Sweet potatoes became an inevitable part of Thanksgiving dinner, but since they’re so healthy, they should definitely find their place on the plate more than once a year. If you aren’t familiar with this veggie, here is everything you need to know.
1. Sweet Potatoes are from America
Scientists believe that the origin of sweet potato is either Central or South America, and it is considered to be one of the oldest vegetables known to mankind. Since sweet potatoes were present when Christopher Columbus came to America in the 15th century, he brought them back home to Europe. They spread through Asia, Africa, and Latin America during the 17th and 18th centuries, and nowadays there’s practically no part of the world that isn’t familiar with sweet potatoes.
The popularity of this vegetable goes so far that February became National Sweet Potato Month. The plant itself is very invasive and it can multiply quickly from very few roots. For this reason, and because it is so beneficial, it is considered as an ideal food source.
2. Yams and sweet potatoes are not the same
This is a very common mistake. Believe it or not, people use both of these vegetables interchangeably in recipes, even in supermarkets nobody seems to differentiate them, but they are botanically completely different. There are many differences between these two, but the main one is that they come from different plant families. As we said before, sweet potatoes are native to America, while yams come from Asia and Africa.
Most importantly, sweet potatoes are much more beneficial than yams; they have more nutrients and more fiber. You probably can’t tell the difference when you look at them, but yams are starchier and drier than sweet potatoes. If you want to exploit all the benefits of this amazing vegetable, make sure you get the right thing.
3. A great source of beta-carotene
The evidence is in its color. Sweet potatoes are a rich source of this powerful antioxidant. As some of you might know beta-carotene converts to vitamin A in the body, which is thought to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer and provide protection against heart disease. It is also vital for maintaining a healthy immune system, bones, and eyes. One large sweet potato contains more than 100 percent of the daily recommended intake of this vitamin.
Since sweet potatoes also come in white, yellow, purple, and pink, you should know that the darker the variety, the higher the concentration of beta-carotene. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of numerous vitamins and minerals, and they are definitely a good addition to any diet.
4. Health benefits
We have already mentioned some of the benefits of sweet potatoes, like its anti-carcinogenic properties and its contribution to the health of blood vessels and arteries, but did you know that they are also great at controlling blood pressure? They also have a low glycemic index, which means that they release sugar slowly into the bloodstream, keeping you energized for longer. Furthermore, some varieties of sweet potatoes, like an orange-skinned variety grown in North Carolina, may help control blood glucose.
Sweet potatoes also contain magnesium, which has a soothing, relaxing and calming effect on the body. It can also be used in skin and hair treatment, as vitamins C and E are well-known for encouraging healthy, glowing skin and collagen production.
5. Health risks
Even though they are healthy, you still have to eat them in moderation. Here are few cons of sweet potatoes. If eaten in moderation and prepared in a healthy way, sweet potatoes are nothing but good and nutritious food, but for a vegetable, they are high in carbohydrates and calories. Average sweet potato contains around 100 calories, while French fries made from sweet potatoes contain around 150 calories per serving. As they are high in vitamin A, they may also cause some skin-related side effects.
If you eat too many sweet potatoes, levels of vitamin A can get too high, and that can cause your skin and nails to look a little orange. However, if you eat them in moderation, you’ll only benefit from them.
6. Purple sweet potato
In addition to standard orange, white and yellow, sweet potatoes can be purple. They contain the same pigment that gives berries and other vegetables their color. Purple potatoes are denser and drier than regular sweet potatoes, which is why they take longer to prepare. Also, they have different taste. Purple sweet potatoes might have an unusual flavor for some, but it is definitely worth the try. Like regular sweet potatoes, they are full of vitamins and minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.
When it comes to prevention of cancer, purple potatoes might be even more effective than regular sweet potatoes. Unfortunately, they are not so common in grocery stores, but you should look for them, especially in the fall and winter.
7. The whole plant is edible
We all know the great and sweet taste of potato tubers, but have you ever thought about eating its leafy green tops. You should definitely try it. Sweet potato leaves and stems are rich and flavorful and full of antioxidants. Like sweet potato tubers, leaves contain high levels of vitamins and minerals, which makes them just as beneficial. You can cut some of the sweet potato leaves or young shoots at any time during growth, it won’t affect tuber development.
You can prepare sweet potato leaves like spinach or turnip greens. It is also great for salads, but first, you should boil the leaves in a small amount of water to soften them up and to get rid of bitterness.
8. Sweet potato smoothies
Smoothies are ideal for breakfast and energizing afternoon snack. Did you know that you can add a sweet potato to your smoothie to get a rich and interesting flavor? A very important thing to mention is that dangerous enzyme solanine found in regular raw potatoes is not present in sweet potatoes and they can be consumed raw. It is true that sweet potatoes can make digestion difficult when eaten raw and in large quantities due to enzyme inhibitor, but the amount you put in your smoothie is negligible.
You should try to mix them with mango, oranges, coconut oil, fresh ginger, carrots, to get the most delicious smoothie. Sweet potatoes can be a great addition to your daily health routine, and you should definitely try them in this form.
Next to smoothies we have already mentioned, there are many other ways to prepare sweet potatoes. It is good to know that they can be combined with almost anything and that they are an ideal addition to every meal. If you need an idea how to prepare them you should look for Korean recipes because sweet potato is extremely popular in Korean cuisine. But don’t stop there, lot of countries have their own recipes which are delicious in their own way.
However, do a little bit of research, and read some reviews before you give it a go. When it comes to spices, you can pretty much use anything to prepare them. They can also be prepared as a delicious dessert as well.
10. Storing sweet potatoes
The reason why we are mentioning preservation is because you can have homegrown sweet potatoes for months past the growing season, so why not to preserve them. The first thing you should know is that they can’t be stored in fridge because cells of the plant itself change, making it hard and unpleasant to eat. Traditional methods recommend storing sweet potatoes in the sand but that is usually impossible for most people.
Instead, store your sweet potatoes away from the light in dark and dry room or in the basement or attic. The best way is to use a box or perforated plastic bag and store them in one of the above mentioned places, and you’ll be able to enjoy them for longer.