Anti-oxidants and vitamins and fiber – oh my! The aroma of sweet and savory delicacies during the holidays is enticing. The sweet potato is no exception. It’s equally delicious in a quick bread, a casserole or a pie. It can hold its own as a side dish dressed with only a pat or two of butter. It can be used to make a warm, savory soup. It can even be ground and made into flour. Sweet potatoes can be steamed, boiled, roasted, baked, pureed or grilled. Bonus: they are as healthy as they are flavorful!
The sweet potato is a tuberous root vegetable. They can be cultivated by planting parts of the root or by vine cuttings. There is some debate as to how they found their way to America, but they are believed to have originated in Central America and spread from island to island by the locals, eventually reaching other continents. Christopher Columbus returned to Europe with sweet potatoes from his voyage to the New World. They were also grown by the North American Indians and were an important staple in America during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Given its quick maturity and nutrition, this food crop has been used to feed starving populations and victims of natural disaster.
The sweet potato boasts a nutritional profile that is outstanding: anti-oxidants, fiber, potassium, beta carotene and manganese. The B vitamins, as well as vitamins A, C and D are present. It has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Easily digested and high in fiber, it is beneficial for the digestive tract. Recent research has shown that it is able to bind to heavy metal residues and eliminate them from the body. Though they are sweet to our palate, they actually improve blood sugar regulation. Because they are released slowly into the bloodstream, the “spikes” do not occur.
Though the names are often used interchangeably, sweet potatoes are not the same as yams. The yam belongs to the Dioscoreaceae family (having one embryonic seed leaf), and the sweet potato belongs to the Convolvulaceae or morning glory family (having two embryonic seed leaves).
“Who giveth food to all flesh: for his mercy endureth forever. O give thanks unto God of heaven: for his mercy endureth forever.” (Psalm 136: 25-26 / KJV)
So have a sweet tater or two with your Christmas meal! When shopping your local grocer or farmer’s market, try to choose organic when available. God has generously provided an abundance of foods for our health and wellness. The sweet potato is one food choice that will also help you keep your resolution of better health in 2015.
RECIPE: Crock Pot Sweet Potatoes (from www.recipesthatcrock.com)
Pierce 6 medium sweet potatoes with a fork several times. Place in a crock pot. Cook on high for 3-4 hours (or low for 6-8 hours). Once done, split and serve topped with butter and/or brown sugar and cinnamon to taste. (Other websites offer a peel/dice/cook in applesauce version.)