The wonderfully hearty fall vegetables are here—potatoes, winter squashes, brussel sprouts, broccoli and, of course, let’s not forget the sweet potato. Commonly referred to as yams in North America, this naturally sweet-tasting vegetable is easy to grow, inexpensive, delicious and has huge health benefits.
Is there a difference between a sweet potato and a yam? Not in North America—a yam is a version of the sweet potato, and the name is interchangeable. Many countries call it a different name. When I lived in New Zealand, the sweet potato was referred to as the kumara in Maori, the language of the native Polynesian people of New Zealand.
I once worked on a farm while backpacking downunder—my job was to pick and pack this royal vegetable. These large vegetables would be up-rooted with a tractor, dried in the sun, and then, hunched over the hill, I would pick and pack them into a basket, dragging it along until I filled it, and then start on the next row. After long hot days, you’d think I would never want to see another sweet potato, but you’d be wrong, these are one of my favorite vegetables to cook and eat.
Sweet Potatoes are a reliable crop, and grow well in a variety of farming conditions. While sensitive to frost, many continue growing even after frost has killed the vines and leaves. Ideally they should be harvested 90–100 days after planting or whenever they reach a medium size and the leaves start to turn yellow. They have few natural enemies, and when cured properly can be stored up to thirteen months after harvesting. This edible tuberous root is long and tapered, with a smooth skin whose color ranges between yellow, orange, red, brown, purple and beige. The sweet potato flesh can be beige through to white, red, pink, violet, yellow, orange, and purple, depending on the skin color. If not growing your own, be sure to purchase firm, medium-sized sweet potatoes without any cracks, bruises or soft spots.
Whether you are trying to cut carbs and lose weight or bulk up and build muscle, these fibre-rich root vegetables are packing a nutritional powerhouse of vitamins.
Website, Sweetpotato.com claims the benefits of this vegetable are the following:
Sweet potatoes are high in Beta Carotene and vitamins E and C;
Sweet potatoes are a good source of fibre when eaten with the skin on;
Sweet potatoes offer other nutrients such as potassium, iron and vitamin B-6;
Sweet potatoes are an excellent way to eat healthy. They are fat-free and cholesterol-free;
Sweet potatoes have unique health benefits. They are loaded with vitamins A, C and E, which are antioxidants that may even help prevent heart disease and cancer, bolster the immune system and even slow aging by promoting good vision and healthy skin. They are anti-inflammatory and can protect against emphysema;
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of copper, magnesium, potassium, iron and vitamin B-6.
These vitamins play an important role in our overall health and wellbeing.
Vitamin C is helpful in warding off cold and flu viruses and plays an important role in bone and tooth formation, digestion and blood cell formation.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that may protect against heart disease.
Potassium is a mineral necessary for muscle contraction, nerve transmission, bone health, water balance and normal blood pressure.
These vegetables are sweet-tasting, but their natural sugars are slowly released into the blood stream, helping to ensure a balanced and regular source of energy, without the blood sugar spikes linked to fatigue and weight gain.
I love how versatile they are to cook and use in a variety of dishes. Winter is approaching, and I like to load up on sweet potatoes given that they pair well with warming spices such as cinnamon, ginger, chili and many others.
There are so many fun ways to cook them. Try them roasted, pureed, steamed, baked or grilled. Add them to soups and stews, or grill and place on top of leafy greens for a delicious salad. Grill them with onions and red peppers for amazing sandwich or wrap ingredients. Puree and add them to smoothies and baked goods. They are an excellent accompaniment to poultry, pork, beef, lamb or seafood. They can also be substituted in virtually any recipe that calls for apples, squash or white potatoes. Basically, there is not much that doesn’t benefit from a sweet potato, and it’s good for you too.
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