The addition of sweet potato fries as a more expensive side for your lunch is understood to be the healthier option. But why?
With their traditionally orange color, sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene, or Vitamin A, which is known as an antioxidant in fighting diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Beta-carotene gives most orange foods their color, including carrots, grapefruit and pumpkin.
But the hallmark of sweet potatoes is their low score on the glycemic index.
The glycemic index measures how quickly the sugars in foods enter the bloodstream. Foods high in simple sugars, such as candy and processed foods, release their sugars quickly and have a high glycemic index. This effect causes the high and low sugar rush that people experience. Foods such as peanuts and hummus release their sugars slowly. This slow burn of energy is more sustainable throughout the day and prevents the crash in energy.
Sweet potatoes are relatively low on the glycemic index, but with their high carbohydrate content, they have a lot of energy to burn over a very long period of time. Sweet potatoes therefore provide a moderate source of energy over a long period of time. This fact makes them a favorite for ultra-long distance athletes who perform at a low intensity for several hours at a time.