Purple sweet potatoes are abundant in numerous nutrients and their consumption boosts health in various ways. They are rich in antioxidants that support heart health, improve digestion, liver health, and cognitive function.
This colorful root vegetable (Ipomoea batatas L cultivar Ayamurasaki) gets its distinct color from compounds known as anthocyanins, that have potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
The origin of purple sweet potato traces back to South America, but since it is such a robust farming crop, its production has spanned the world, including Africa and China. Over time, different types have been developed including the Okinawan, Japanese, Taiwanese, and Stokes varieties.
Sweet potatoes with purple flesh are members of the same family as regular sweet potatoes, but they are richer in antioxidants.
Researchers have found that sweet potatoes have a low glycemic index, so they are easily digested. Due to the abundance of minerals, antioxidants, and nutrients, sweet purple potatoes are considered a functional food.
Purple sweet potatoes have 2.5 times more antioxidants (anthocyanins) than their orange-fleshed counterparts. Also, they have more antioxidants than red cabbage, blueberries, elderberries, or grape skins. Anthocyanins in purple sweet potato have higher levels of activity than ascorbic acid (vitamin C).
A medium, 7-inch-long skinless Okinawan potato has 251 calories and 61 grams of carbohydrates, 6 grams of heart-healthy dietary fiber, and no fat or cholesterol.
These veggies are an excellent source of vitamin A. A medium potato serving yields 1,643 retinol activity equivalents -- retinol being a form of vitamin A used in measuring vitamin amounts.
They also contribute 812 milligrams of potassium toward the 4,700-milligram-per-day adequate intake and 58 milligrams of calcium toward the 1,000-milligram-per-day recommendation.
Maggie Moon, M.S., R.D., author of The MIND Diet, says that a purple sweet potato looks a lot like the everyday orange sweet potato from the outside, but has darker skin and is purple on the inside.
Anthocyanins are one of the thousands of polyphenols found in plant foods, and they are the same plant compounds that give blueberries, pomegranates, and purple carrots their rich color.
“While there’s plenty of fiber and vitamin C in purple potatoes, the unique nutritional feature is what makes it purple-anthocyanins. That’s something orange sweet potatoes don’t have. While both beta-carotene and anthocyanins are great, you’re probably not eating a ton of blue and purple foods on the regular. So swapping in purple potatoes is a great way to up your anthocyanin intake. “
Yet, purple sweet potatoes are slightly less sweet, than orange potatoes, so they work really well in savory dishes.
Here are some of their health benefits:
Boost Cognitive Function
The consumption of purple sweet potatoes positively affects brain activity.
Studies have discovered that anthocyanins from purple-fleshed sweet potatoes fight inflammation that affects cognitive performance, and these potatoes can enhance memory function and positively affect the brain.
In one trial involving rats, researchers found that anthocyanins from purple sweet potatoes protected the brain, and helped it recover after a stroke by increasing certain proteins that repair damaged brain tissue.
Lower Blood Pressure
Purple sweet potatoes are excellent in the case of hypertension. A study involving adults with high blood pressure found that compounds in purple sweet potatoes lower blood pressure.
Participants consumed 250 ml of purple sweet potato juice daily for 4 weeks, and findings indicate that this juice drastically lowered their blood pressure.
Improve Digestive Health
Purple sweet potato juice or baked purple sweet potato improve digestion.
According to a 2016 study, the nutritional content of purple sweet potatoes improves the gut’s microbiota. Anthocyanins boost the number of beneficial probiotics and support healthy digestion.
After ingesting purple sweet potato, researchers noted a higher concentration of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus probiotics. Purple sweet potato has prebiotic qualities that act as “food” for healthy gut bacteria (probiotics).
Therefore, the consumption of purple sweet potatoes helps in the case of chronic or acute digestive conditions. The journal Digestive Diseases and Sciences listed the sweet potato among the foods that don’t provoke symptoms of digestive conditions like gastroparesis (delayed gastric emptying).
Help With Diabetes
Purple sweet potato can help manage diabetes symptoms as its flavonoids can help lower blood glucose levels.
