sweet potatoes

Sweet Potatoes: Not a Yam by Another Name

Sweet potatoes aren't just for the holidays. February 22 is National Cook a Sweet Potato Day. This naturally-sweet root vegetable has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and disease-fighting properties. It features a rich orange color thanks to its carotenoid beta-carotene. This exceptional veg can be cooked in many ways: baked, boiled, mashed, cut into cubes, chips or wedges—to name a few—making it easy to mix with most diets or meal preps.

“Sweet potatoes are a great source of Vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body,” says Brooke Fenneman, MS RD, registered dietitian with Community Health Network. “It works to helps prevent free radical damage, which can help delay the rate at which we age and help protect against chronic disease. Vitamin A contributes to optimal eye health and vision and can also contribute to glowing, healthy skin. It’s also a natural anti-inflammatory and can help clear acne-causing bacteria and enhance the look and feel of your skin.”

Nutrition powerhouse

Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin. Therefore, it can actually be helpful to include a small amount of fat with your sweet potato-containing meals to help increase your body’s uptake and gain the full benefits of this root vegetable. To get the most bang for your buck with sweet potatoes, keep the skin on. The color of sweet potato skin can vary from white to yellow and purple to brown. Regardless of the color a sweet potatoes skin, it will provide fiber, potassium, and the flavonoid quercetin.

Yam confusion

Fenneman explains that sweet potato and yam are often confused and their names used interchangeably, but they are not actually related. “Sweet potatoes are edible tubers that belong to the morning-glory family and are native to tropical areas of the Americas. Yams are almost exclusively grown in Africa and are more dry and starchy by comparison.”

Quick fixes

Roast sweet potatoes to bring out their natural flavor. There is no need to add in brown sugar or mini marshmallows, or even extra dollops of butter. Sweet potatoes have a sweet and creamy taste that can be enjoyed all on its own. To add a little excitement without extra calories, try adding some familiar spices that complement its natural flavor, like cumin, cinnamon, or curry.

Simple recipes with minimal ingredients and less then 30 minutes of time in the kitchen hit the jackpot every time.