Sweet Potato: Health Benefits and How-To
Fall is undoubtedly in full swing and everyone is craving comfort foods. This month we feature one of the most well-loved root vegetables – sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes come in various shapes and colors. The flesh may be yellow, orange or deep purple, while the skin can vary from white, yellow, orange, or red to purple. Sweet potatoes, especially the orange-colored type, are often confused with yams, which are botanically very distinct from sweet potatoes. The sweet potato is native to Central America, and was introduced to Europe by Christopher Columbus when he returned from the New World.
Nutrition Tidbits for Sweet Potato
- 1 cup of baked sweet potato contains:
- Calories:180 kcal
- Fat:0.3 g
- Carbohydrates:41.4 g
- Protein: 4 g
- Fiber: 6.6 g
- Glycemic Index (GI): depends on species and cooking methods. Ranges from 44 (low) to 94 (high).
The intense colors of sweet potato are telltale signs of its rich nutrient profile. The yellow-orange colored flesh is an excellent source of beta-carotene (a precursor of Vitamin A) and a very good source of Vitamin C. The darker the yellow or orange color, the higher it is in beta-carotene. Purple-fleshed sweet potatoes are actually a good source of anthocyanins, a type of potent antioxidant. As a fulfilling starchy root vegetable, sweet potato is also high in fiber but not too high in glycemic index, making it a great option for people who have diabetes.
Although you are able to find sweet potatoes year round, they are in season around November and December. Pick sweet potatoes that are firm and do not have any cracks, bruises, or soft spots. They are best kept in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place. Avoid storing them in the refrigerator or in warmer areas (e.g., near the stove).
Ways to Include More Sweet Potato in Your Diet
Sweet potato is unique in that it goes equally well with savory dishes or desserts. Just about anything you can do with a potato, you can also do with a sweet potato – sweet potato fries, mashed sweet potatoes, baked sweet potatoes, sweet potato croquettes – the options are endless. Its flavor profile goes well with cinnamon, honey, lime, ginger, coconut, and nutmeg, so it is also great for desserts. Here are a few dessert ideas:
- Sweet potato pies
- Sweet potato muffins
- Sweet potato puddings
Alumni: University of British Columbia – Owennie is a registered dietitian with a soft spot for chocolate and coffee. She is a believer in balance and moderation, and is committed to keeping healthy eating enjoyable and fun. Owennie received her dietetics training in Vancouver, and is a member of Dietitians of Canada and the College of Dietitians of British Columbia. She has experience in a wide variety of settings, such as clinical nutrition, long-term care and outpatient counseling. Owennie has also worked for a community nutrition hotline and participated regularly as a guest radio host, where she enjoyed sharing her passion and knowledge about food and nutrition with people.