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The Scoop on Sweet Potatoes

Health Benefits

Sweet potatoes are a nutritious choice as the starchy carbohydrate component of lunch or dinnerSweet potatoes have 10 times more vitamin A than regular white potatoes.  One medium potato provides us with over 200 percent of our daily needs for vitamin A.  Vitamin A plays a key role in the health of our eyes, skin, skeletal / soft tissue and teeth. Sweet potatoes contain significant amounts of carotenoids  i.e. beta-carotene which gives the sweet potato its deep orange color.   Carotenoids are phyto (plant) nutrients that may help reduce the risk of eye disease, some cancers and heart disease. Other foods that are brightly coloured, such as dark green, orange, yellow and red vegetables and fruit, contain carotenoids also.  Unlike regular potatoes, sweet potatoes are a lower glycaemic food  – these types of foods can be helpful for people living with poly cystic ovaries, diabetes or individuals at high risk of diabetes to control blood sugar levels.  Despite the relatively sweet taste, sweet potatoes only a very small amount of natural sugar. One medium sweet potato with the skin intact provides  4 grams of fibre and virtually no fat.

Selection & Storage

For the best flavor, choose sweet potatoes that are firm and do not have any cracks, bruises or soft spots.  Sweet potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark and well-ventilated place. Avoid refrigerating sweet potatoes, as the cold temperature can negatively alter their flavour.

Tips & Tricks

Scrub sweet potatoes with a vegetable scrubber whilst rinsing under cool water before use. For added fibre, leave the skin intact. Just like regular potatoes, you can eat the skin! Cooking releases the sweetness and wonderful taste. Sweet potatoes cook quickly and are lovely from the steamer or roasted in the oven.

Sweet potato wedges are a tasty and healthier alternative to regular chips.  Scrub, rinse and cut sweet potato into wedges. Leave the skin on for added fibre.  Toss wedges in a bowl with a little rapeseed oil. Sprinkle with garlic powder, chilli powder, paprika, turmeric or some rosemary if you wish. Spread wedges onto a baking tray and bake in the oven at 400 F or 200 C for 20 minutes or until nicely browned.  I prefer to use a teaspoon of oil when cooking these sweet potatoes as fat content of the oil will help with absorption of the beta-carotene for optimal health.

Mash; Try mashed sweet potatoes or half regular and half sweet potatoes to top your next Shepherd’s pie or fish pie.  I often use mashed sweet potato to thicken homemade vegetable soups and boost the nutritional content of the soup.   Replace regular potato with sweet potato in potato salad.  Need a quick meal? Bake and slice potatoes in half. Top with leftover chilli and grated cheese, black beans and salsa, baked beans, or scrambled eggs. 

To conclude, sweet potatoes have an added nutritional edge over regular potatoes but regular potatoes remain a healthy carbohydrate food when eaten in moderation i.e. quantities relative to physical activity levels.