The sweet potato is a popular staple food which has large, sweet-flavoured, starchy tubers, frequently eaten as a root vegetable. The roots can also be dried for use in baking, juiced or fermented for a beverage, sold as a baked snack or made into fritters, soups and desserts. The young shoots and leaves can be eaten as greens.
Sweet potatoes have a good supply of dietary fibre, many minerals including potassium, phosphorus, calcium, selenium and zinc, and many vitamins including C, A, K, E and some of the B complex vitamins, especially B9 (folate).
The root is longer and more tapered than a common potato, whose smooth skin ranges in colour from yellow to purple, with the flesh inside following lighter tones. Varieties with pink, red, or orange flesh are generally moister and sweeter than those with pale yellow or white flesh.
There are high levels of antioxidant carotenoids in sweet potatoes, varying in intensity with the colour of the flesh, with dark orange varieties containing the most beta-carotene. This makes them particularly beneficial to maintenance of the immune system and prevention of age-related macular degeneration. The varieties with purple flesh contain different antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents called anthocyanins.