Sweet potatoes are known as the healthier alternative to traditional white potatoes. But can you eat sweet potatoes on a keto diet?
While sweet potatoes contain more nutrients and vitamins, in terms of carbs, they are similar to classic white potatoes. With 17 grams of net carbs per 100-gram serving (*), these starchy vegetables are not keto-friendly.
How do different types of sweet potatoes compare? Can you still incorporate some sweet potatoes into your diet and stay in ketosis? And what are the alternatives to sweet potatoes?
Keep reading to learn more!
Staying In Ketosis
The objective of ketogenic diets is to get your body in a state of ketosis. This is when your body shifts to utilizing fat for energy instead of glucose (*).
It enables weight loss and other health benefits that come with keto diets. To stay in ketosis, it is essential to limit high carb and starchy foods from your menu, with traditional approaches recommending under 30 grams of net carbohydrates per day (*).
This eliminates fruits high in sugar and most starchy vegetables, including sweet potatoes.
Can You Eat Fruit and Veggies on a Keto Diet?
Because of the low amounts of carbohydrates you can eat on a keto diet, some people tend to cut out fruit and most vegetables completely.
This is not the approach we would recommend.
Even though eliminating these food groups will help you stay in ketosis, limiting carb intake shouldn’t be your only focus when constructing your meals.
Fruit and vegetables contain important health-boosting vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Ceratin low-carb fruit and vegetables, such as berries, watermelon, pumpkin, or carrots will add a lot of health benefits to your keto diet.
Are sweet potatoes one of them?
Are Sweet potatoes Lower in Carbs Than White Potatoes?
In recent years, sweet potatoes have been popularized as a healthier alternative to traditional white potatoes. Restaurants offer sweet potato fries and baked sweet potato dishes for health-conscious eaters. Does that mean sweet potatoes are lower in carbs?
The answer is no. In fact, the macronutrient breakdown and the carbs between two potato rivals are very similar.
- 100g of white potatoes contain approximately 77 calories, 0.1g of fat, 17g of carbohydrates, 2.2g of fiber, and 2g of protein (*)
- 100g of sweet potatoes contain 86 calories, 0.1g of fat, 20g of carbohydrates, 3.3g of fiber, and 1.6g of protein (*)
Similar to white potatoes, sweet potatoes are starchy vegetables naturally high in carbohydrates and very low in fat. And 100g is not even a whole potato. A standard medium-sized potato weighs around 150 grams and will therefore contain 26 grams of carbs.
With most keto diets recommending less than 30 grams of carbohydrates per day, eating sweet potatoes sounds unrealistic. And no different to white potatoes.
Sweet potatoes are popular for being a healthier alternative, but not due to their lower carb content.
Which Potatoes Are Best for the Keto Diet?
The potato contest doesn’t end there. There are many other healthy sweet potato varieties available. How do they compare and are any of them suitable to eat on a keto diet?
Here’s the carb content of the most popular sweet potato varieties.
While there are slight differences between their total carbs, the truth is, all potatoes are starchy vegetables that would be difficult to incorporate into a low-carb keto diet.
If you want to include a small amount of sweet potatoes into your meals, selecting Japanese sweet potatoes, with the lowest carb count, would be the most logical choice.
But since the differences are small and all these sweet potatoes come with different benefits and slightly different tastes, we recommend selecting according to those, rather than carbs.
What Are the Benefits of Sweet Potatoes?
If sweet potatoes have become the popularized healthy choice, it is not because of their carb content but their nutritional value.
Compared to regular potatoes, they contain similar amounts of carbohydrates and calories but have more fiber and plenty of vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Potassium, Magnesium, Vitamin C, Iron, Calcium, beta-carotene, and antioxidants (*)
This rich nutrient-dense profile is what gives this food the desired health benefits:
- Boosting overall health and immunity (*)
- Helping to ward off free radicals (*)
- Helping to stabilize blood sugar levels (*)
- Improve cognitive function, brain, and memory (*)
- Have a positive effect on respiratory health (*)
Low-Carb Vegetables That Will Boost Your Health
If you’re looking to add sweet potatoes into your diet because of these health benefits, there are plenty of other keto-friendly foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Without the high carb content.