One study involving diabetic rats showed the consumption of purple sweet potato extracts reduced blood fat levels and blood glucose levels.
Help Prevent Gout
Purple sweet potatoes lower uric acid levels and thus are beneficial in the treatment of gout.
According to the journal Food & Function, anthocyanins in purple sweet potato lower uric acid. The study involved mice and showed that purple sweet potato extracts significantly inhibited enzymes that affect uric acid levels, so researchers concluded that purple sweet potato can be used as a functional food in anti-hyperuricemia remedies.
Improve Liver Health
Purple sweet potatoes contain compounds that support the function of the liver and prevent liver damage.
The journal Food and Chemical Toxicology reported that extracts from purple sweet potato reduce tissue scarring on the liver, and lower liver inflammation. Additionally, anthocyanins improve the symptoms of liver fibrosis.
A small study involving healthy men suggests that consuming purple sweet potato leaves for a week increased the levels of antioxidants and inhibited the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
This functional vegetable is high in antioxidants that can help prevent the development and spread of cancer cells.
A laboratory trial found that purple sweet potato anthocyanins can prevent colorectal cancer by killing off malignant cells.
According to a study published in the journal Oncology Reports, purple sweet potato can help improve the adverse effects of treatment for bladder cancer.
Cancer is a complex disease, and experts have still not found a cure, but it is confirmed that incorporating antioxidant-rich foods in your diet can lower the risk of certain cancers.
Slow Down the Aging Process
The high antioxidant content of sweet potatoes can delay aging.
One study involving mice found that anthocyanins killed off free radicals in the body. Mice fed with purple sweet potato extracts aged less than the control group.
Help Weight Loss
These potatoes help the weight loss process in two ways. The high fiber content creates a feeling of fullness, while anthocyanins can help prevent fat accumulation.
One study on mice showed that supplements containing purple sweet potato helped to prevent weight gain and fat accumulation, and they also improved liver and kidney function and lowered the risk of obesity complications.
Purple sweet potatoes can be easily incorporated into your daily diet.
Yet, some studies have shown that steaming can lower their antioxidant content by up to half, so baking is the best way to retain the high levels of anthocyanins.
One of the easiest ways to boost your intake of purple sweet potatoes is to bake them and spread a healthy and tasty topping. You can also add boiled or steamed purple sweet potatoes to your meals, to add fiber, nutrients, and color.
Here are some interesting purple sweet potatoes you should try:
1. Baked purple sweet potato recipe
Wash the sweet potato well and dry it with the skin still on. Then, make slits in it, leaving about a ¼ inch (0.5 cm) at the base. Place it on a baking sheet, and brush extra virgin olive oil or melted coconut oil over it.
Season, and place it in an oven at 400 °F (200 °C) to bake for 35-40 minutes. Drizzle more oil over the top and bake for 5 more minutes. Next, remove it from the over, and serve it with a salad or quinoa.
2. Mashed purple sweet potato recipe
Peel 3 purple sweet potatoes, chop them into chunks or wedges, and boil them until they are soft. Next, put them in a pan, add a tablespoon of butter or extra virgin olive oil, a little milk or water, and mash until creamy. Season to taste.
3. Purple sweet potato soup recipe
In a large pot, gently fry a chopped onion and 3 crushed garlic cloves until softened. Add 4 medium chopped purple sweet potatoes and 4 cups of chicken broth, salt, and pepper, and put the soup in the blender. Whizz until smooth, and if you like, you can add more broth to adjust the consistency.
Sprinkle with chopped herbs.
Serve in bowls with a spoon of crème fraîche.
4. Purple sweet potato pancakes
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 egg white
- 1 cups whole milk
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted, plus 1 teaspoon solid for coating pan
- 2/3 cup cooked purple sweet potato mash
- 1 cup +1 Tablespoon flour
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Maple syrup for topping
Mix the egg yolk, milk and 2 tablespoons of melted butter in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, salt, flour, and baking powder.
Next, gently mix the dry ingredients into the wet, and add the sweet potato mash.
In a stand mixer, whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form, and then add them to the rest of the batter.
