Whatever the season, the mighty sweet potato belongs on your plate.
This is because the sweet potatoes are a fat-burning food. One medium tuber has 16% of the daily value of fiber which acts as a digestive aid, and fiber takes more energy to burn, meaning that the true calorie intake of a sweet potato is almost nothing. The sweet potato is low on the glycemic index so eating one doesn’t create an insulin spike. Sweet potatoes contain a high amount of energy-boosting complex starch, in addition to high content of vitamin C, manganese, vitamins B5 and B6, potassium and copper.
This orange-fleshed favorite is also a storehouse of beta-carotene.
This is the carotenoid that converts in the body to the powerful antioxidant, vitamin A. This benefit is particularly important to children, a group for whom one sweet potato can provide 90% of vitamin A daily needs. Vitamin A can counteract weak eyesight, help fight acne, build resistance to respiratory infection, boost the immune system, shorten the duration of infections, and promote the growth of strong bones and healthy skin, hair, teeth, and gums. It can even relieve asthma.
But that’s just the beginning of the sweet potato’s impressive credentials.
- Sweet potatoes have storage proteins called sporamins that are produced by the plants to help keep them safe. Eating sweet potatoes confers some of those benefits to your gastrointestinal tract.
- The concentration of vitamin C, iron and other nutrients in sweet potatoes help bronchitis and are believed to be capable of warming up the body.
- Its nutrient profile makes the sweet potato perfect for easing arthritis. In addition to eating them, use the water in which they were boiled to ease joint pain externally.
- Sweet potatoes are cancer fighters. Beta carotene is a champion antioxidant and anti-carcinogen that works with the high vitamin C content to stop many types of cancers, mainly those of the colon, intestines, prostate, kidneys and other internal organs. Recent research on sweet potatoes has shown: Inhibition of cell proliferation in seven human adult cell leukemia-related cell lines, inducement of appropriate cell death in human tongue carcinoma cells, and growth inhibition and induction of appropriate cell death in leukemia cells by trypsin inhibitor from sporamin.
- And though it seems counter-intuitive, sweet potatoes provide blood sugar control. In fact, they can actually improve blood sugar regulation, even in persons with type 2 diabetes. Research has shown the sweet potato can significantly increase blood levels of adiponectin, a protein hormone produced by fat cells, and it serves as a regulator of insulin metabolism and a preventer of heart attacks. People with poorly regulated insulin and insulin insensitivity tend to have lower levels of adiponectin, and those with healthier insulin metabolism tend to have higher levels.
Eating sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a unique type of potato that is nutritionally different from all other types of potatoes. There are many varieties of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, and each variety gets its orange coloration from its high beta carotene content. What’s even nutritionally better than these are the purple-fleshed sweet potatoes that are a fantastic source of anthocyanins, the pigment that gives them their color. Anthocyanins are especially powerful antioxidants. If all you have access to are the orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, eat them and be happy. If you come across a purple-fleshed variety, it is indeed your lucky day. Purple sweet potatoes have 3.2 times more antioxidant activity than blueberries!
Try to buy organic sweet potatoes. In addition to being produced in a health-oriented manner, organics have more of the real sweet potato taste. And be sure to eat the skins of organic sweet potatoes because they have lots of antioxidant benefits too. Even the leaves from the sweet potato plant have been shown to have many antioxidant and anti-cancer benefits.
Sweet potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark and well-ventilated place, where they will stay fresh for about 10 days. They should not be put in the refrigerator or stored in a plastic bag. Like all live foods, sweet potatoes need to breathe.
Easy Sweet Potato Recipe
- Wash the skins
- Bake in the oven at 375 to 400 degrees until just the point at which a fork goes through them easily
- Cut partially in half to create a boat
- Fill the boat with organic butter and add sea salt and pepper to taste. Adding some smashed organic garlic or cinnamon will boost the flavor another notch.
Sweet Potato Salad (adapted from The George Mateljan Foundation)
For lunches, barbeques or picnics
- 2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
- 1/4 cup vegetable stock
- 1/2 teaspoon capers
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
- 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
- 1 1/4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Grease a baking sheet with butter and spread the sweet potato cubes out in one layer. Bake the potatoes for 30 minutes, until tender. The time may vary with the heat of your oven and the size of the potato chunks.
- Mix all of the other ingredients together, then toss with the still warm sweet potatoes. Refrigerate for 1 hour until chilled, then serve.
Healthy Mashed Sweet Potatoes (adapted from the George Mateljan Foundation)
- 2 medium-sized sweet potatoes or yams, sliced thin for quick cooking
- 2 TBS fresh orange juice
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1TBS extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt and pepper to taste
- Bring lightly salted water to a boil in a steamer with a tight-fitting lid.
- Steam peeled and sliced sweet potatoes in a steamer basket, covered, for about 10 minutes, or until tender.
- When tender, mash with a potato masher, adding the rest of the ingredients.