Are you on a keto diet and wondering if sweet potatoes are ok? Or maybe you just want more information about sweet potatoes before trying them out.
Here are some things that you should know about this great food for anyone starting keto or wanting to lose weight fast with a keto diet plan.
Sweet potatoes are root vegetables that originated in Central and South America, but have spread to other continents as well.
They grow best in cool weather and when the ground is moist and loose. North American varieties tend to be yellow-fleshed with orange skin, while varieties grown in Japan are white-fleshed with purple skin.
Sweet potatoes have been grown for a very long time and were eaten by Native Americans. Nowadays, they are more commonly eaten in the US (and Canada), China, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, and northern India. (1)
Some people say that sweet potato is not keto-friendly because it has too many carbs. This is true if you are on the Standard Ketogenic Diet (SKD).
A Standard Keto Diet diet limits the number of carbohydrates you can have per day to 20-30 grams, and this will vary based on your weight, age, and physical activity level.
So how does the sweet potato fit into a keto diet plan? Sweet potatoes are low in calories, high in nutrients like vitamins A and C, beta carotene, fiber, B6, and manganese. (2)
They are a complex carbohydrate, similar to starch, that is rich in many health-enhancing nutrients.
So if you’ve been wondering about whether or not sweet potatoes are part of a low-carb diet menu, then read on for more information.
Can You Eat Sweet Potatoes On Keto?
In short, yes, you can eat sweet potatoes on keto. However, it’s possible to overdo it.
If you’re eating too many carbs and sugars without enough fat in your diet, then your body will start converting the excess sugars into stored fats.
There are certain things you need to watch out for when eating keto. The first point of caution with sweet potatoes is that they’re high in carbs.
Not all carbs are bad, but you’ll want to make sure those carbs come from vegetables, nuts, seeds, eggs, and dairy products instead of fruit and grains, or you’ll risk breaking ketosis and storing fat.
Sweet potatoes are not off the table on a ketogenic diet, but you may still want to limit them because of their carbohydrate content.
In general, sweet potatoes will not fit into a ketogenic diet if you adhere only to strict macronutrient breakdowns.
With these facts in mind, you may want to limit how often you eat them or substitute them for a lower-carb vegetable if possible. This will help keep your net carbs down while still consuming healthy and delicious food.
A study conducted in 2013 tested how different sweet potato types affected blood sugar levels (glucose) during a meal. (3)
The study found that the glucose increase associated with sweet potatoes was lower than that of a regular white potato. However, it was still higher than baseline levels and, therefore, will still contribute to an overall blood sugar increased reaction in your body if you go overboard on carbs.
A high-sugar food like sweet potatoes is not bad for your diet, but it should be eaten in moderation.
Sweet Potato Variations
Sweet potato varieties vary in size, flavor, and carbohydrate content.
It’s best to use these facts to your advantage by choosing sweet potatoes that contain the least amount of carbs possible for when you crave a side dish or want to eat them as an addition to your regular meal plan.
You can choose from purple, white, orange, or yellow sweet potatoes based on your taste preference. The size of the potato will vary, with larger sweet potatoes generally containing more carbs.
The purple-colored sweet potatoes (also called Okinawan potatoes) have an earthy flavor that can be easily paired with other savory foods and desserts. You may also find black sweet potatoes, which are less common in US grocery stores than the other colors.
White sweet potatoes have a milder flavor and are usually the cheapest of the bunch, they work perfectly in recipes that call for mashed or cubed potatoes. You will still want to watch out for how many carbs they contain and the overall calorie count.
The orange-colored sweet potatoes, also called yams, are the same vegetable except that they are grown in different climates and regions. As a result, they taste a little sweeter than white or purple sweet potatoes.
The yellow-colored sweet potatoes tend to be the most expensive but contain the least amount of carbs. You may also see them labeled as Japanese purple sweet potatoes, Hokkaido sweet potatoes, and golden sweet potatoes.
How do Sweet Potatoes Compare to Regular Potatoes?
First, let’s identify exactly how sweet potatoes stack up against regular potatoes. It appears that the Glycemic Index (GI) of a single serving of white potatoes is around 82. (4)
This is significantly higher than most vegetables and fruits. The GI of sweet potatoes ranges from 69-80, making them slightly higher in glycemic response than white potatoes. (4)
As you can see, while sweet potatoes are not as high in carbs or glucose as white potatoes, they still have a relatively high GI.
You’ll want to keep this GI in mind while considering if you want to include sweet potatoes in your ketogenic diet.
You can also check the glycemic response of other foods using the Glycemic Index Research Database.
How Many Carbs in Sweet Potatoes?
A medium-sized baked sweet potato contains between 22 and 33 grams of total carbs, with nearly that much fiber—16 to 22 grams of net carbs.
The carb content in sweet potatoes is not affected by whether they’re cooked or raw.
Sweet potatoes are also very low in sugar, with just 1 gram per sweet potato. Most of the carbs in sweet potatoes come from starch and fiber.
A medium-sized baked or boiled white potato has about 20 grams of total carbs but much less fiber—just 5 to 10 grams of net carbs. So, it’s easy to see why people think sweet potatoes are better for their low-carb diets.
There’s quite a difference between a baked white potato and healthy keto vegetables like cauliflower or broccoli.
Not all carbs are created equal. For example, many low-carb dieters cut out many foods they believe are high in carbs, like potatoes. But white potatoes are not as low in carbohydrates as you might think, and some people can’t tolerate eating them at all.
Sweet potatoes have a lot going for them: they’re rich in fiber (which is hard to digest), vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They also contain a good amount of resistant starch, which isn’t digested by the body. This has been shown to help people lose weight in studies. (5)
So are sweet potatoes a low-carb, keto-friendly food?
Well, yes and no. Yes, they are low-carb, but their GI makes them a questionable choice for people who are following a strict ketogenic diet. It would be best if you considered what else you’re eating when deciding how much of these starchy vegetables to eat.
Some people on a ketogenic diet either limit their carb intake or follow an extremely low-carb version of the diet.
For example, sweet potatoes are only considered “keto” if you’re getting very few carbs from other sources each day.
If you are limiting your carbs, then sweet potatoes are likely not ideal for your diet, and you should steer clear of them.