Vegetable of the Month: Sweet Potatoes

Photo Credit NCSU

Photo Credit NCSU

 

Whether you are a fit for life kind of person or are just starting out on your journey, you have probably heard about sweet potatoes. But what makes the sweet potato so popular among the fit community? Why should we introduce it into our diet?

Origins:

Sweet potato is indigenous to Central America and made it into European diet after Christopher Columbus came back from his journey to the New World. There are over 400 hundred different varieties of Sweet Potatoes grown all over the world and the variety are largely dependent on the climate. Climate, soil composition, and genetic makeup will influence the nutrient composition and color of the sweet potato variety.

Sweet potatoes of all varieties are rich in Vitamin C, B6, and A, manganese, potassium, iron and fiber content.  Apart from rich nutritional value, sweet potatoes can also help regulate blood sugar, decrease soft tissue inflammation, and according to some studies, contain significant antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.

Antioxidants

Different varieties of sweet potatoes are packed with antioxidant nutrients like beta-carotene and anthocyanin (cyanidins and peonidins).

Orange colored sweet potatoes are full of carotenoid pigments which is what gives the sweet potato its distinctive orange color and sweetness. Some studies show that sweet potatoes are a better source of bioavailable beta-carotene than some green leafy vegetables such as kale, collards, and spinach.

Beta- carotene is an antioxidant and a precursor to Vitamin A, also known as retinol. Retinol is a substance that is essential for maintaining retinal, skin, mucous membrane, teeth, and skeletal health.

Purple-fleshed sweet potatoes are high in an antioxidant known as anthocyanin. This is also the compound that gives blueberries, grapes, purple cabbage and the Okinawan Sweet Potato its purple color. However, the concentration of anthocyanin is nearly 150% greater in the Okinawan Sweet Potato than it is in blueberries, the antioxidant powerhouse.

Some studies show that a diet rich in cyanidins and peonidins can potentially lower the risk or mitigate the damage done by heavy metals and other oxidants in the digestive tract.

Select and Store

When choosing sweet potatoes, make sure that they are firm and free of damage. Avoid those that are stored in the refrigerator section of the grocery store as lower temperatures negatively affect the taste.

Keep your sweet potatoes out of the fridge and in a cool dark place. Usually, sweet potatoes can be stored for up to 10 days or longer.

Cooking Ideas

  • Boil, mash, and combine with walnuts, raisins, and a touch of agave syrup or honey.
  • Shave thin using a mandolin, spray with olive oil, and season with salt or Cajun seasoning. Broil for -5-10 minutes to make Sweet Potato Chips.
  • Boil, mash, season with herbs of your choice.
  • Cut into fires, coat in coconut oil and bake at 350 F for 10 minutes.
  • Sweet potatoes can be added to baked goods, desserts, and other dishes where a little bit of sweetness can go a long way.

Sources

http://www.cuesa.org/food/sweet-potatoes
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=64#healthbenefits
http://www.downtoearth.org/health/nutrition/okinawan-sweet-potato-purple-powerhouse-nutrition
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_potato
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthocyanin#In_food

Advertisements

Posted on September 28, 2013, in clean eating, Nutrition, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: