I’ve been eating a lot of sweet potatoes recently and figured that I should understand if that was wise.
Whew, it turns out there are a number of good reasons to enjoy sweet potatoes! They are delicious, easy to prepare and a good source of complex carbohydrates, fiber and beta-carotene. These are good things because:
- Complex carbohydrates: You need carbohydrates to fuel your mind and body and complex carbs (versus simple) have more nutrients and a steadier energy release.
- Soluble and insoluble fiber: Fiber is good for bowel health, creating a sense of fullness and may help in lowering cholesterol, glucose levels and risk of heart disease.
- Beta-carotene: Your body coverts body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A, and it’s recommend that you get beta-carotene from food and not from supplements. Vitamin A is an antioxidant and thought to is be helpful in growth and development, for the maintenance of the immune system, good vision and helpful in lowering risk of heart disease.
So, what exactly is a sweet potato?
- What it is: A root with origins in Central and South American that Spanish explorers brought back to Europe.
- What it is not: A potato or a yam. The sweet potato (a root in the morning glory family) is only remotely related to potatoes (a stem tuber in the nightshade family) and while sweet potatoes are sometimes sold in the USA as yams, they are not true yams (a root tuber related to palms and grasses).
- There are many varieties of sweet potatoes. Those with a darker flesh tend to be sweeter and a better source of beta-carotene.
How does one prepare sweet potatoes? Looks like I’ll be changing some of my cooking habits.
I’ve just discovered that sweet potatoes can have a relatively high glycemic index (GI) but it can be lower when you boil them versus baking them.
- Foods with a high GI will increase your blood sugar level more than foods with a lower GI. Ongoing high blood sugar levels can lead to health issues such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
And it also looks like you can lower the GI if you chill the sweet potatoes. The cooling process apparently has an impact on how digestible the sweet potatoes are, resulting in a lower the glycemic index.
Adding a little vinegar and oil may help too.
- The vinegar helps lower the GI and as beta- carotene is a fat-soluble nutrient, the olive oil is beneficial.
One of my favorite sweet potato recipes, when served chilled, looks to be right on target for what is recommended. Try it (Whole Foods market | Spiced Grilled Sweet Potatoes) and see what you think.