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Sweet potatoes don’t normally make the list of “normal” dog foods but they are a great addition to your dog’s bowl.

Here are some facts about sweet potatoes you probably don’t know:

Sweet Potatoes Originated in the Americas

They’re in the family of plants that includes morning glories and are in a different family than yams. Yams are from Africa and are more closely related to lilies. In the US, sweet potatoes are often called by both names—sweet potato and yam—but actual yams are usually only found in specialty markets.

A 5000 Year-Old Food

When Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas in the 15th century, sweet potatoes were already a staple crop. He took some with him back to Spain and by the 16th century, gardens all over Europe were growing them. Sweet potatoes were even, at times, considered an aphrodisiac in England.

A Rich Source of Beta-Carotene

This powerful antioxidant gives the tuber its yellow, gold, or orange (and sometimes even purple) coloring and converts to vitamin A in your dog’s body. It’s thought to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer and provide protection against heart disease.

A Good Source of Minerals

Sweet potatoes are a good source of potassium, manganese, and magnesium. They also contain calcium, iron, and zinc but are low in sodium. Minerals serve many vital purposes in your dog’s body and are necessary for good health. For example, potassium is needed to maintain a correct fluid balance in the body, as well as preserving nerve transmissions and muscle function.

High in Fiber, Low in Fat

Sweet potatoes are high in dietary fiber which is great for digestive health. Plus, they contain very little fat. Both of these characteristics make sweet potatoes healthy additions to your dog’s diet.

A Healthy Alternative

White potatoes may be cheaper than sweet potatoes but sweet potatoes have more nutritional value. Plus, white potatoes have more carbohydrates which can lead to obesity and blood sugar problems.

If you decide to cook sweet potatoes for addition to your dog’s diet, add just a small amount (a teaspoon for a small dog or a tablespoon for a large dog) as the sudden addition of too much extra fiber could lead to gastrointestinal issues. Steaming or boiling the sweet potatoes (rather than roasting them) allows the tubers to retain more nutritional value.