These include liver, turkey giblets, carrots, pumpkin, butternut squash, spinach, mustard greens, turnip greens, dandelion greens, collards, and swiss chard (*)
Increasing your vegetable intake doesn’t always mean having to rapidly increase daily carbs. With low-carb vegetables, you don’t have to limit your servings to small portions or worry about compromised weight loss.
Some of our most favorite low-carb vegetables to eat on keto include spinach, eggplant, cucumber, celery, cauliflower, radishes, mushrooms, asparagus, kale, leeks, shallots, or artichokes.
Can You Eat Sweet Potatoes on a Keto Diet?
We’ve established that sweet potatoes are very high in carbohydrates and therefore, are considered off-limits on a keto diet.
But can you eat a small amount of sweet potatoes on the ketogenic diet?
If you love the taste of sweet potatoes, you might be able to get away with adding a small portion of sweet potatoes into your meals. Our tip is to mix small amounts of baked sweet potatoes with your other lower-carb veggies.
Will Eating Sweet Potatoes Kick You Out of Ketosis?
If you consume too many carbs at the same time when following a ketogenic diet, your body can revert to using glucose for energy instead of fats, thereby throwing you out of ketosis. This is why many high-carb foods are to be avoided on keto diets. Including sweet potatoes.
Even though you need to eat less than 30 grams of carbs per day to stay in keto, that doesn’t mean you can eat them all in one meal. Eating too many carbs at the same time can easily kick you out of ketosis (*).
The number of carbs needed to do this depends on the person and how long you’ve been doing keto. And since sweet potatoes are naturally very low in fat, we recommend adding some sources of fat to improve this ratio.
Eating small portions of sweet potatoes with high-fat foods like cheese, sour cream, avocado, and adding a good amount of coconut oil or butter to cooking, can improve your chances of staying in ketosis.
The effect of the high-carb meal that can kick you out of ketosis is pretty immediate and will happen on the same day. And because of the blood sugar spike after the meal, it is common for people to experience an intense sugar crush afterward (*).
Non-standard Keto Diets
While the standard approach to keto recommends staying in ketosis and keeping carbs below 30 grams every single day, other cyclic keto diets allow a few higher-carb days per week when you are no longer in ketosis (*).
Cyclic keto diets allow one or two days a week of a higher-carb intake, with around 140-160 grams per day. The main benefit is getting a mental break from the low carb regime and temporarily enjoying some of the higher carb foods while still experiencing the keto diet benefits.
However, keep in mind that adopting such an approach also means that you’ll be constantly coming in and out of ketosis. And since getting back into it can take anywhere up to a week, it can be difficult.
The amount of time that it will take you to get back into ketosis after the high carb day depends on the person and how long you’ve been following the keto diet.
For most people, this process happens quicker the second time around. Intermittent fasting combined with high-intensity workouts after the refeeding days can help you to get back into ketosis fast (*).
Sweet Potato Alternatives
Consider other veggies that are more suitable for a ketogenic diet than sweet potatoes and will satisfy your appetite. Although these do not taste exactly the same, they are very similar and their much lower carb content makes them worth a shot.
Carrots or butternut squash and pumpkin varieties can satisfy your sweet potato craving, contain beta carotene, and keep your body in ketosis.
These starchy vegetables still contain carbs, with carrots around 8 net grams (*) and butternut squash around 10 grams of net carbs per cup (*), but are easier to incorporate into keto meal plans than sweet potatoes.
Alternatively, you can add sweet potato extract to low-carb vegetables that aren’t that sweet to add the desired taste. Adding sweet potato extract to vegetables that have a neutral flavor like cauliflower or zucchini might just hit the spot.
The Bottom Line: Are Sweet Potatoes Keto Friendly?
Sweet potatoes are popular as a healthy alternative to potatoes. This is not because of their carb content but their nutritional benefits.
Although they contain vitamins and minerals that provide a lot of health benefits including fighting antioxidants and improving the immune system, sweet potatoes are not keto-friendly.
It is important to ensure that your ketogenic diet is rich in vegetables and fruits with plenty of lower-carb alternatives that will give you a health boost and promote weight loss.
You can still incorporate a small portion of sweet potatoes into your meals. Eating them with high-fat foods and lots of oil will improve your chances of staying in ketosis.
We recommend trying some of the sweet potato alternatives like butternut squash or carrots that are much lower in carbs and will still satisfy your craving.