Anti-Cancer Potential of Sweet Potato Proteins

Anti-Cancer Potential of Sweet Potato Proteins

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, | By | NUTRITIONFACTS.ORG is a science-based nonprofit organization founded by Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM,

Sweet potatoes are not just one of the healthiest and cheapest sources of nutrition; the predominant protein is a type of protease inhibitor that may have cancer-fighting properties.

Learn more about the latest evidence-based research on sweet potato nutrition facts in the videos below.

What did the mammoth Global Burden of Disease Study identify as the primary cause of Americans’ death and disability? The typical American diet—with inadequate vegetable intake as our fifth-leading dietary risk factor, nearly as bad as our consumption of processed meat.

Indeed, a more plant-based diet may help prevent, treat, or reverse some of our leading causes of death, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure, and may improve not only body weight, blood sugar levels, and ability to control cholesterol, but also our emotional states, including depression, anxiety, fatigue, sense of well-being, and daily functioning.

Sweet potatoes are one of my favorite vegetables, and I regularly eat them to check off the “other vegetables” boxes on my Daily Dozen checklist. During harsh Boston winters while I was in medical school, I would take two freshly microwaved sweet potatoes and pop them into my coat pockets to keep my hands warm. After they cooled down, healthy snacks on the go! It’s actually better to boil them to best preserve their nutritional content, but regardless of the cooking method, keep on the skin as its peel has nearly ten times the antioxidant power as the inner flesh (on a per-weight basis), giving them an antioxidant capacity approaching that of blueberries.

Sweet potatoes are among the healthiest common whole-food sources of potassium, which every cell in our body requires to function. In fact, they can be considered a superfood and are ranked as one of the healthiest foods on the entire planet. Sweet potatoes are among the healthiest and cheapest, with one of the highest nutrient-rich food scores per dollar. When picking out varieties at the supermarket, remember that a sweet potato’s nutritional content is tied directly to the intensity of its color. The more yellow or orange its flesh, the healthier it may be, and purple sweet potatoes are even healthier!

The information on this page has been compiled from Dr. Greger’s research. Sources for each video listed can be found by going to the video’s page and clicking on the Sources Cited tab. References may also be found at the back of his books.

Doctors Notes:

Next up in our Flashback Friday series: Sweet potatoes are cheap, healthy, nutrient powerhouses—check out Anticancer Potential of Sweet Potato Proteins. What if most of what you ate was sweet potatoes? Find out in my video The Okinawa Diet: Living to Be 100.

What about cooking methods for other vegetables? See Best Cooking Method.

Want more information about acrylamide, the potential crispy carb carcinogen? See Cancer Risk from French Fries. And, for why deep frying, in general, might not be good, see Deep-Frying Toxins and Carcinogens in the Smell of Frying Bacon.

Since this video first aired, I’ve got some more cooking method videos:

And how about a bonus recipe? Yum: Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Balsamic Glaze.

Did you know Dr. now has an audio podcast? You can subscribe to it on your favorite “pod-catcher” or listen to it at

Get to know Dr. Erin
Have you been diagnosed with breast cancer or are you a breast cancer survivor? Dr. Mayfield’s Lifestyle Program is firmly rooted in decades of extensive research to help women with breast cancer. As she delved into strategies for preventing cancer recurrence, the crucial role of nutrition consistently emerged. Various foods have been identified as potent cancer combatants, while others are linked to cancer risk. She has developed a comprehensive approach that empowers individuals to take control of their well-being by adopting a plant-based diet. This approach is supported by a wealth of research spanning many years, illustrating the potential of a plant-based diet to aid in weight management and reduce the likelihood of developing conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and various chronic ailments. Our curated collection of low-fat, plant-based recipes, crafted by talented chefs, dietitians, and experts in vegan cuisine, offers a delightful fusion of nutrition and flavor, ensuring that your meals are not only healthful but also enjoyable.