What’s in a name? If you’ve been using the term “yam” and “sweet potato” interchangeably, than keep reading this blog. The truth is, a yam is not a sweet potato, and a sweet potato is not a yam – and you most likely have not had a true yam before. That sweet, deeply colored orange root vegetable that is a staple side dish during Holiday meals is a true sweet potato. Sweet potato flesh can vary in color from white to orange to purple. Today, the USDA requires the term ‘yam’ to be accompanied by the term ‘sweet potato’. Aside from the technical term – sweet potatoes are a nutritional powerhouse that offers a lot of bang for their buck.
One small sweet potato provides around 110 calories, 4 grams of fiber, 5 grams of sugar and 2 grams of protein. Sweet potatoes have one of the highest contents of beta-carotene an antioxidant and precursor to Vitamin A, which is important to maintain healthy skin, eye health, and supports a healthy immune system. Because sweet potatoes are widely available in many different countries, it’s ability to provide a high amount of beta-carotene makes them an exceptional food choice with antioxidant benefits. Another health benefit of sweet potatoes is their ability to help control blood sugars. Because of the high fiber content in a sweet potato, they take longer to digest and in turn, help keep you fuller, longer. The slow digestive process of a sweet potato helps steady blood sugar levels, so you don’t experience a sudden spike after eating, followed by a quick drop – and the need to reach for more food to keep energy levels up.
The versatility of preparing a sweet potato goes beyond that of topping it with marshmallows. Sweet potatoes can be baked, roasted, slow cooked, microwaved, and fried. Here are a couple of my favorite ways to prepare sweet potatoes:
- Microwaved and topped with cottage cheese or Greek yogurt, sprinkled with Manitoba Harvest hemp hearts.
- Stuffed taco sweet potatoes. Bake at 400F for 35-40 minutes. Scoop out insides and place into a bowl with your choice of ground meat and taco toppings. Mash all together and place back inside the skin.
Hunger organizations across the country value sweet potato donations. They are healthy, they have a longer shelf life than many other kinds of vegetables, they are so versatile and people really appreciate them. And that’s pretty sweet!