The ketogenic, or keto, diet is a high fat, moderate protein, and very low carb diet that’s used to manage various medical conditions, including epilepsy, obesity, and diabetes (1).
Given that it’s very carb restrictive, many people wonder whether high carb foods like sweet potatoes can still be included within the parameters of a ketogenic dietary pattern.
This article explores whether you can still enjoy sweet potatoes while following a keto diet.
One of the primary goals of a ketogenic diet is to facilitate your body’s transition into ketosis.
Ketosis is a metabolic state in which your body relies on energy produced from fat — instead of carbs — to carry out all of its essential functions.
When you consume a varied diet, your body defaults to using glucose — a type of carb — as its primary fuel source. But when carbs are unavailable, your body makes energy from fat-derived compounds called ketones (1).
Your body’s ability to maintain ketosis is dependent upon a lack of dietary carbohydrates. If you consume too many carbs, your body reverts to using glucose for energy, thereby throwing you out of ketosis.
This is why many types of high carb foods, including starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, are usually considered off-limits on a ketogenic diet.
However, the extent to which a person needs to limit their total carb intake to maintain ketosis can vary.
Most people following a ketogenic diet limit their carb intake to no more than 5–10% of their daily calorie needs, or a maximum of 50 grams of carbs per day (2).
Precisely where you fall on that spectrum depends on how readily your body moves into and out of ketosis.
Keeping your carb intake very low is essential for maintaining ketosis when following a keto diet. This is why many people opt to exclude sweet potatoes from keto meal plans.
A sweet potato is a type of starchy root vegetable that’s often excluded from ketogenic diets because of its naturally high carb content.
However, with proper planning, some people may still be able to successfully incorporate small portions of sweet potato into a keto diet plan.
A medium-sized sweet potato (150 grams) contains a total of 26 grams of carbs. After subtracting the 4 grams that come from fiber, you’re left with a net value of roughly 21 grams of carbs per potato (3).
If you’re on a keto diet that limits you to 50 grams of carbs per day, you could opt to expend approximately 42% of your carbs on a whole sweet potato if you want to.
You may also consider dividing the sweet potato into smaller portions to further reduce your carb intake without having to exclude it from your diet entirely.
That said, if you’re on a diet plan that requires you to stick to a much lower carb limit, even a very small portion of sweet potato could make it considerably more difficult to stay within your allotted carbs for the day.
Ultimately, whether you should include sweet potatoes in your diet depends on your personal carb goals and ability to consistently adhere to the restrictions required for you to maintain ketosis.
Sweet potatoes are fairly high in carbs, but some people may be able to include small portions of them while staying within their keto carb restrictions.
If you decide to include sweet potatoes as part of your keto diet plan, it’s important that you also consider how various preparation methods may affect the total carb content of the final dish.
For instance, sweet potatoes prepared with very high carb ingredients, such as brown sugar, maple syrup, or fruit juices would be inappropriate for a ketogenic diet.
Preparation methods that are more keto-friendly may include thinly slicing and frying them to make sweet potato fries, or roasting them whole and serving them with butter, coconut oil, or melted cheese.
Certain sweet potato preparation methods are not keto-friendly, especially those that utilize high carb ingredients like brown sugar or maple syrup.
Ketogenic diets are characterized by their high fat and very low carb contents.
Sweet potatoes tend to be naturally high in carbs and are typically excluded from keto diet plans because they can make it difficult for many people to maintain ketosis.
That said, you may not have to eliminate sweet potatoes from your diet, as long as you moderate your intake and plan ahead to ensure they don’t cause you to overconsume carbs for the day.
When creating your diet plan, avoid sweet potato preparations that include high carb ingredients like brown sugar or maple syrup.
Instead, opt for higher fat options, such as sweet potato fries or roasted sweet potatoes served with butter or coconut oil.