Over medium heat, melt the remaining 1 teaspoon of butter in a frying pan. When it is hot enough, pour out a ¼ cup worth of pancake batter, and cook for about a minute, until bubbles begin to appear.
Flip the pancake and bake another 1 1/2 minute. Serve immediately with maple syrup.
5. Mashed Purple Sweet Potatoes with Smokey Glazed Carrots
For the potatoes
- 3 medium purple sweet potatoes
- 1 tbsp butter
- unsweetened plant milk of your choice
- salt, pepper
For the carrots
- 6-8 carrots
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp water
- 1 tsp liquid smoke
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- dash of hot sauce
- salt, pepper
- 1 tsp rose pepper
- 1 tbsp tahini
- 1 lemon, juiced
Peel the purple sweet potatoes and cut them into large pieces. Add a little water to a saucepan, bring to boil, and add the sweet potatoes in a steamer basket. Cover and steam for 15-20 minutes or until tender.
Drain the potatoes, return them to the saucepan, and add butter. Mash with a potato masher, add milk to make it creamy, and season with salt and pepper.
In a smaller bowl, whisk together vinegar, maple syrup, soy sauce, water, liquid smoke, garlic powder, hot sauce, salt, and pepper.
Peel the carrots, and add them to a medium skillet with enough water to cover. Cook them for 5 minutes, drain them, and return them to the skillet. Add the vinegar mixture and cook for about 5 minutes on medium-high heat, until the glaze gets thick and coats the carrots.
Whisk together lemon juice and tahini for the tahini drizzle.
To serve, add a scoop of mashed purple sweet potatoes to a place, top with carrots, drizzle with tahini and sprinkle with rose pepper.
6. Purple Sweet Potato Grits
- 2 medium purple sweet potatoes 3 to 4 cups, peeled and grated
- 4 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup white stone-ground grits
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
- Dash of ground nutmeg
Boil the water with the salt in a large saucepan. Add the grits slowly, whisking constantly while adding. Stir in the sweet potatoes, and cover the saucepan and lower the heat to low.
Simmer for about 40-50 minutes, and stir until the grits are thick and creamy, and the potatoes have “melted” into them. Add ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon.
7. Purple Sweet Potato Smoothie
- 3/4 c roasted purple sweet potato
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt, unsweetened
- ½ cup frozen raspberries
- 1 cup almond milk, unsweetened
- Juice of ½ lemon
- Vanilla extract
- Sweetener of choice
Blend all the listed ingredients, but layer them into the blender. Add the easiest first, and gradually add, with the hardest to blend on top: almond milk, yogurt, lemon juice, vanilla extract, raspberries, sweet potato.
Add a natural sweetener to sweeten the smoothie, blend once more, and enjoy!
8. Purple Sweet Potato Muffins
For the Sweet Potato Puree:
- 2 Large Purple Sweet Potatoes, cleaned and peeled
- 1-2 Tablespoons Non-Dairy Milk, optional
For the Muffin Batter:
- 1 ¾ Cups All-Purpose Flour
- 1 Cup Sugar
- 1 Tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
- 1 Cup Sweet Potato Puree
- 1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
- ½ Cup Unsweetened Almond Milk
- 2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
- 1 Tsp Cinnamon
- ¼ Tsp Salt
- ½ Cup Vegetable Oil
Make the sweet potato puree. Dice the peeled sweet potatoes into medium size pieces, add them to a large saucepan and cover with water. Boil, lower the heat to a steady simmer, and cook for about 20 minutes until they are tender.
Drain the potatoes, transfer them to a food processor, and puree until they are smooth. If you cannot get a smooth texture, add in a few tablespoons of non-dairy milk. Measure out one cup of pureed potatoes and set it aside. Let the puree cool to room temperature.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F, and mix the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and sugar in a large bowl. Set it aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the sweet potato puree, oil, milk, maple syrup, and vanilla.
Next, add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, combine, and transfer the batter to a muffins pan lined with paper liners. Fill the liners 2/3 full, and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Transfer the muffins to a cooling rack.