The other day I was making some baked sweet potatoes and began wondering if the skins are actually edible or not. I often just peel them off and discard the skins without thinking twice. But I started to question if I’m missing out on any nutritional benefits by not eating those skins.
This led me down an internet rabbit hole researching more about sweet potato skins and if you can eat them or not. I discovered that sweet potato skins are not only edible, but provide substantial health benefits from all the extra fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants they contain.
Eating the skin can provide key nutrients our bodies need. So from now on, I’ll be keeping the skin on and incorporating it into more of my recipes!
Can You Eat the Skin of a Sweet Potato?
We’ve all been there – sitting down to eat a delicious baked sweet potato and debating whether or not to eat the skin. You want to savor every last bite but are unsure if the skin is even edible in the first place.
This is a common question many people have about sweet potatoes. Unlike a regular potato skin, which is typically peeled off and discarded, sweet potato skins are much thinner with a smooth texture.
So are sweet potato skins safe and nutritious to eat?
The answer is absolutely – not only are sweet potato skins edible, but they also provide many nutritional benefits. The skin contains high amounts of dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Therefore, leaving the skin on and consuming it can be a great way to boost your nutritional intake. I used to immediately peel off the skin without thinking about it, but after learning how nutritious it is, I now make it a point to incorporate sweet potato skins into my diet.
In this article, I’ll explore why you should consider eating sweet potato skins by looking at the key nutritional benefits, preparation methods, storage and handling tips, and potential concerns. My goal is to highlight why the skins deserve a spot on your plate, not in the compost bin!
Nutritional Benefits of Sweet Potato Skins
Here’s an overview of the top nutrients found in a sweet potato skin:
1. Dietary Fiber
One of the biggest advantages to eating sweet potato skin is the amount of fiber it provides.
Sweet potato skins are an excellent source of fiber, containing around 5-10% of your recommended daily intake in just one medium-sized skin. Both soluble and insoluble fiber are present.
Fiber is essential for healthy digestion and maintaining gut health. It adds bulk to stool to prevent constipation and improves regularity. Fiber also helps control blood sugar levels and reduces cholesterol.
With the high prevalence of gastrointestinal issues and chronic diseases, most people need more fiber in their diets. Sweet potato skins can provide an easy way to up your fiber intake.
2. Vitamins and Minerals
In addition to fiber, sweet potato skins also contain high concentrations of many vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin A: Sweet potato skins are one of the richest sources of beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A supports eye health and vision.
- Vitamin C and E: These antioxidant vitamins boost immunity and skin health and are more concentrated in the skin than the flesh.
- Potassium: Helps control blood pressure and reduces stroke risk.
- Iron: Carries oxygen around the body; skin provides iron which helps prevent deficiency and anemia.
- Manganese: A trace mineral that assists in blood sugar regulation.
This wide array of vitamins and minerals provides key nutrients that support all aspects of health and reduce disease risk.
In addition to vitamins, sweet potato skins provide antioxidants like beta-carotene and chlorogenic acid.
Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that gives the skins their orange color. It is converted to vitamin A and helps fight inflammation.
Chlorogenic acid is another antioxidant unique to the skin that may help lower blood sugar. Some studies suggest it could also support brain health and cognition as we age.
Antioxidants are protective plant compounds that help prevent oxidative damage from free radicals. This cellular damage is linked to chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Eating antioxidant-rich foods like sweet potato skins can help build up these compounds in your body to fight oxidative stress and inflammation.
Preparation and Cooking Methods
To reap these benefits, it’s important to know how to properly prepare and cook sweet potato skins:
- Thoroughly wash and scrub the sweet potatoes. Use a vegetable brush to remove any dirt or debris stuck to the skin.
- Inspect for any bruises, damaged spots or signs of mold and cut away any imperfections. The skin should look smooth and intact.
There are endless ways to cook sweet potatoes with the skins on:
- Baking: The most common preparation, baking makes the skins deliciously crispy. Poke holes to vent steam.
- Boiling/steaming: Keeps the skins soft but still edible. Allow to cool before handling.
- Frying: Another way to make skins extra crispy by pan-frying sliced potatoes.
- Mashing/pureeing: Skins add fiber and texture when mashed into a sweet potato puree.
- Stuffing: Scoop out baked flesh and stuff back into the skin for a stuffed sweet potato.
- Wedges/fries: Cut into wedges or fries and bake or air fry with seasonings.
The cooking method affects the taste and texture, so experiment to find your favorite way to eat the skins. Just avoid very long boiling times, which can make them slimy.
In general, dry heat methods like roasting, baking or air frying will make the skins crispy, while wet cooking keeps them soft. Adjust time and temperature as needed.
Proper Storage and Handling
To keep sweet potatoes fresh with the skin on, follow these storage tips:
- Store whole, unwashed sweet potatoes in a cool, dark place around 60°F for up to 1 week.
- Do not refrigerate raw sweet potatoes. The cold temperature converts starch to sugars and affects taste and texture.
- Check frequently and remove any sweet potatoes that are molding or shriveling.
- Cooked sweet potatoes can be refrigerated for 4-5 days. The skins may soften.
Proper storage keeps them fresh longer while improper handling causes faster spoilage. For best results, cook sweet potatoes within a week of purchasing.
Prior to cooking, look for signs of damage like black or brown spots, mold, or moisture and cut away those parts of the skin. Only keep intact, healthy looking skins to consume.
Potential Concerns with Eating the Skins
While sweet potato skins are edible and nutritious for most people, there are some potential concerns to be aware of:
- The high fiber content may be harder to digest for some people. Monitor for any abdominal discomfort.
- Some people may discover an allergic reaction to the extra compounds. Discontinue eating the skins if any issues occur.
- The texture may pose a choking risk for babies/toddlers. Stick to soft flesh only for young kids.
- Some guidelines recommend pregnant women avoid undercooked sweet potatoes to reduce infection risk. Cook skins thoroughly.
If in doubt, consult a healthcare professional about your specific dietary needs. For most of us, enjoying sweet potato skins poses no problems and provides great health benefits. But monitor your individual response.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are answers to some common questions about eating sweet potato skins:
Are the skins toxic?
No, sweet potato skins are totally safe and non-toxic when thoroughly washed and cooked properly. Any glycoalkaloids are concentrated in the leaves and vines, not the roots.
Can babies or toddlers eat the skins?
No, the choking hazard is too great for young children under age 4. Stick to softened, pureed flesh only.
What about purple or Japanese sweet potatoes? Are the skins edible?
Yes, these specialty sweet potato varieties also have edible, nutritious skins. The pigments may stain your hands while peeling though!
Should pregnant women avoid the skins?
Pregnant women are advised to avoid undercooked potatoes. Fully cooked skins should be safe, but check with your doctor.
After researching the topic thoroughly, I’m now convinced that sweet potato skins deserve a spot on our plates, not in the compost bin!
By ditching the peeler and eating the skins, we can take advantage of their high fiber content, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. These key nutrients support digestion, immunity, brain function and overall health.
While the skins may require more cooking time or different preparation methods, the extra effort provides a nutritional boost to your diet.
I recommend starting to incorporate sweet potato skins into more of your recipes by baking, boiling, mashing or frying them whole. With proper handling and storage, the skins can be enjoyed without waste or concerns.
So next time you cook up some sweet potatoes, try leaving those skins on to get full nutritional value. Your body will thank you!
Bethany is an experienced food writer and recipe developer whose popular site Grangefarmschool.org provides home cooks with approachable recipes, cooking tips, and practical kitchen advice. Her thoroughly-tested recipes and inviting photography aim to make cooking fun and fulfilling for cooks of all levels.