Barb Bryan,
BSc(Pharmacy/Nutrition)
APA Prescribing rights

Sweet Potatoes … a versatile canvas for a superfood complete meal.

You can eat them sweet or savory for breakfast, lunch, dinner and/or dessert. Depending on the variety, sweet potato flesh can be white, orange and even purple.

Is it a Yam or a Potato???

This rockstar root is not a potato or a true yam! Are you stunned? Crazy right?

Even though the potato, yam and sweet potato are all starchy root vegetables, they are actually not related. They come from different plant families and have different properties. Your regular trusty russet potato, comes from the nightshade family and the above ground sections of the potato can be poisonous. The sweet “potato” comes from the morning glory family. The above ground sections can be eaten as a green vegetable and some research has shown that sweet potato leaves are more nutritious than spinach. I have seen them at some of the Asian supermarkets! A true yam is a starchier, more potato like, dry edible root from the Dioscorea genus related to grasses and lilies.

So Why Do Some People Refer to Sweet Potatoes as “Yams”?

Yes, regardless of their true identity, most so called “Yams” in North America are in fact sweet potatoes. This is because years ago the orange sweet potato was introduced to the United States after the white variety. As a result they wanted to distinguish between the two sweet potatoes and they took on the English form of the African word “nyami” and labelled the orange sweet potato variety “Yams”. Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires labels with the term ‘yam’ to be accompanied by the term ‘sweet potato if indeed it is a sweet Potato. Details here.

The Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes

But don’t let the “sweet” in sweet potato fool you. One difficulty in describing the health benefits of sweet potatoes is knowing where to begin. They are packed full of vitamins, minerals, micronutrients, complex healthy carbs (see Macronutrients; Part 2 & Macronutrients; Part 3) and fiber.

Cooking and cooling the potato can create a “resistant starch” that your blood sugars and gut microbiome will thank you for. One medium sweet potato has six grams of dietary fiber, that’s a 1/4 of your daily intake in one food!

They’re incredibly rich in vitamin C and beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. Just one sweet potato has double the recommended daily intake of vitamin A and more potassium than a banana!! Remember that sweet potatoes are fat free, so it is important to pair them with some fat to aid in the absorption of the fat soluble vitamin A. (See Macronutrients; Part 6)

Sweet Potatoes are also rich in antioxidants like carotenoids and anthocyanin, naturally occurring plant phytochemicals. These micronutrients are researched for their role in reducing cancer, heart disease and reducing the risk of eye disease, (see Macronutrients; Part 6 ). Packed with both nutrients and a sweet flavor, sweet potatoes are one of the best foods to add to your glycogen restoring superfood arsenal.

What Can You Do with Sweet Potatoes?

Sweet potatoes can do everything that regular potatoes can do and MORE!!!
  • Create a sweet dessert or treat by blending cooked sweet potatoes with a banana, maple syrup and cinnamon. Top with chopped walnuts or a nut of your choice and some shaved dark chocolate. The fat content of the nuts and chocolate will help you get optimal absorption of the beta-carotene in the sweet potatoes.
  • Design a fall inspired salad using one of your favorite greens, sharp cheddar, sliced apple soaked in lemon juice, roasted sweet potatoes and quinoa. Top with your favorite homemade vinaigrette dressing. Once again, the oil in the vinaigrette will help you improve the bioavailability of the sweet potatoes beta-carotene.
  • Put together some roasted sweet potato cubes or fries on Sunday and eat them with hummus for a well-balanced afternoon snack throughout the week. Hummus is a great way to add a little healthy fat to a vegetable dish that promotes fat soluble vitamins absorption.
  • Yes, you can make these gluten free sweet potato pancakes with fresh toppings. The eggs that bind these fluffy pancakes together provides the fat that helps with the beta carotene intake.

 

 

  • They can also replace a banana in your next smoothie for thickening.
  • Act as a thickener for homemade soups and stews
  • My most favorite way to prepare sweet potatoes that provide a pretty endless supply of meal choices is baked “Stuffed Sweet Potatoes”. The sweet potato acts as a canvas for whatever you’re craving. It is one of my go-to breakfast, dinner or snack solutions.  It also inspires the whole family to get involved in the kitchen and create autonomy on what they stuff their potato with. Kids and adults both love these potato parties and they create great quality family time!! – Craving Greek? throw in some feta, olives, chicken and quinoa.
Below is the Breakfast Stuffed Sweet Potato Recipe
Ingredients:
  • 2 medium Sweet potatoes
  • 1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • 2 Tbsp diced red bell pepper
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 4 cups of baby spinach
  • 4 large eggs (lightly beaten)
  • Salt/pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese
Directions:
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Before cooking scrub the sweet potato skins well with a produce brush
  3. Poke 4-5 holes in each sweet potato with a fork or sharp knife (this allows the steam to escape)
  4. Place the sweet potatoes on a parchment covered baking sheet and bake in the oven for approximately 60 minutes, or until soft (squeeze test). You can place them in the microwave for 4-5 minutes before placing them in the oven if you’re short on time. This shortens the baking process by about 30 mins …(depending on the sweet potato size)
  5. Once the cooked sweet potatoes have cooled, cut each one in half horizontally, then carefully scoop out half the center of each half, leaving about 1/2 inch of potato on the skin (Keep the scooped out flesh for other recipes for making muffins, smoothies etc..)
  6. You can do step 4 & 5 ahead of time, as baked sweet potatoes will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. Then, all you have to do is assemble your filling and stuff your potatoes when it’s time to eat.
  7. Heat a skillet and add a Tbsp of EVOO – add the red peppers, garlic for 3 minutes then add the spinach for 2-3 minutes until wilted. Add the eggs stirring occasionally for 3 mins
  8. Add the egg mixture to the sweet potato boats you created and sprinkle with cheese. place back on the baking sheet and bake in the 400-degree oven for 5 minutes or until cheese has melted to your liking.
  9. These can be eaten right away or put in containers and refrigerated for 3-4 days. Reheat in the microwave in 30 sec intervals
Nutrition Facts: Per 1/2 sweet Potato
Calories: 225, Fat: 13gms, Carbohydrates: 16gms, Protein: 12gms
Tip:  Before cooking Sweet Potatoes, store well in a dark space at room temp and use them within ten days for the best flavor. Do not refrigerate.
So the next time you’re at a grocery store or farmers market add these sweet jewels to your bag of nutrition tricks and get creative in the kitchen!

Sounds pretty sweet to me!