Sweet potatoes have to be one of my favorite foods. I love anything sweet and potatoes are so versatile. They have a good shelf-life on the kitchen counter, they are easy to prepare, and best of all….. they are so good for you!
Sweet potatoes are native to Central and South America and have been eaten by humans since prehistoric times. There are many different types of sweet potatoes, but I will only focus on 3 types today. Sweet potatoes are tubers, which is the part of the plant where nutrients are stored. They are high in fiber, vitamins A and C, potassium, complex carbohydrates, and many more vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. They are low in fat and sodium.
Many people worry about “eating too much carbs”, but as long as you are eating the right type of carbs (complex) then you don’t need to worry at all. Our bodies are designed to use carbohydrates for energy and they should make up the majority of your diet. Sweet potatoes fall in the medium category of the GI index. During digestion, the glucose is released slow and steady for lasting energy. They help regulate your blood sugar levels because they are a high fiber food. Boiling sweet potatoes will result in a lower GI food than roasting or baking. This is because they contain a certain enzyme that breaks starch into maltose, which is 1/3 as sweet as table sugar. This enzyme is active between 135 and 170 degrees. Therefore, when you cook sweet potatoes low and slow, as in baking, they will become sweeter. They will taste less sweet when cooked faster like when roasting small pieces for a hash.
The most common type of sweet potato is your classic orange found in all grocery stores. It is loaded in carotenoids which are precursors to vitamin A. Beta-carotene is the most common. These antioxidants are great cancer fighters and beneficial to your immune system. All sweet potatoes are a very anti-inflammatory food.
Another type of sweet potato I love are the Japanese sweet potatoes. They have a rose/purple colored skin and a creamy white/butter colored flesh. They are drier and starchier than orange potatoes and they are very sweet, especially when baked. My Kroger doesn’t carry these, but most of the time my Whole Foods will have them. The only downside is they are more expensive, running just under $3 a pound. I like to eat them with cinnamon or peanut sauce.
My very favorite type of sweet potato is the purple (Okinawan) sweet potato. It has a grayish color skin and a vibrant purple flesh. These potatoes are high in anthocyanin which is a powerful antioxidant that causes the purple color. These potatoes will boost your immunity, help ward off cancer, and they have anti-aging effects. I can find these potatoes at any asian market/grocery. They usually run about $2.50 a pound. I highly recommend baking these and it will bring out their sweetness. They do not turn out well when cooked in the microwave… (they often end up hard). My favorite way to eat these are baked and then plain. They are so awesome they don’t need anything! They are literally like candy to me!
Also, you may recognize the Okinawa name. It is an island off Japan where one of the worlds’ longest living populations lived. Unfortunately, today they have many fast food restaurants and their health is very rapidly declining. However, in the traditional Okinawans, their diet consisted of 69% sweet potatoes. Their diet was over 96% whole food plant based and also included legumes, rice, and other vegetables. The only longer living population in the world is the Adventists in California who eat a 100% whole food plant based diet. So needless to say, you can eat as much of this “purple candy” as you want!
So there you have it. That is why sweet potatoes are one of my favorite foods. Best of all they are a very “filling” food that will keep you satisfied for hours. And they are the perfect way to satisfy your sweet tooth in a nutritious way.
If you would like help learning how to incorporate a whole food plant based diet into your lifestyle I’d love to help you! (click here!)