So what's the deal with the sweet potato fry craze these days? Most people tend to have a general idea that sweet potatoes are more nutritious than the regular white variety, but is it true? Because they sure do taste pretty awesome. The answer is, yes, they are more nutritious! That said, any type of restaurant fries, sweet potato or not, is never very healthful, as they are almost always cooked in a rancid vegetable oil like that from soybeans. Plus, if you haven't explored sweet potatoes beyond their fry form, you are seriously missing out!
A Nutritional Powerhouse
The most common sweet potato has a bright orange flesh, however they're also available in other colors like yellow and deep purple. All varieties of sweet potatoes are equally packed with nutrition. In just one cup of baked sweet potato are the following percentages of your daily recommended nutrients:
- Vitamin A— 214%
- Vitamin C— 52%
- Manganese— 50%
- Vitamin B6— 34%
- Potassium— 27%
- Fiber— 26%
- Copper— 36%
- Vitamin B3—19%
A Powerful Antioxidant
As you can see from the above data, the vitamin A content in sweet potatoes is incredible! Sweet potatoes contain carotenoid pigments called beta-carotene that gives this tuber its orange color. When eaten, beta-carotene is turned into Vitamin A by the body, and is a powerful antioxidant. An antioxidant works to protect the body from free radicals which can damage cells and lead to chronic illness such as cancer and heart disease. Beta-carotene is also very beneficial for eye health and can also protect the skin from UV damage and can help to repair cells.
Their high vitamin C content will give you an even greater antioxidant immune boost!
Blood Sugar Benefits
Any diabetic is likely aware that potatoes are converted into simple sugars in the digestive track and can be harmful to overall blood sugar levels. A sweet potato, however, is not just any potato! Not only do they contain a high level of dietary fiber, but consuming sweet potatoes can also increase the amount of adiponectin in blood levels which has been shown to aid in insulin metabolism. This can help to regulate and even lower blood sugar levels.
Manganese is a trace mineral found in sweet potatoes that also helps support blood sugar, as it is an essential nutrient for the metabolism of carbohydrates. This, along with the fiber content and adiponectin, will aid is suppressing one's appetite for a longer period of time. Adding a pat of butter to your baked sweet potato will do even more to slow both your appetite and the rate at which the potato is converted into simple sugars.
A Happy Heart
Sweet potatoes contain substantial amounts of vitamin B6 and potassium, both of which are nutrients that support heart health. Vitamin B6 helps to give structure to the walls of your blood vessels and assists in breaking down homocysteine, a substance that often plays a part in the hardening of the arteries. The potassium content helps to regulate fluid balance which contributes to a lower blood pressure and a steady heart rhythm.
So...What's the Difference Between Sweet Potatoes and Yams?
Ahh, the million dollar question! Many of us get confused when we see the deep orange potatoes labeled as yams in one food store, and the lighter, more whitish variety labeled as sweet potatoes in the next. The truth it, they're both sweet potatoes! The United States started using the label of yams in error, when in reality, yams are a completely different species of root vegetable. Yams have a deep brown colored, bark-like skin and are much larger in size than sweet potatoes. They are native to the more tropical regions and are usually only found in international markets.
Incorporating Sweet Potatoes into Your Diet
Organically grown sweet potatoes can be eaten skin and all, but conventionally grown varieties should be peeled before eaten due to high levels of pesticide residues. Peeled and sliced (or diced) sweet potatoes will retain their maximum nutritional benefits if steamed or baked in their jacket. But it doesn't end there! They can also be added to salads, mashed, used in casseroles or as a side dish.
For a few of my favorite ways to enjoy them, try them roasted and topped with lemon tahini sauce or baked with kale and walnuts. If you prefer a slightly sweeter take, drizzle some maple syrup onto those roasted beauties!
This hearty superfood will not only satisfy a carb craving, but will fill you up, and power you up. Sweet potatoes are found in every supermarket these days so you have no excuse not to at least give them a try. Swap out your regular baked potatoes next time and see if you husband notices!