Sweet potatoes don’t get the positive attention they deserve. Maybe it’s because we typically associate the word potato with heavy carbs and French fries. The truth is, sweet potatoes are actually healthy, nutrient rich carbohydrates. I even recommend them as a pre/post-workout snack!
Sweet potatoes are extremely high in vitamin A, specifically the carotenoid called beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A that has shown to support the immune system, protect body cells and act as a great antioxidant. Beta-carotene is linked with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, lung cancer and anti-aging. It has also been associated with reducing the risk of vision loss known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Sweet potatoes are the richest source of vitamin A. One small sweet potato contains more than 400% of your daily requirements! And the darker the orange pigment, the higher the antioxidant content.
Sweet potatoes are also a great source of vitamins B, C and E, in addition to manganese, potassium, dietary fiber and protein. Did you know that potassium helps regulate blood pressure? Sweet potatoes are even higher in potassium than bananas! A medium-sized sweet potato has about 100 calories, 2 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein.
Food vs. Supplements
Beta-carotene supplements (with higher doses of vitamin A) do not show the same benefits as food sources. Therefore, when it comes to beta-carotene, it is more important to eat foods high in vitamin A like sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, pumpkin, peppers and mangoes.
How To Choose & Store
Choose sweet potatoes that have no cracks or soft spots. You want them to be firm. Even though white potatoes are on the highest pesticide produce list, conventionally grown sweet potatoes are excellent to buy. The perk of a potato is that they can keep up to a month if they are stored in a dry, cool counter or cupboard! Do not store in the fridge as that can affect the taste. And only clean or scrub when you are ready to use since the moisture can accelerate spoilage.
How To Prepare
Unlike white potatoes, sweet potatoes are low to medium in the glycemic index chart—meaning they do not cause exorbitant sugar spikes. Nonetheless, the way you prepare sweet potatoes makes a difference. If you cook potatoes for too long i.e. more than 40 minutes, the starches become gelatinized during the cooking process and therefore increase their sweetness. Leaving the skin on also helps retain the vitamin C content. Eating potatoes that have been cooked for a maximum of 30 minutes with their skin is preferred.
Enjoy sweet potatoes baked, roasted, mashed, boiled or grilled—as a main dish or a side. As a twist to an old appetizer favorite, I made crostini using sweet potatoes instead of toast. It is delicious! Recipe adapted from Gluten Free Living.
Sweet Potato Crostini Recipe
- 2 large sweet potatoes – cut into ½ inch slices, unpeeled
- 1 6oz low-fat Greek yogurt – throw out liquid portion of the yogurt
- ½ cup of cranberries, no added ingredients
- ¼ cup of chives – minced
- ¼ cup of fresh parsley – minced
- Olive oil
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 425F. Use 1 tbs of olive oil to brush onto individual ½ inch slices
- Roast until potatoes are browned on the bottom, about 30 minutes
- Combine the following in mixing bowl: yogurt, cranberries, chives, 1 tsp of olive oil, half the parsley, and salt & pepper
- Top browned sweet potato rounds with 1 tsp of the yogurt and cranberry mix
- Sprinkle the remaining parsley over the top
- Arrange the “crostini” on a platter and enjoy!
On average, each potato round is ~45 calories.
Do you eat sweet potatoes on a regular basis?
Written and photographed by Alanna Cabrero, MS, RD
Originally posted on NYHRC Tumblr
Sweet potatoes. World’s healthiest foods.
Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin A. Office of Dietary Supplement NIH.
Potatoes much healthier than you might think. The Globe and Mail.
The Goods: Sweet potatoes myths and facts. The Florida Times Union.
Edited by TCabrarr