per 100 grams (8).
Sweet potato noodles
You can also use sweet potatoes to make healthier noodles. Sweet potato noodles will contain the same amount of calories as regular boiled sweet potatoes, about 90 calories per 100 grams.
Regular spaghetti can contain up to 124 calories per 100 grams depending on what brand you choose (9).
This makes sweet potato noodles a lower calorie and more nutrient dense option than most pasta noodles.
The best way to prepare sweet potatoes for weight loss
Like with most whole foods boiling or eating them raw is the best way to prepare sweet potatoes for weight loss.
Boiling them is easy. You just add them to some boiling water with salt. If you don’t cut the sweet potato up it can take up to 40 minutes depending on size. If you do cut it into smaller pieces before boiling it can take between 12-25 minutes.
If you do decide to change it up by making things like sweet potato fries and chips stick to baking them. Frying is one of the, if not the worst, food preparation method if you want to lose weight.
Sweet potatoes vs other popular foods for weight loss
You now know how good sweet potatoes are for weight loss but how do they compare to certain other foods? Find out how good sweet potatoes are for weight loss vs yams, potatoes, rice, and carrots.
Sweet potatoes vs yams
First of all, sweet potatoes vs yams, another so-called “edible tuber” If you look at the calorie amounts you can see that yams contain more calories. Yams contain around 116 calories per 100 grams vs the 90 calories per 100 grams of sweet potatoes (10).
Sweet potatoes contain around 3.3 grams of fiber per 100 grams, yams 3.9 grams. Sweet potatoes contain higher amounts of vitamins and minerals.
The difference will not be that big but sweet potatoes are likely better for weight loss than yams.
Sweet potatoes vs regular potatoes
Next there is sweet potatoes vs regular potatoes. Potatoes are about the same in calories as sweet potatoes, 87 calories per 100 grams (11).
Pötatoes contain around 1.8 grams of fiber per 100 grams so a good amount lower than sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes also contain higher amounts of vitamins and minerals.
Sweet potatoes are better for weight loss than regular potatoes.
Sweet potatoes vs rice
Another popular comparison is sweet potatoes vs rice. The thing with rice is that you have brown and white rice, and within these categories, you have different types with different nutritional values. For this comparison, long-grain brown rice (12) and long-grain white rice (13) will be used.
Both brown rice and white rice are higher in calories. This kind of brown rice contains about 111 calories per 100 grams and the white rice 130 calories.
Secondly, 100 grams of brown rice contains less fiber than sweet potatoes, 1.8 grams. This kind of white rice contains about 0.4 grams of fiber per 100 grams. Lastly, rice has lower amounts of vitamins and minerals.
All in all, sweet potatoes will be better than rice, both brown and white, for weight loss.
Sweet potatoes vs carrots
Lastly the comparison between sweet potatoes and carrots. Carrots are a lot lower in calories than sweet potatoes, 35 calories per 100 grams (14).
Carrots are slightly lower in fiber, 3 grams per 100 grams. In terms of vitamins and minerals, sweet potatoes have more.
Due to their low calorie count, carrots will likely be better for weight loss than sweet potatoes.
Chart of sweet potatoes vs other popular foods
There are some interesting nutritional differences between these foods that can cause vary the effect these foods have on weight loss.
The amount of vitamins and minerals in the foods does matter for weight loss and health but you can’t simplify that in one number. You can check out the numbers for sweet potatoes (1), yams (10), potatoes (11), brown rice (12), white rice (13), and carrots (14) to compare.
|Values Per 100g||Sweet Potatoes||Yams||Potatoes||Brown Rice||Carrots|
|Calories||90 calories||116 calories||32 calories||111 calories||35 calories|
|Fiber||3.3 g||3.9 g||2.0 g||1.8 g||3 g|
How do sweet potatoes help you lose weight?
The way you prepare sweet potatoes makes a huge difference for weight loss.
If you eat them boiled, sweet potatoes can certainly help you lose weight by adding a good amount of micronutrients and fiber to your diet without adding too many calories.
Because of these benefits you can feel fuller and healthier during your weight loss journey. This will most likely help you eat less unhealthy foods high in calories which will help you lose weight.
If you eat them in other forms they become slightly worse for weight loss if you bake them. A lot worse if you fry them. That doesn’t mean you can never eat sweet potatoes as fries but if you want to lose weight boiling them will be a lot more helpful.