Do you often find yourself at the farmer’s market or grocery store staring at the multiple varieties of sweet potatoes and yams, wondering what exactly is the difference and which is the best potato? Turns out, this is a common scenario with an easy (thankfully) answer.
Most vegetables sold as yams in the United States are actually sweet potatoes. There are over 300 varieties of sweet potatoes, with a flesh ranging from white to bright orange. Sweet potatoes are not related to white potatoes or to yams. True yams, actually, are native to Africa and found in subtropical and tropical countries.
Sweet potatoes are native to Central and South America. They date back to prehistoric times, making them one of the oldest vegetables known. Sweet potato relics have been discovered in Peruvian caves dating back 10,000 years! Today, they are grown mainly in China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Japan, India, and Uganda.
Different varieties vary in both taste and nutrient profile. As you might guess, the darker and brighter the color of the flesh, the higher the nutritional profile. Go for the color, when it comes to sweet potatoes, and you will be adding a healthy dose of carotenoid antioxidants to your diet.
Sweet potatoes are high in Vitamin C, B6, beta-carotene, manganese, and potassium. They are a nutritional powerhouse, the benefits include:
- Promote immunity
- Promote cardiovascular health
- Cancer preventative
- Promote healthy vision
- Help with arthritis
- Aid in blood sugar regulation
- High in Fiber, which helps promote a healthy digestive system
- High in antioxidants
- May help cleanse heavy metals from the digestive tract
Buying and Storing:
Choose sweet potatoes that are firm, not leathery. They bruise easily, so handle with care. Occasionally you’ll find a sweet potato with a green tint. This is a toxic alkaloid that should be avoided.
Store uncooked sweet potatoes loose in a cool, dark place. Do not refrigerate. Refrigeration may cause an undesirable taste or mold growth.
Quick Prep Ideas:
Sweet potato skin can be eaten if the potato is organic. Just rinse and scrub with a vegetable brush.
Sweet potatoes can be enjoyed in a variety of simple yet delicious ways:
- Quickly steam sweet potato cubes for 7 minutes
- Replace sweet potato for white potatoes in your favorite recipe for mashed potatoes
- Try them as chips or fries, as in my recipe for Baked Spiced Sweet Potato Fries.
- Make a quick sweet potato pudding from steamed potatoes by adding maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, extra virgin olive oil and mashed potato
- Try it baked. Pierce with a knife and bake in a 400-degree oven for about 1 hour, or until soft. Add extra virgin olive oil, rosemary, and sea salt.
Note: overeating sweet potatoes may cause indigestion.