One of our newest superfoods is one of our oldest—the sweet potato. The little tuber kept early settlers and Revolutionary War troops going, and one Colonial doctor described the native food as “the one indispensable vegetable.” Now latest studies are revealing that sweet potatoes come loaded with nutritional benefits that modern consumers consider indispensable. Sweet potatoes boost immunity, aid digestion and fight constipation, battle cancer and increase fertility. This vegetable can help restore vision and fight chronic inflammation. Children, particularly, may benefit from the vitamin A found in sweet potatoes. Moms who are looking for a healthy after-school snack will find it in sweet potatoes.
Counted among the most nutritious vegetables, sweet potatoes may be one of nature’s unsurpassed sources of beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A.
Beta-carotene has been shown to fight the development of colon cancer. Among younger men, diets rich in beta-carotene may play a protective role against prostate cancer. The iron in sweet potatoes promotes fertility among women of child-bearing age. It’s vitamin A also is essential during pregnancy and lactation for hormone synthesis.
Correcting vitamin A deficiencies with foods high in beta-carotene can help restore vision. Vitamin A deficiency causes the outer segments of the eye’s photoreceptors to deteriorate, damaging normal vision. Antioxidant vitamins C and E in sweet potatoes have been shown to support eye health and prevent degenerative damage.
In addition to vitamin A, sweet potatoes are packed with vitamin C, potassium and calcium. They’re high in fiber and manganese, and they are a good source of copper, vitamin B6, and iron. Their combination of vitamin C and beta-carotene is a powerful combination that offers an immunity boost. They have unique antioxidant properties that prevent oxidative damage to our cells. The vegetable’s high fiber content means that eating sweet potatoes can help to prevent constipation and promote a healthy digestive tract.
Sweet potatoes rank low on the glycemic index scale, and recent research suggests they may help people with diabetes by reducing episodes of low blood sugar and insulin resistance. The nutrient choline in sweet potatoes helps with sleep, muscle movement, learning and memory. Choline also reduces chronic inflammation, aids in the transmission of nerve impulses, and assists in the absorption of fat.
It’s no wonder that nutrition-conscious cooks are baking up sweet potatoes, cutting them into thick slices and topping them with vanilla yogurt, cottage cheese, goat cheese, or feta for a quick lunch or snack. Eat them cold, room temperature or warn. Convert the traditional Thanksgiving casserole into everyday life by sprinkling baked sweet potatoes rounds with brown sugar, butter and cinnamon and reheating.
Baked at 425 degrees for 45 minutes to one hour, sweet potatoes will last up to five days in the refrigerator. Can’t beat that for convenience.
My current favorite sweet potato recipe is an out-of-the box wonder that The New York Times food writer Tamar Adler served up. She got it from her brother, who is the chef at Franny’s restaurant in Brooklyn. Tasting this will forever transform your notion of Mom’s Thanksgiving table. A big thank you to Ms. Adler and her brother! I used regular grocery store sweet potatoes and plain old sea salt. My sesame seeds had gone missing in my pantry and I don’t stock chili powder, and the dish still turned out to be amazing.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes With Yogurt And Sesame Seeds
- 2 Japanese or regular sweet potatoes
- ¼ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- Kosher salt
- 1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
- ¼ cup red onion, medium dice
- ¼ teaspoon finely minced garlic
- 1 ½ tablespoons Thai fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon pickled chiles, finely chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried chile flakes
- ¼ cup coarsely chopped parsley
- Maldon sea salt
- Preheat oven to 450. Coat sweet potatoes with a very light drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Roast the potatoes, wrapped in foil, until totally tender. Switch oven to broil, remove potatoes from foil and blister under broiler until lightly charred. Cool to room temperature, and then cut in half or in 1/2-inch rounds. Set aside.
- Mix together yogurt, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and half the olive oil until smooth. Divide between 4 plates.
- Mix remaining lemon, olive oil and other ingredients into a salsa, and adjust seasoning with kosher salt.
- Warm sweet potatoes in oven, then plate each half (or an even number of rounds). Top with salsa and sprinkle with salt. A little additional oil is good, too.