I’ve decided not to get crazy with my first Real Food Close-Up of the year. Today I’m highlighting a food that is probably familiar to most of you – but I’m hoping to inspire you and your family to use this versatile veggie in some more creative (and delicious) ways.
In thinking about how I wanted to introduce the sweet potato, I realized that they are probably one of my very favourite foods. I don’t like to play favourites, but the sweet potato does hold a special place in my heart. Maybe it’s the hearty texture. Maybe it’s the fact that it can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes. Whatever it is, I am always drawn to recipes that use this brightly coloured root vegetable. Luckily, Jon and Tyson feel the same way! I’m all about variety in our food but it does seem like we eat sweet potatoes every week, or at least every other week. Particularly this time of year, as they are technically in season and are pretty cheap compared to most other produce.
Firstly, let’s clear up some confusion. Sweet potatoes and yams are not the same thing. I know, I’m surprised too. In doing some research for this post I discovered that yams aren’t even related to the sweet potato. A yam is actually a starchy potato-like tuber from the Caribbean. The confusion started when multiple varieties of sweet potatoes were introduced in the US and people called one variety “yams” just to avoid confusion. Except, they made it much more confusing. I don’t think I’ve ever even tried a yam (Now I’m inspired to find one to try for another Real Food Close-Up post).
So yes, there are a few different varieties of sweet potato. Most people are familiar with the orange-fleshed variety found in most groceries stores. I’ve bought ones at a market in China Town that have a white flesh – they taste very similar. I’ve also tried purple flesh sweet potatoes from the market. All very delicious. In reviewing some of the varieties on this site, I have to admit that they all look pretty similar so I’ve probably tried more than I think.
The question I get from people who haven’t tried sweet potatoes is “do they taste like potatoes”? That’s a tough question because they do….but they are just so much better! Don’t get me wrong, I like plain old white potatoes but I find that a white potato needs a bit more jazzing up. Sweet potatoes are so flavourful all of their own, but then add some enhancements and…wow…they are just out of this world amazing. They are sweet but comforting at the same time. Although I’m sure that made sense to nobody but me 🙂
Now, being a nutritionist, I can’t forget to include some health benefits. Sweet potatoes are known for their high levels of beta-carotene, a cartenoid that can be converted to vitamin A in the body. Eating sweet potatoes with some sort of fat (butter, olive oil, coconut oil etc) really helps with the uptake of beta-carotene. Sweet potatoes are also high in other anti-oxidants that have been shown to help eliminate heavy metals and free radicals in the body. They are an excellent source of soluble fibre – helping regulate bowel movements and keeping you full longer.
I know a lot of people avoid potatoes because of their high “starch” content and impact on blood sugar. While potatoes are higher on the GI index than some foods, sweet potatoes are much lower than white potatoes, therefore causing less of a spike in blood sugar. In fact, sweet potatoes have actually been show to regulate blood sugar – even in people with diabetes. It has to do with a hormone produced from the extract of sweet potatoes. It’s some complicated science, but it’s a bonus for a sweet potato lover like myself.
Now onto the fun stuff – how to eat sweet potatoes. Making sweet potato fries is definitely our favourite way to eat them in our house. (And NO, the sweet potato fries that you seem to be able to get at every restaurant these days do not qualify as healthy. They are typically deep-fried in hydrogenated GMO oil). Instead, we make them at home – and I think they taste even better that way. Most days, we just chop them up into fry shape, toss them with a little melted coconut oil (and sometimes some sea salt) and pop them in the oven. If I’m feeling really ambitious, I will use this method from My New Roots – simply the best sweet potato fries I have ever eaten, but a little more time consuming. This method produces the crispiest sweet potato fries you will make at home.
Sweet potatoes work well for any meal of the day, and even in dessert. There are SO MANY great recipes out there so I’m going to use the rest of this post to share a whole bunch of my favourites, plus some ones I have on my list to try. Warning – you may go into sweet potato overload. Although that doesn’t sound all the bad…
Sweet Potatoes for Breakfast
Sweet Potatoes for Lunch
Spinach and Sweet Potato Tart by Healthy Eating and Living
Raw Sweet Potato Salad by Out to Lunch Creations (I know it sounds weird to eat raw sweet potatoes, but they are actually quite delicious so this recipe is worth a try if you have a sprializer. It’s all about variety!)
Sweet Potatoes for Dinner
Vegan Enchiladas by Oh She Glows
The Burger by Edible Perspective (definitely our favourite veggie burger recipe we’ve tried)
Turkey, Sweet Potato and Bean Chili by Theresa Albert (via Food Network)
Winter Nourish Bowl by Food, Fitness, Fresh Air
Sweet Potatoes for Dessert
Sweet Potato Fudge Brownie Cake by Peachy Palate
Mmmmm, I’m getting hungry as I write this post.
I think I’ve given you lots of inspiration to include more sweet potatoes in your life. Let me know if you try any of the recipes – I’d love to know what you think!
What is your favourite way to eat sweet potatoes?