We associate sweet potatoes with Thanksgiving. Our Thanksgiving sweet potato dishes are brightly orange, covered with sweet syrup, and topped with marshmallows. Some of us love that dishes, some of us hate it.
But sweet potatoes deserve a lot more attention than that one dish as they are a scrumptious culinary addition to many dishes, and they are so nutritious for you as well! After cooking even more with sweet potatoes while on the Autoimmune Diet Protocol (AIP), I’ve discovered an even greater appreciation for them.
However, and this is a big consideration in the enjoyment of them, it is important to cook them using a method that allows them to shine (instead of mush), and it is also important to use the right variety of sweet potato. But, you will be glad to know, sweet potatoes are also very nutritious, and there are a variety of studies backing that claim!
Here are six surprising facts about sweet potatoes.
Most U.S. Yams are Sweet Potatoes
Unless you are buying yams at an international grocery shop, the typical “yam” you find at the supermarket is actually a sweet potato. Sweet potatoes that are very orange inside are often labeled as yams. True yams are much harder to find (you can see a picture of them here), and they are much drier in texture.
There are Many Varieties of Sweet Potatoes
To my surprise, I’ve found that the typical Garnet sweet potato is quite low on my lost of sweet potatoes for taste. I’ve found that some of the lesser known varieties to be tastier. So, if you aren’t a fan of that Thanksgiving dish, maybe you just need to branch out and try some of the other delicious sweet potatoes available.
What is available to you locally will vary. I was able to find a good variety for myself when I went to a nicer grocery store that leans toward some specialty foods. But you may also find some varieties to use at Asian supermarkets.
There are many heirloom varieties available in small amounts at Farmer’s market and speciality stores. If you see them, try them! And if you like them, make it a regular part of your shopping, as it helps finance farmers who are trying to diversify our crops.
Sweet Potato Varieties I’ve found:
- White Sweet Potatoes
- Jewel Sweet Potatoes
- Japanese Sweet Potatoes (Satsuma)
- Purple Sweet Potatoes
- Garnet Sweet Potatoes
Out of all of these, I have two favorites. First, I love Japanese Sweet Potatoes (also known as Satsuma Sweet Potatoes). They have a reddish skin, and a white interior, and have a mildly sweet and slightly nutty flavor.
My other favorite is the purple sweet potato (there are several purple sweet potatoes available in the U.S., I’m not sure the exact one I’ve been enjoying). These have a very nutty flavor, are mildly sweet, and are full of anti-inflammatory flavanoids, which is where it gets its wild purple color. It has a denser, drier texture which I prefer.
While the bright orange varieties give us betacarotene, the bright purple potatoes are full of flavanoids, specifically anthocyanins.
Sweet Potato And Peptic Ulcers
Because of their high antioxidant levels, sweet potato extracts were used in a study to see if they could help heal peptic ulcers. They researchers concluded,
“In conclusion, this study demonstrates that the tubers of Ipomoea batatas possess a potent ulcer healing effect, which appears to be related to the free radical scavenging activity of the phyto constituents, and their ability to inhibit lipid peroxidative processes. The present study, thus, aims to highlight the health benefits of sweet potato, establish it as a potent “functional food” and promote its use as a vegetable to enrich people‟s diets.”
Read the whole study here. (PDF)
Sweet Potatoes Aren’t High Glycemic
Many people shy away from sweet potatoes because of their carbohydrate content. However, the good thing to note is that sweet potatoes are low to moderate on the glycemic scale. (Read about it here, PDF).
Sweet Potatoes have Potential to Help Diabetics
Also note that a separate study was conducted to look at a protein compound in sweet potatoes that could be used to help treat those with diabetes or insulin resistance. While there still needs to be follow up studies, they concluded, “”With further research in this area, it may be possible to recommend that people with diabetes or insulin resistance consume sweet potatoes or use extracts of North Carolina sweet potato to help control blood glucose. This therapy should cost less than conventional drugs, and it may have fewer side effects.” (Read about it here, but also note that both of these last studies were partially funded by the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission).
This has exciting possibilities! We shouldn’t discount the power of food to help with issues such as insulin resistance.
As a further support to this theory, purple sweet potato flavonoids have been used successfully to “decrease the blood glucose and lipids levels in diabetic rats” (Study). I find it fascinating that different properties from different varieties of sweet potatoes are being used in studies to see what their effect is on blood sugar. There are a lot of possibilities there!
(If you have any health concerns, such a diabetes, please note that I am not giving medical advice in this post, and as of such, you should talk to your medical care team about your dietary concerns).
Purple Potatoes Have a Wealth of Possible Health Benefits
Because purple potatoes are a rich source of anthocyanins (a flavonoid), numerous studies are exploring the possible health benefits. This includes studying possible vision protecting properties, prevention of obesity, and cancer prevention and treatment.
While once again, some of these studies are still in the beginning stages, when reading through the scientific research regarding sweet potatoes, I am encouraged that they can indeed be considered a health promoting food. I look forward to many more scrumptious meals that include them.
Sweet Potato Recipes
- Roasted Sweet Potato Rounds
- Crockpot Sweet Potatoes with Maple Butter
- Creamy Ham Chowder with Sweet Potatoes
- Sweet Potato Crusted Frittata
- Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole
- Gingered Sweet Potatoes