Sweet Potatoes, Sweet and Nutritious!
Allison Mignery, Guest Writer
Physical Activity & Nutrition Supervisor
Mecklenburg County Health Department
The sweet potato is a perfect warm-weather vegetable that requires a long frost-free growing season to mature (temperatures of 70-80 degrees F). The sweet potato, Ipomoea batatas, is related to the morning glory plant and it grows as a vine, with heart-shaped leaves and medium-sized flowers. The edible tuberous root of the sweet potato is long and tapered, with a smooth skin. The traditional orange color is the most common today, but white or very light yellow-fleshed types were once eaten by the wealthy and were a sign of sophistication. Sweet potato plants are ready to harvest in about six weeks.
Yams and sweet potatoes are commonly confused with each other in the US. Many people use these terms interchangeably both in conversation and in cooking, but they are really two different vegetables which are not related botanically. Yams, Dioscorea batatas, are only grown in the tropics. Sometimes you will see orange-colored sweet potatoes labeled as “yams,” but if you want to buy a real yam, you may need to go to an international market. In the US, productions of sweet potatoes are mainly in the Southern states, particularly North Carolina and Louisiana. Compared to a yam, a sweet potato is more moist, sweet and higher in beta-carotene (Vitamin A).
In addition to being packed with beta-carotene, the sweet potato is also high in vitamin C. Both of these vitamins are very powerful antioxidants that work with your body to eliminate free radicals. Sweet potatoes also have a high amount of dietary fiber, iron and calcium. The numbers for the nutritious sweet potato speak for themselves: almost twice the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A; 42 percent of the recommendation for vitamin C; four times the RDA for beta carotene; and when eaten with the skin sweet potatoes have more fiber than oatmeal. All these benefits with only about 130 to 160 calories per medium-sized potato! Among root vegetables, sweet potatoes offer the lowest glycemic index rating (this index relates to the way your body's sugar levels respond to certain foods). That's because the sweet potato digests slowly, causing a gradual rise in blood sugar so you feel satisfied longer.
Sweet potatoes can be prepared many ways. Some of the most common dishes include a pie or casserole, which can be very unhealthy. Some healthier ways to prepare sweet potatoes would be roasting, baking or mashed. Examples of ways to eat a delicious, healthy sweet potato follow:
A great recipe is the Louisiana Sweet Potato Pancakes. I have never made the Sweet Potato Biscuits recipe, but from the reviews I could find this recipe appears to be a good one.
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/cooking-live/sweet-potato-biscuits-recipe/index.html © Allison Mignery 2010 all rights reserved
Allison Mignery is a Registered Dietitian nationally and a Licensed Dietitian in North Carolina. Allison is employed with the Mecklenburg County Health Department’s Health Promotion Team in Charlotte, NC, where she works closely with Mecklenburg County’s Park and Recreation Department and Cooperative Extension to help build and sustain community gardens in the area. Allison’s series To Your Health shares recipes and articles focused on good health.
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