Sweet Potatoes

By EAT SMARTER
Updated on 13. Oct. 2020
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​Sweet potatoes were once considered mainly a Thanksgiving Day treat. Only recently have they been appearing more and more frequently throughout the year. Not only do they have a fantastic nutty-sweet taste, but they're also an incredibly healthy addition to any diet.

Sweet potatoes...

  • ...can help relieve stress. The high potassium content of sweet potatoes keeps the body’s potassium supply in balance, thus slowing down the effects of stress.
  • ...help stabilize blood pressure. As they are rich in potassium, sweet potatoes also help to stabilize blood pressure—the mineral nutrient brings the fluid and electrolyte balance into a healthy balance.
  • ...are heart-healthy. Potassium is good for the heart, as well as another substance called caiapo, which is found in the skin of sweet potatoes. Research shows that caiapo can lower high cholesterol levels in the blood and also has a positive effect on high blood pressure.
  • ...help reduce inflammation. The secondary plant compounds — mainly anthocyanins and carotenoids — in sweet potatoes protect our body cells against oxidative stress. In plain language: they have an anti-inflammatory effect and can act preventively against aging.
  • ...are high in dietary fiber. Sweet potatoes are good for your digestion. This is even more true if you also eat the well-cleaned skin, because it contains a particularly large amount of fiber.
  • ...are very versatile. Puree, soup, salad, chips or simply cooked — sweet potatoes can do it all, and are as versatile as potatoes. In contrast, sweet potatoes taste delicious raw, e.g. grated or thinly sliced in mixed salads.
  • ...are not good for diabetics. The sweet potato contains a relatively large amount of sugar and carbohydrates. Diabetics should therefore only enjoy the vegetables in moderation and after consulting their doctor.

What You Should Know About Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a traditional side dish for Thanksgiving turkey, and in many tropical and subtropical countries of the world, the they are a staple food. The delicious carb is versatile and tastes great in both sweet and savory dishes.

Origins

Sweet potatoes are said to have originated in South America, but botanists are still not in complete agreement. However, what is certain is that the Spanish conquerors brought the sweet potato from there to Europe for the first time.

Seasonality

The sweet potato needs warmth to thrive, which is why it is mainly cultivated in countries with a lot of sun, mild climates and long summers, including the US, the Caribbean, Israel, Africa and Brazil.

The sweet potato is only partially harvested mechanically. As sweet potatoes have a thin and sensitive skin, they are collected by hand from the fields and transported in buckets to large storage containers. They are kept in air-conditioned rooms for up to 12 months without any problems. There is therefore no real season for them as they are available all year round.

Flavor

Sweet potatoes are somewhat reminiscent of regular potatoes, but — as the name suggests — they taste sweet.

Varieties

There are sweet potatoes with yellowish, orange or deep red skin. Their flesh can be almost white to yellowish, orange-red or salmon-colored. Italy also grows a newer variety that has light brown skin and white flesh, and looks more like the classic potato.

Find all our sweet potato recipes here.

How Healthy Are Sweet Potatoes?

Sweet potatoes contain almost no fat and are therefore a good choice for figure-conscious people, despite their relatively high calorie content. Like all vegetables and fruits with darker skins, they score points for having carotenoids and anthocyanins, which are highly effective antioxidants that protect our cells from free radicals.

Here the rule "a lot helps a lot" is definitely true: The more colorful the sweet potato flesh is, the more carotene or caiapo it contains. For women who want to have children and for expecting mothers, the sweet potato is particularly beneficial because it contains considerable amounts of natural folic acid (folate), which promotes the healthy development of embryonic cells and tissue.

The sweet potato also contains manganese, copper, iron vitamins B2, B6, E and H (biotin), as well as the health-promoting provitamin beta-carotene, the precursor of vitamin A, which has cell-protecting properties that strengthen our defences. If they are cooked and served with a little fat, our body can make the best use of the beta-carotene.

No other low-fat food also provides as much fat-soluble vitamin E. A 100-gram serving of sweet potato covers one third of the daily requirement. It protects the cells and prevents fatty acids and other fat-soluble vitamins in our body from aging too quickly. The abundant potassium regulates the body's fluid balance. It flushes out excess water and can lower high blood pressure.

Sweet Potato Nutritional Info (100 g)  
Calories 111
Protein 1.6 g
Fat 0.6 g
Carbohydrates 24 g
Fiber 3.1 g


Shopping and Cooking Tips

Shopping

Evenly colored and firm sweet potatoes taste best. Don't buy too many at once because after a week or two they lose their nutritional value and flavor.

Storage

Do not refrigerate sweet potatoes. Rather, if you do not consume sweet potatoes right away, keep them fresh in a dry room.

Preparation

Sweet potatoes maintain most of their aroma and nutrients when cooked with their skin. If you want to try this, scrub the skin thoroughly under running water. You can also simply peel sweet potatoes like potatoes, wash them and prepare them according to your recipe.

Normally, whole sweet potatoes take 30 to 45 minutes to cook, depending on their size. You can shorten this time considerably, however, if you prick the unpeeled sweet potato several times with a fork and cook it in the microwave for four to eight minutes on the highest setting.

What To Make With Sweet Potatoes

Just like potatoes, sweet potatoes are a vegetable for just about every occasion and can be prepared in many different ways. They taste great cooked, fried, roasted, baked and deep-fried, and go well with meat and poultry, as well as with fish, other vegetables or eggs. It’s also worth trying them in creams, breads, cakes and pies. 

There are numerous delicious recipes that use the sweet potato: fried in a pan, in soups and salads, baked in the oven, as a casserole, a vegetarian colorful dip, or in combination with goat cheese.

Because of its taste, the sweet potato is also popular with children and even babies. The sweet potato is also becoming increasingly popular as a baking ingredient and can be used to conjure up heavenly desserts, like muffins or brownies. 

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