Sweet Potatoes: Weight Loss Friend Or Foe?

When looking at methods that can assist with weight loss, people often try to steer clear of foods that are classified as starches. The high carbohydrate content of these foods may contribute to weight gain. While this is true, there are cases where starchy foods can play a positive part in a weight loss diet.

In this post, we take a closer look at sweet potatoes. We will help you understand whether sweet potatoes can help you with weight loss. We also consider concerns about weight gain when eating a sweet potato. Due to various factors affecting these root vegetables, we need to look at both sides to help you achieve a better understanding.

What Are Sweet Potatoes?

Many people think that sweet potatoes are the same as regular potatoes. While there are some similarities that the two vegetables share, it is also important to understand the differences (1). A potato is classified as a tuber. Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, fall within a different category of food. In particular, sweet potato is a type of root vegetable. Some still refer to sweet potatoes as a tuber, however, since the root of the vegetable has a tuberous structure.

Both potatoes and sweet potatoes grow underneath the ground. There are differences in how the two vegetables taste. Additionally, the nutritional profiles of the two foods differ as well, which is why some people are more prone to eating a sweet potato compared to regular potatoes.

A sweet potato, as the name suggests, features a relatively sweet taste (2). There are different ways to prepare the food, which will also have an impact on how it tastes on your serving plate. Some people tend to take advantage of the sweet flavor that a sweet potato offers, while others rather create salty dishes with this vegetable.

Sweet Potato Nutrition Facts

When we consider whether sweet potatoes would help with weight loss or halt your results, it is important to take the nutritional facts into consideration. There are certain factors that can affect the nutrition factors, but we will focus on a plain sweet potato without added sugar or other condiments. This can give you a better idea of how a sweet potato may fit in with your weight loss program.

The nutritional facts of sweet potato are one of the elements that make it stand out among the variety of root vegetables that you can choose from. This especially comes into account when comparing normal potatoes to these root vegetables.

A standard serving of sweet potatoes includes about 100 grams of the root vegetable. We will base the nutritional facts on this particular serving size (3):

  • 86 calories
  • 1.6 grams of protein
  • 20.1 grams of carbohydrates
  • 4.2 grams of sugar
  • 3 grams of fiber
  • 0.1 grams of fat

In addition to these, we should also note that a sweet potato consists of up to 77% water. Studies do seem to differ in terms of water content in a sweet potato. Some studies show that certain sweet potatoes may only hold about 68.5% water content (4). Even at this rate, it is still an impressive factor to consider. This results in enhanced hydration and can contribute to additional benefits.

Two of the main factors to look at here are the calorie content and carbohydrates. These are driving factors behind weight maintenance. Several studies show that calorie intake is largely associated with the ability to gain or lose weight. Additionally, carbohydrates convert into sugars in the body, which affects blood glucose levels. When blood glucose is not effectively-balanced and regulated, it can contribute to complications that also adversely affect weight (5).

Do Sweet Potatoes Help With Weight Loss?

Now that you have a better understanding of the nutritional factors of sweet potatoes, it is time to look at whether or not these make a good addition to a weight loss diet. To understand whether sweet potatoes can help or rather cause harm to your weight loss program, we first need to consider how this process works.

The Essential Factors Behind Weight Loss

When it comes to weight loss, there are two major measurements to look at in your daily lifestyle. This includes energy expenditure, as well as your calorie intake.

Energy Expenditure

Energy expenditure refers to the number of calories you burn throughout the day. This includes calories burnt from a resting metabolism. Additionally, it also consists of calories you burn through physical activity.

To determine your resting metabolic rate, you need to consider a couple of factors. This includes your height, your age, and your body mass. The average person is able to burn an estimated 45 calories each hour while in a resting state. Here, it is important to consider the fact that different parts of the body use energy, including the brain. In fact, according to some studies, the brain uses an estimated 20% of the energy that the body burns in a rested state (6). For some people, however, the metabolic rate can be higher or lower.

If you are active throughout the day and participate in sport, then you will exert additional calories – giving you a greater energy expenditure to work with.

Calorie Intake

Another factor that accounts for the overall efficacy of a weight loss program is your calorie intake. This refers to the number of calories you consume through foods and drinks on a daily basis.

Achieving A Calorie Deficit

There are many studies that report on weight loss methods. Among these, researchers continue to agree that a calorie deficit is an essential part of a person’s ability to lose weight. In one study, researchers explain that to lose weight, the process primarily depends on achieving a calorie deficit (7). This is sometimes also called an energy deficit.

When you eat more calories than you burn, it means your body will store the excess calories in fat. In other words, this results in weight gain. On the other hand, when you have a higher energy expenditure than calorie consumption, your body starts to turn to its existing reserves, resulting in the ability to lose weight.

Where Does Sweet Potatoes Fit In?

With current evidence surrounding strategies to help people lose weight, we need to revert back to the nutritional factors when looking at sweet potatoes.

A sweet potato is relatively high in calories and the starchy vegetable comes with over 20 grams of carbohydrates in a 100-gram serving. These are factors that people generally associate with weight gain. This, however, does not necessarily mean eating a sweet potato will cause you to gain weight.

It all comes down to balance. When you consume a sweet potato as part of a balanced meal, then the chances of gaining weight due to this particular vegetable on your plate become slimmer. For example, consuming sweet potato with a few other vegetables can give your body access to essential nutrients without loading up too many calories.

With this said, the preparation method does come into play when looking at whether sweet potatoes will cause weight gain. The nutritional information we shared applies to simple preparation methods. This may include adding boiled sweet potatoes to your plate, for example.

