by Chris Ellis, Staff Nutritionist
I have always loved sweet potatoes! Many people I know were brought up eating sweet potatoes with marshmallows and brown sugar, the thought of which seems a disgrace to this incredibly nutritious root. They are so tasty and sweet already—why would anyone want to mask all the natural goodness they offer?
Perhaps because they were served out of a can, which hardly does them justice. A real baked sweet potato is a sight to behold after cutting into the dull brownish flesh to find the magnificent deep orange inside of this dense and hearty root vegetable. We are fortunate to have access to locally grown sweet potatoes right here in Southern Vermont and New Hampshire. Their peak season is from early fall through many of the winter months, provided they are stored in a cool dark place. They come in a variety of colors (yellow, white, orange, and purple flesh) but the most common variety is the deep orange type.
Their nutrition and health attributes are varied so you can’t go wrong by eating the unique sweet potato. Some of the main attributes are their rich antioxidant nutrients, their anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, and their blood-sugar-regulating benefits. They contain a wealth of vitamin A and are also a good source of vitamin C, manganese, potassium, and many B vitamins. One average sweet potato without the skin provides 3-4 grams of fiber, a pretty high serving. Now to get to a little of the real nitty gritty of this super root: research has shown that consumption of the antioxidants found in sweet potatoes can lessen the possible health risks associated with heavy-metal toxins and free unstable oxygen radicals. These radicals circulate in the body waiting to cause havoc and health problems. Another amazing fact about this root is that they have specific storage proteins called sporamins related to their rich antioxidant content and these protect the actual root from physical damage out in the field. There is a strong possibility that when we consume the sweet potato these same protective benefits are transmitted to us in our gastrointestinal tract. As we all know the sweet potato has a wealth of various pigments, which play a role in their anti-inflammatory properties, and research has shown that after ingestion of the sweet potato there is reduced inflammation in the brain and nerve tissues throughout the entire body. One other incredible fact about the sweet potato is that it has been shown to have minimal effect on blood glucose level compared to the white potato. Preliminary evidence shows that it has a positive impact on insulin regulation. This is just a sampling of the evidence out there on sweet potatoes but it’s enough to remind you of their importance and that you had better eat them whenever you can. They are just too good to miss out on and they don’t have to be eaten any fancy way—just baked, boiled, or oven-fried. By the way boiled sweet potatoes have shown to have less effect on blood glucose levels than baked or oven-fried. But I prefer baked sweet potatoes. If you want to be more adventurous you can try the simple recipes on our website!