Heavenly Sweet Potatoes: Batatas
The sweet potato is another Native American food discovered by Columbus and his crew. This root vegetable called "batatas" by the natives was taken back to Spain around 1500. Other varieties, including red, purple, and white were then cultivated.
In Colonial times, American doctors recommended sweet potatoes for children to help prevent childhood nutritional diseases.
Sweet potatoes in their many varieties are a highly nutritious food, easy to prepare, heavenly tasting, and extremely versatile. Yet, they are undervalued, ignored, and under appreciated.
Some people enjoy the wonderful flavor and health benefits of sweet potatoes year round, but for many families sweet potatoes appear on the table at Thanksgiving and only then.
A Byte of Sweet Potato History
Sweet potatoes were actually born in Mexico, Central, and South America, as well as the West Indies. Their botanical name, Ipomoca batata, was derived from the American Indians of Louisiana who were growing them in native gardens as early as 1540.
Sweet potatoes are part of the morning glory family, yet are often confused with the yam, which comes from the African word "nyami", referring to the starchy root from a different genus of plants. Yams sold at supermarkets are actually sweet potatoes with a moist texture and orange flesh.
It was the Southerners, mainly from North Carolina, Georgia, and Louisiana, who adopted the name yams for the darker-skinned orange variety and made them an important part of their cuisine. "Yams" were so important in the South that during the American Revolution and the Civil War, they were said to have sustained the fighting soldiers.
Sweet Potatoes: A Nutritional Powerhouse
The sweet potato deserves to be on the highest perch because it is a nutritional powerhouse with 4 ounces of cooked pulp supplying 2 grams of protein, 3.4 grams of fiber, 24.6 mg of vitamin C, 28 mg of calcium, 22.6 mcg of folic acid, 20 mg of magnesium, 348 mg of potassium, and a whopping 21822 I.U. of vitamin A.
That's mighty impressive for only a half cup serving. The skins, which are completely edible, add even more fiber.
Sweet Potatoes for Your Skin
You may not think of skin as part of your immune system, but this crucial organ, covering an impressive 16 square feet, serves as a first-line fortress against bacteria, viruses and other undesirables. To stay strong, your skin needs vitamin A. Vitamin A plays a major role in the production of connective tissue, a key component of skin. One of the best ways to get vitamin A is to eat foods high in beta-carotene, which your body turns into vitamin A. One of the quickest, most delicious ways to get beta-carotene is to serve candied sweet potatoes (canned are fine). Each one-half cup serving delivers only 170 calories but 40-percent of the DV of vitamin A as beta-carotene. They are so good; you might want to save them for dessert! Think orange when looking for other foods rich in beta-carotene: carrots, squash, canned pumpkin and cantaloupe.
Sweet Potatoes for Runners
This tasty vegetable ranks high in energy supplying carbs and beta carotene, plus minerals like potassium and magnesium, which runners lose through sweating. A medium-size sweet potato has only about 100 calories, two to three times a week, eating one could do a runner good.
The deep orange color of sweet potatoes is a calling card for its stash of antioxidants called carotenoids - the major one being beta-carotene. Recently, Swedish researchers discovered that eating three or more servings a week of carotenoid-rich vegetables, such as green leafy vegetables or root vegetables, could reduce the risk of stomach cancer by between 35 and 57 percent.
Roast 1 whole sweet potato until tender. Coarsely chop, then mash with a large spoonful of coconut cream, chopped fresh coriander and a squeeze of lime juice. Serve sprinkled with extra coriander and lime wedges on the side.
Sweet and Spicy Sweet Potato Steak Fries
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Scrub 2 medium organic sweet potatoes and slice into 1/2-inch wedges. Place on a large sheet pan with 2 teaspoons safflower oil and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne. Roast until potatoes are golden and just tender, about 10 minutes. Toss with 1-1/2 teaspoon maple syrup and roast five minutes more. Season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Makes four servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 83 calories, 1g protein, 15g carbohydrates, 2g fiber, 4g sugars, 2.5g fat, 0 saturated fat, 276mg sodium.
Did You Know?
November is Sweet Potato Awareness Month
Sweet potatoes are a low-glycemic food. This means they won't spike your blood sugar as fast as high glycemic foods. High glycemic foods include white bread, pretzels, chips and other junk foods.
Sweet Potato Balls Recipe Card
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