It is also important to take note of more than just the carb and calorie content in sweet potatoes.

These root vegetables are also relatively high in fiber. It is a good idea to opt for about 25 grams to 30 grams of fiber on a daily basis in your diet. Unfortunately, the average person only consumes an estimated 15 grams of fiber each day (8).

A 100 gram serving of sweet potatoes gives you about three grams of fiber. While not a significant amount, it is already more than 10% of the recommended daily intake.

The Role Of Fiber In Weight Loss

There is a reason for mentioning the fiber content of sweet potatoes – this type of carbohydrate has many benefits to offer the body. Fiber comes in two different forms – soluble and insoluble. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body does not metabolize. It does, however, play an important part in digestive wellbeing.

By eating foods that are high in fiber, your digestive tract will empty slower. This means you will feel fuller after you had a meal – and for a longer duration than usual.

As we noted previously, the ability to lose weight highly depends on an energy deficit. When you feel full consistently, you are more likely to give in to your cravings. In turn, this means you’ll end up eating more calories than you exert. By keeping you full, you will be less hungry during the day (9). Additionally, fiber may also help you gain more control over those mid-day cravings, which often results in a bag of chips or something else that is nowhere near good for your waistline (10).

Can Sweet Potatoes Cause Weight Gain?

It is clear now that sweet potatoes can be part of a healthy program that focuses on reducing your body weight. At the same time, however, it is important to note that this is not always the case. As we did discuss previously, how you prepare your sweet potatoes do make a difference in whether or not it will result in weight gain or help with your progress.

A classic boiled sweet potato will give you access to the nutrients found in the vegetable without adding additional compounds that can result in an increase in body weight. You gain the opportunity to experience the health benefits that the dietary fiber offers, along with protein, complex carbs, and even vitamins and minerals.

One publication also explains that boiling sweet potatoes may possibly result in a higher retention of nutritional content (11). According to this publication, a boiled sweet potato retains a higher concentration of its nutritional values compared to other methods of preparation. This helps you gain more vitamin A, vitamin b6, vitamin C, and potassium from the food. In addition to these, it also seems that a sweet potato retains a higher concentration of beta carotene when you decide to boil the food.

With this in mind, sometimes people prepare a sweet potato in a way that is not as appropriate for a diet that focuses on reducing body fat percentage. Examples would include a sweet potato pie that contains a lot of added sugar.

Sweet potato fries are often considered a healthy alternative to a classic French fry, but again, it depends on how you make it. If you deep fry the sweet potato sticks or wedges, you are adding a significant amount of calories and fats to the food. This means you won’t only be obtaining the calories from the sweet potato, but also from the added oil.

These factors make it hard to determine how sweet potatoes for weight reduction should be included in your diet. There are different ways of eating sweet potatoes, and your goal should be to keep the calories to a minimum.

How To Incorporate Sweet Potatoes In Your Weight Loss Diet

When eating sweet potatoes, you do not have to limit yourself to only boiling the vegetables on your weight loss journey. There are several preparation methods that can have an adverse effect on your ability to lose weight, but there are also other healthy ways to prepare a sweet potato.

Consider mixing things up with some baked sweet potatoes (12). Here, you can easily add a few extra ingredients to increase the number of nutrients you gain from your diet – all without overloading your body with calories, carbs, and unhealthy ingredients.

When cooking a sweeter dish, it is always important to consider the type of sweetener you use. Many people enjoy a few sweet potato slices with added cinnamon. These recipes often call for added sugar to sweet potatoes (13). This can cause problems with your blood sugar levels. Remember that sweet potato already contain complex carbs. This type of carbohydrate separates into multiple sugars when you consume the sweet potato. In turn, it can cause more significant blood sugar spikes.

There are healthier alternatives to regular table sugar, however. Consider using purple sweet potatoes in the recipe. Then add a natural sweetener that has fewer calories compared to regular sugar we use in the house. One excellent alternative is stevia extract, which comes in powder and liquid formulas. In addition to having fewer calories than regular sugar, stevia extract also seems to have beneficial effects on people with insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and other health conditions (14). This way, you can enjoy a delicious eating plan while still being able to experience the weight loss benefits offered by these foods. In one study, researchers also show that the natural sweetness of stevia may actually cause blood sugar levels to decline instead of a spike (15).


Eating sweet potatoes as part of a weight-loss diet can sometimes result in the opposite effect. It all comes down to how you prepare the sweet potato, what you eat with it, and the condiments you consume with your meal. People generally consider sweet potatoes versatile vegetables, as they can assist with weight loss and weight gain, depending on how you utilize the food.


(1) https://www.jacksonville.com/entertainmentlife/20180426/sweet-potato-isnt-potato-and-other-myths

(2) https://www.thespruceeats.com/sweet-potato-facts-selection-and-storage-1802486

(3) https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/sweet-potatoes#nutrients

(4) https://www.e3s-conferences.org/articles/e3sconf/pdf/2020/02/e3sconf_icals2019_01007.pdf

(5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1199523/

(6) https://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/02/science/02qna.html

(7) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18025815/

(8) https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/increasing-fiber-intake

(9) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23885994/

(10) https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/10.1377/hlthaff.2015.0434

(11) https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/sweet-potatoes/

(12) https://www.loveandlemons.com/baked-sweet-potato/

(13) https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/84002/cinnamon-sweet-potato-slices/

(14) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7103435/

(15) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7059728/

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply