The surprising sweet health package of sweet potatoes

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This beginning of fall signals the beginning of sweet potatoes coming into their season to shine.  This orange-fleshed root vegetable is one of nature’s unsurpassed sources of natural health goodness sitting there in the produce aisle not to pass on by.  Sweet potatoes really are the real whole health package and what a sweet deal that means for us.  By the way - do not confuse a sweet potato with a yam – botanically they are not the same.  Yams are native to Africa related to lilies, palms, and grasses while sweet potatoes are a member of the morning glory family.

This superfood has been in the United States since Christopher Columbus arrived back in 1492. Grown by Native Americans, sweet potatoes have been a staple food ever since with even George Washington growing them on his farm in Mount Vernon, Virginia.  Today, North Carolina claims the sweet potato as its’ official vegetable andis the leading producer of this tuber in the U.S. producing around 40% of all sweet potatoes grown in the nation

These edible roots really are a very sweet bargain for our health as the nutritional profile of one cup of a plain baked sweet potato looks like this:

·      180 calories

·      6.6 grams of fiber

·      0 grams of fat

·      950 milligrams of potassium

·      72 milligrams of sodium

·      1922 micrograms of vitamin A

·      38 milligrams of vitamin C

Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds is beneficial and is associated with reduced risk of many adverse health conditions.  Adding sweet potatoes to your regular diet may help lessen the likelihood of the following diseases:

Diabetes

Because sweet potatoes are considered to be low on the glycemic index, research suggests that they may reduce low blood sugar or hypoglycemia along with insulin resistance in people with diabetes. Another factor that helps is the fiber content found in sweet potatoes slowing down digestion reducing the rate of glucose entering into the bloodstream.

Blood pressure

A sweet potato au natural has a low sodium content of only 72 milligrams. Maintaining a low sodium intake is essential to maintaining blood pressure.  Potassium is a mineral important for regulating blood pressure and sweet potatoes are loaded with it.  The daily nutrient recommendation for potassium for adults is 4700 milligrams and one cup of sweet potatoes delivers a whopping 950 milligrams or 20% of this dietary need. 

Cancer

That delicate orange hue sweet potatoes possess is due thanks to a red-orange pigment called beta-carotene, also known as a carotenoid. Beta-carotene appears to play a role in protecting men against prostate cancer.

Improves digestion and constipation

One cup of sweet potatoes provides 6.6 grams of fiber, a bonus for helping to prevent constipation and promoting regularity for a healthy digestive system.

Vision

Vitamin A is well-known for its’ role in keeping our eyes healthy and sweet potatoes are your go-to food for obtaining this fat-soluble vitamin.  One cup contains a colossal 1,922 micrograms of vitamin A or more than 300% of the daily recommended requirement. 

Vitamin A along with beta-carotene helps protect the surface of the eyes (cornea) and both are essential for good vision. 

10 ways to enjoy a sweet potato

1.     Dice cooked, peeled sweet potatoes and drizzle with maple syrup for a side dish.

2.     Cut thin slices of cooked sweet potatoes and add to your favorite sandwich or wrap instead of tomatoes.

3.     Make sweet potato pancakes for a breakfast treat.

4.     Substitute sweet potatoes for regular spuds in your favorite potato salad recipe.

5.     Slice sweet potatoes into thick ½ inch rounds and grill until lightly browned.  Drizzle with lime juice.

6.     Make sweet potato chips – thinly slice a large sweet potato and brush lightly with olive oil.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp.

7.     Try sweet potato fries – quarter sweet potatoes and drizzle with olive oil.  Bake at 400 degrees for 40-60 minutes.  For a spicy twist, add a dash of cayenne pepper.

8.     Sweet potatoes make sweet salad toppings.  Combine cooked diced sweet potatoes, pineapple tidbits, apples, celery, and cashews.  Serve over salad greens.

9.     Steam peeled sweet-potato chunks for about 10 minutes until tender, and mash with a dash of orange juice.

10.  Bake, roast, or stem.

 

For additional nutrition information and recipes using sweet potatoes visit: http://www.ncsweetpotatoes.com/