Sweet Potato During Pregnancy: Nutritional Value And Health Benefits

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Having sweet potatoes during pregnancy is considered to be a healthy choice. Unlike potatoes, sweet potatoes are comparatively rich in carbohydrate content and are also a nutrient-rich food option for pregnant women. You can either boil it, stir fry it or bake it; it is delicious anyway. The sweet notes of this vegetable also allow it to be used for a wide range of desserts. Read on to know more about the benefits of sweet potato for pregnant women and also a few ways you can include it in your daily diet.

Is It Safe To Eat Sweet Potatoes In Pregnancy?

Eva De Angelis, a dietitian nutritionist from Argentina, says, “Aside from folic acid, sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene, a vitamin A precursor that increases progesterone levels. This hormone is crucial for uterine growth during pregnancy and preventing premature contractions. However, as with any food, eating too many sweet potatoes can harm your health, especially if you have kidney stones due to their high oxalate content.”

Yes, sweet potatoes are considered safe for consumption during pregnancy (1) (2). They are rich in vitamins A and C, and fiber. But women with or a history of chronic kidney diseases should avoid eating sweet potato as it contains high amounts of oxalate that could increase the risk of kidney stones (3).

While it is good to consume this root for the nutrients it supplies, eating it in excess is not a good idea, especially in pregnancy.

Nutritional Profile Of Sweet Potato

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 100 grams of sweet potato provides 76kcal of energy, 17.7g carbohydrate, 27mg calcium, 18mg magnesium, 230mg potassium, 27mg sodium, and 6µg folate. It also contains 787µg of vitamin A (RAE) and 12.8mg of vitamin C (4).

All these nutrients are essential for a healthy pregnancy. In the next section, we see how they benefit soon-to-be mothers.

Quick fact
Boiling sweet potatoes helps retain more beta-carotene and improve nutrient absorption than roasting or frying (12).

Health Benefits Of Sweet Potato During Pregnancy

Eating sweet potatoes regularly during pregnancy can provide the below nutrients to the body.

  1. Vitamin A: Consuming foods such as sweet potato that is rich in vitamin A can help in tissue maintenance, fetal growth, and also supports metabolism (5).
Consuming sweet potato during pregnancy supports fetal growth

Image: iStock

  1. Potassium: Pregnant women require more potassium than other women of the same age. Sweet potato contains potassium, which helps to maintain fluid balance and normalize blood pressure (6).
  1. Folic acid: Pregnant women require 400mcg folic acid a day to prevent the risk of spinal cord defects. And half a cup of sweet potatoes contains 40 to 90mcg of folic acid (7).
  1. Low GI: If you have diabetes, including low-GI foods such as sweet potatoes in your pregnancy diet can be helpful (8).

De Angelis adds, “Boiled sweet potatoes are excellent during pregnancy. Despite having a high-carbohydrate content, they have a low-glycemic index, which means that carbohydrates are absorbed slowly, preventing blood sugar spikes.”

Did you know?
Sweet potatoes stored for three weeks have higher eating quality than fresh harvest as the starches convert into sugars during storage (13).

All foods should be consumed in moderation, as overdose or deficiency of nutrients in the body could cause certain side effects.

Possible Side Effects Of Eating Sweet Potatoes In Pregnancy

Excess of sweet potato during pregnancy can be harmful

Image: Shutterstock

Excess of any nutrient could be harmful in pregnancy.  As mentioned before, women with or a history of kidney problems should limit the intake of sweet potatoes, as they have high levels of oxalate (3).

Also, check with your doctor if you can consume sweet potatoes when you are on any medication. The root vegetable can interfere with some drugs and have adverse effects on your health.

Can Sweet Potato Cause Miscarriage?

More than 15,000 IU of vitamin A in daily diet could increase the chances of abnormalities. As sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A, you should not have more than what is recommended during pregnancy (9). An increased amount of vitamin A during the first stage of pregnancy could be associated with congenital malformations and miscarriage.

