Whether you eat them roasted, baked, or boiled, sweet potatoes are a delicious addition to any meal. The best part? The root vegetable is affordable, easy to prepare, has a long shelf life, and is oh-so-good for runners.
Don't believe us? Still not convinced? Read on to discover the many health benefits of sweet potatoes, and why they should be a vital part of your pre-run prep:
Sweet potato nutrition
One medium sweet potato boasts an impressive nutrition profile, including 2 grams (g) protein, 24g carbs, 4g fiber, and 0g fat in 103 calories. It also packs in nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin C.
What are the health benefits of sweet potatoes?
✔️ Vitamin A booster
The average sweet potato can pack up to six times your daily value of vitamin A, which is vital to your eye health, bone development, and immune function. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning your body has an easier time absorbing it when its paired with a form of healthy fat, so eat your sweet potato with some olive oil, avocado, or chopped nuts.
While overdoing it on vitamin A can be toxic when it comes to supplements, downing excess amounts from both fruits and vegetables (in the form of beta-carotene, which gives sweet potatoes their bright orange hue) is not associated with similar risks, according to the National Institutes of Health.
✔️ Good-for-you carbs
Yes, sweet potatoes contain lots of carbs—but that’s not a bad thing. Unlike the carbs you find in white bread and packaged snacks, sweet potatoes contain complex carbohydrates that take longer for your body to digest, which leads to more sustained energy.
As for all that natural sugar? Don’t sweat it. Because sweet potatoes contain a healthy dose of fibre—which helps slow down the release of glucose into your system—they won’t spike your blood sugar. In fact, the American Diabetes Association backs sweet potatoes as a healthy addition to your plate, since they are an excellent substitution for not-so-good for you sweet treats.
✔️ Pre-workout fuel
Another perk of those complex carbs? Eat them a few hours before your workout to give your body the long-lasting energy to power you through you run. What’s more, you’ll get a dose of electrolytes in the form of potassium to help balance the fluids in your body.
✔️ Improved gut health
Fibre can help you maintain a healthy weight (in part because it helps squash hunger), lowers cholesterol, keeps you regular, and may even positively change your gut bacteria to reduce disease-inducing inflammation in the body.
Thing is, most of us don’t eat enough of the stuff—and adult women, for example, need anywhere from 25 to 29 grams of fiber per day. With the skin on, sweet potatoes contain roughly 15 percent of your daily value of fiber, so eat up to keep your gut healthy.
✔️ Better blood pressure
The potassium in sweet potatoes help reduce the impact of sodium on the body and relaxes the walls of your blood vessels, making it an important mineral for reducing blood pressure. The magnesium in sweet potatoes is an extra perk here, since the mineral actually helps transport potassium throughout your cells.
A version of this article appeared on Prevention US.