Unlike a potato (edible tuber of the nightshade family), the sweet potato is a large edible root of the morning glory family. Sweet potatoes are typically recognized by their copper-colored skin and vibrant orange flesh. However there are varieties grown worldwide that display colors such as white, cream, yellow, and purple. The more common orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are a top source of beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A.
True to their name, sweet potatoes have a naturally sweet flavor, which is further enhanced through cooking methods like roasting. They are versatile and can also be steamed, pureed, baked, or grilled. They can be added to stews and soups, and roasted or grilled and placed on top of leafy greens for a delicious salad.
Benefits of Sweet Potatoes
1. Rich in Phytochemicals
Sweet potatoes with orange flesh are rich in beta-carotene, while sweet potatoes with purple flesh are richer in anthocyanins. Beta-carotene and anthocyanins are naturally occurring plant chemicals (phytochemicals) that give vegetables their bright colors. These phytochemicals are researched for their potential role in human health and disease prevention.
2. Heart Healthy
Sweet potatoes are rich in both potassium and magnesium which are healthy for our blood vessels and heart. They are also rich in vitamin B6 which helps reduce the chemical homocysteine in our bodies. Homocysteine has been linked to heart attacks.
3. Reduce Stress
Sweet potatoes are rich in magnesium, which is the relaxation and anti-stress mineral.
4. Provide Energy
Sweet potatoes are rich in iron, which helps give us energy.
5. Help in Weight Loss
Sweet potatoes are rich in fiber, which helps keep our digestive system healthy and keep us lean.
Ways to Enjoy Sweet Potatoes
- Roasted: Cut sweet potatoes into wedges. Coat with olive and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with herbs or spices if desired. Bake at 375 F for 25 – 35 minutes or until the insides are tender and the outsides are crisp.
- In soups or salads: Add cooked, diced sweet potatoes to soups or salads.
- Mashed: For mashed sweet potatoes, use a fork, masher, or blender to puree the sweet potatoes. Add a liquid such as broth, milk, or water if a smoother consistency is desired. Season with pepper, herbs, or spices as desired.
- Smoothies and baked goods: Puree sweet potatoes and add them to baked goods and smoothies.