So, no matter how much you crave sweet potatoes, keep a tab on their consumption to avoid excess intake.

Sweet Potato Cravings During Pregnancy

Some theories say that sweet potato cravings during pregnancy could be because you crave something sugary or starchy. It could also mean that your body needs carbohydrates and craves foods that are rich in it. However, there is no scientific evidence to prove these theories about sweet potato cravings in pregnancy.

Regardless of the reasons for your craving, you can enjoy this root vegetable in several ways.

Ways To Include Sweet Potatoes In Your Pregnancy Diet

Sweet potato can be relished in many ways. Here are a few.

  • Thinly slice the sweet potatoes and toss them in salt and pepper. Then bake them to make crispy and healthy chips.
Use sweet potato to make crisy and healthy chips

Image: iStock

  • Boil chunks of sweet potatoes, add some herbs and olive oil and grill them.
  • Add chunks of half-boiled sweet potatoes in a green salad to make a quick snack.
  • Peel sweet potatoes, cook them and add a few drops of maple syrup to make a sweet dish.
Use sweet potatoes to make a sweet dish

Image: iStock

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is sweet potato with skin good for pregnancy?

Sweet potato skin is nutritious, and cooking with the skin reduces the loss of nutrients, including vitamin C and beta carotene, while cooking (10). The skin is also rich in fiber, containing half of the fiber found in the vegetable (11). Hence, consuming sweet potato with its skin is recommended as long as it is thoroughly washed.

2. Can a pregnant woman eat fried sweet potatoes?

While pregnant women can consume fried sweet potato in moderation, they should consider opting for healthier cooking alternatives. Baking, grilling, or boiling sweet potatoes can reduce the loss of nutrients while cooking and the consumption of unnecessary fats.

3. How much sweet potato should I eat during pregnancy?

One large cooked sweet potato, or one cup, is a great addition to the diet. Sweet potatoes are high in fiber and can aid in the prevention of constipation in pregnant women. One cup of cooked sweet potatoes contains nearly one-third of the recommended fiber for pregnant women. I usually advise my pregnant patients to eat a medium/large sweet potato daily or at least a few times per week,” opines De Angelis.

Sweet potatoes during pregnancy are considered safe if consumed in moderation. They have a low glycemic index (good for diabetes) and contain useful nutrients, such as potassium and folic acid. You may add it to your pregnancy diet in baked, boiled, or grilled forms. However, over-consumption should be avoided as it may increase oxalate levels, which may cause kidney problems and vitamin A, leading to congenital malformations. Also, check with your doctor to know how much of this root vegetable is suitable for you to consume.

Infographic: Benefits And Ways To Savor Sweet Potatoes When Pregnant

Loaded with vitamin A and other essential nutrients, sweet potatoes are tuber crops safe for consumption during pregnancy. So, if you’re considering eating sweet potatoes in your pregnancy diet, look at the infographic below to learn some healthy and delicious ways to relish this food.

why and how to eat sweet potatoes in pregnancy [infographic]
Illustration: MomJunction Design Team

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Eating fo ar Healthy Pregnancy; Central District Health Department
2. Top 20 foods for pregnancy; Allina Health (2002)
3. Kidney Stone Diet Plan and Prevention; National Kidney Foundation
4. Sweet potato, cooked, boiled, without skin; US Department of Agriculture
5. Vitamin A Fact Sheet for Health Professionals; National Institutes of Health
6. Getting Enough Potassium; Michigan Medicine
7. Folic Acid; Cleveland State University
8. S. Dutta; Sweet Potatoes for Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review; Pharmacophore An International Research Journal (2015)
9. S. B. Maia et al.; Vitamin A and Pregnancy: A Narrative Review; nutrients (2019)
10. Sweet Potatoes; Harvard School Of Public Health
11. Potato or Sweet Potato: Which Is Healthier?; Cleveland Clinic
12. Sweet Potatoes?; Harvard T.H Chan School Of Public Health
13. Sweet Potato Harvest And Storage?; Center Of University Of Massachusetts

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