Sweet potatoes make a delicious accompaniment to most meals. You can bake them, fry them, add them to a smoothie, etc – they’re incredibly versatile!
However, many people cook them without the skin, which begs the question, can you eat sweet potato skin?
Sweet potato skins are highly nutritious and definitely edible. In general, the nutrients in fruits and vegetables are especially concentrated in the peel (1). Sweet potatoes are no exception to this rule!
Just 100g of a sweet potato with the skin on contains 1.6g of proteins, 20.1g of carbohydrates, 3g of fiber and just 0.1g of fat. It’s also chock-full of minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, and vitamins such as folate, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B-6 and Vitamin-K (2).
When you remove the skin of sweet potatoes, you’ll forgo a lot of these essential nutrients – especially fiber. Getting sufficient fiber from your diet is extremely important as it supports a healthy gut microbiome, improves digestion, cures constipation, and helps manage blood cholesterol levels (3).
In fact, sweet potatoes with their skin on are an excellent food for those on diets! Their low fat content coupled with their high fiber content will help you feel full sooner to keep you from overeating and gaining weight.
The skins of sweet potatoes have multiple health benefits beyond weight management. For example, they can help combat diabetes by reducing plasma glucose levels. They have also demonstrated potent wound healing effects due to a high concentration of antioxidants (2).
The main antioxidants in sweet potatoes are beta carotene, chlorogenic acid, anthocyanins, ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) and Vitamin E (4).
Apart from the potent wound healing effects, these antioxidants are known to have other beneficial health effects. For example, Vitamin C has an ability to mitigate the effects of cellular injury and the associated organ failure (5). Vitamin E also can also help prevent cellular damage by protecting cell membranes (6).
Chlorogenic acid assists with combating diabetes by promoting insulin’s activity for the metabolism of glucose. It also reduces fats and cholesterol and therefore plays a role in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and obesity (7).
Beta carotene is one of the building blocks of Vitamin A and is therefore extremely important. Vitamin A is an essential nutrient which can protect your eyesight, reduce your risk of developing cancer and improve your bone health (8).
Lastly, anthocyanins have been understood to have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral abilities. They are also known to prevent other lifestyle-related conditions such as high blood pressure (9). Purple sweet potatoes, in particular, are known to have more anthocyanins than their white counterparts.
The only risk that comes with eating sweet potato skins is for infants with food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES). Mostly triggered by cow’s milk or soy, FPIES can also be triggered by solid foods such as oats, barley, squash, string beans, as well as sweet potatoes and their skins (10). Luckily, this syndrome is quite rare.
Overall, the benefits of eating sweet potato skin are too much to miss out on! Remember, most of their nutrients are concentrated in the skin, so peeling them off will result in you getting less fiber and antioxidants.
1. Deng, G. F., Shen, C., Xu, X. R., Kuang, R. D., Guo, Y. J., Zeng, L. S., … Li, H. B. (2012). Potential of fruit wastes as natural resources of bioactive compounds. International journal of molecular sciences, 13(7), 8308–8323. doi:10.3390/ijms13078308
2. Chandrasekara, A., & Josheph Kumar, T. (2016). Roots and Tuber Crops as Functional Foods: A Review on Phytochemical Constituents and Their Potential Health Benefits. International journal of food science, 2016, 3631647. doi:10.1155/2016/3631647
3. Lovegrove, A., Edwards, C. H., De Noni, I., Patel, H., El, S. N., Grassby, T., … Shewry, P. R. (2017). Role of polysaccharides in food, digestion, and health. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 57(2), 237–253. doi:10.1080/10408398.2014.939263
4. Teow C. C., Van-Den T., McFeeters R. F., Thompson R. L., Pecota K. V., Yencho G. C. (2007). Antioxidant activities, phenolic and β-carotene contents of sweet potato genotypes with varying flesh colours. Food Chemistry, 103(3), 829-838. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2006.09.033
5. Oudemans-van Straaten, H. M., Spoelstra-de Man, A. M., & de Waard, M. C. (2014). Vitamin C revisited. Critical care (London, England), 18(4), 460. doi:10.1186/s13054-014-0460-x
6. Niki E., Traber M. G. (2012). A history of Vitamin E. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 61(3), 207-212. doi:10.1159/000343106
7. Meng, S., Cao, J., Feng, Q., Peng, J., & Hu, Y. (2013). Roles of chlorogenic Acid on regulating glucose and lipids metabolism: a review. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2013, 801457. doi:10.1155/2013/801457
8. Green, A. S., & Fascetti, A. J. (2016). Meeting the Vitamin A Requirement: The Efficacy and Importance of β-Carotene in Animal Species. The Scientific World Journal, 7393620. doi:10.1155/2016/7393620
9. Asadi, K., Ferguson, L. R., Philpott, M., & Karunasinghe, N. (2017). Cancer-preventive Properties of an Anthocyanin-enriched Sweet Potato in the APCMIN Mouse Model. Journal of cancer prevention, 22(3), 135–146. doi:10.15430/JCP.2017.22.3.135
10. Nowak-Wegrzyn A., Sampson H. A., Wood R. A., Sicherer S. H. (2003). Food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome caused by solid food proteins. Pediatrics, 111(4), 829-835. doi:10.1542/peds.111.4.829