A Yam IS NOT A Sweet Potato...

"White" potatoes get a bad rap. They pack a nutritional punch, but much needs to be taken into account when discussing the health benefits, including a sweet potato, such as food combining, how you are cooking your potato, if you are eating the skin, portion size, how often you are consuming them, bio-individuality, health issues, etc. But when you compare a white potato to a sweet, according to the Cleveland Clinic, the sweet wins. Sweet pots have less calories, 400% vitamin A, more vitamin C, more fiber, and less carbs even though they have more sugar than white pots. The challenge?  Knowing the difference between a yam and a sweet potato.

 The flesh of a sweet potato, depending on the variety, can vary from white to orange and even purple. A yam is actually a different tuber all together.   Epicurious distinguishes them apart as, "A sweet potato has tapered ends and thin, smooth skin and flesh that can range from light beige to burnished orange to purplish, even. A yam is cylindrical, typically white-fleshed—there is a purple variety, too—and has rough, dark, almost hairy skin. They taste very different, too. Yams are starchy and dry. Sweet potatoes are, well, sweet and moist, some more than others. "

The first time I blogged on sweet potatoes my mind was blown.  How about yours? This is my third year blogging on this delicious tuber and I am still researching and editing.

What caused this confusion? The FDA, which regulates food labeling, doesn't have a so-called standard of identity for either sweet potatoes or yams, so either term works. Grocery stores  usually label the orange variety of sweet potato a yam.  Your local farmer would never do that.

Photo Credit:  11/26/2013 08:47 am ET Updated Nov 19, 2014, Renee Jacques, Huffington Post

Photo Credit: 

11/26/2013 08:47 am ET Updated Nov 19, 2014, Renee Jacques, Huffington Post

Nutrition

Afraid to eat them 'cause of their sweetness?  Don't be!!!  The sweet potato is one of those nutritionally dense foods that should be eaten despite their sweetness.   In addition to the health benefits discussed in my first paragraph, sweet potatoes have Manganese, Folate, Copper and Iron.  The darker varieties tend to have more mineral content like beta-carotene, which is best absorbed when eaten with a healthy fat.  They also have Vitamins C, B2, B6, E, and biotin.   

Here are the top 5 reasons to eat more sweet potatoes, whatever their color:

  1. Reduce Inflammation- they contain antioxidants which lower inflammation in our body.  Inflammation is the root cause for most illnesses like Asthma, Heart Disease, Gout, etc.
  2. Fiber-healthy for the digestive tract and lowering risk of certain cancers.
  3. Potassium- maintain fluid and electrolyte balance in the body which is crucial for  stabilizing blood pressure and regulating heart function Also reduces  muscle cramps.
  4. Nutritious- a rich source of dietary fiber, natural sugars, complex carbohydrates, protein, carotenoids, Vitamin C, Folate, Iron, and Calcium. They have a low glycemic index.
  5. Delicious!-they taste so good!   

Storage:

Store sweet potatoes in a dry and cool spot such as the basement or garage in the cooler months, for longer storage. This will prevent rot and sprouting.  Some find much success in storing in a paper bag. A cool spot does not mean your refrigerator. The ideal temperature range would be between 65-55 degrees. Your sweet potatoes will keep nicely on your counter for a week or two, maybe more.  The precise answer to how long you can store a sweet potato mostly depends upon storage conditions. We all have different humidity in our homes, different temperatures, etc. Also, do not store sweet potatoes near other vegetables as the sweet potatoes can cause the others to ripen more quickly than preferred. This is true for many fruits and vegetables. So your counter and tabletop displays should take this into account.

Preparation:

Scrub the potato using a vegetable brush and a veggie wash solution and rinse thoroughly. Peel if you must, but the skin contains many vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Steam them whole or cut. Roast, bake, spiralize, slice, chop, shred. Add them cooked to smoothies, salads, soups, etc.  Although they CAN be eaten raw it is  NOT a best practice.  When raw, they contain a chemical, which is cooked out,  that prevents the proper digestion of protein which can cause GI issues, such as gas and bloating.  However, raw spiralized sweet potato "noodles" are amazing! But you can cook them, too! French Fried sweet pots are delicious, but please use a healthy oil, such as coconut oil, to not eliminate the health benefits.  A fry is still a fry... unless you take extra care at the preparation and ingredients.

Try these recipes: