The sweet potato gets a lot of much-deserved glory during the Thanksgiving holiday when it is baked with milk, butter, and brown sugar and sometimes (always in our house) topped with marshmallows. But it’s also a great alternative and slightly healthier option to its spud counterpart on any of the other 364 days of the year as well. So let’s dive a little more into the what, why and how of the sweet potato.
What makes something a “tuber” vegetable? Tubers are the oblong growth (ie, a potato) on an underground root of a plant that store nutrients for next season’s growth. Once they are mature, they are dug up and used for food. Other popular tubers are taro, ginger and artichokes, not to be confused with “root” vegetables such as carrots.
What are the benefits of eating sweet potatoes? I recently participated in a 21-day workshop on intermittent fasting. A question was asked about what to eat during the fed state when feeling a little run down (it was actually a question specific to menstruation, but I imagine it applies to any feelings of fatigue and just overall lack of energy). The answer was to add sweet potatoes to meals. That’s because the sweet potato is high in carbs and fiber but lower on the glycemic index than a regular white potato. This means slower digestion and slower rise of blood glucose levels and insulin levels for sustained energy. It’s a low and slow carb.
Is a sweet potato healthier than a white potato? The short answer is not much. The main benefit is what is mentioned above. But nutrient for nutrient, they are about the same. The only nutrient where a sweet potato reigns supreme is Vitamin A. Sweet potatoes are high in the antioxidant beta carotene, giving it its orange color, which our bodies convert to Vitamin A. Vitamin A helps with things like vision (eat your carrots), immune health and reproductive system.
Can you eat the peel? Yes, once scrubbed clean, the peel can be eaten. But as a matter of preference, I find most people do not.
I say sweet potato, you say yam. A yam is a sweet potato, but a sweet potato is not always a yam. Huh? A yam is actually a TYPE of sweet potato, but not the type of sweet potato we’re talking about here. For our purposes, when I say sweet potato, I mean sweet potato, like what is typically found in stores, is called for in recipes and what is pictured in this post.
How to cook sweet potatoes – So let’s get down to the best part. Cooking and EATING the sweet potato!
Bake ’em: Scrub them clean, poke some holes in them with a fork, line the pan (trust me on this one because they ooze goodness while they bake), and bake at 425 degrees for 45 minutes, or until tender.
Microwave ’em: If you aren’t against using a microwave to cook your food, you can prep the potato the same way as above and microwave for 5 minutes. If not cooked to tender, continue cooking in 30-60 second increments until done.
Oven Roast ’em: This is my favorite way to prepare sweet potatoes as a side dish for dinner. I peel and cube them and toss them with olive oil and a little maple syrup. Bake at 425 for about 30 minutes until they are tender and slightly caramelized.
Oven-Roasted Sweet Potatoes
- 2 medium sweet potatoes
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tsp sea salt
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Scrub sweet potatoes, peel and cut into cubes.
- In a large bowl, toss the sweet potatoes with olive oil and maple syrup.
- Spread potatoes on a parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle with salt.
- Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes or until caramelized and tender.
And of course, add to recipes: We’ve featured quite a few recipes with sweet potatoes as the star. Try our Brussel Sprouts and Sweet Potatoes Hash, Karina’s Sweet Potato & Black Bean Enchiladas, and Southern Sweet Potato Casserole.