November’s Superfood: The Sweet Potato

November’s Superfood: The Sweet Potato

Nutritious, easy to grow, and with an exceptionally long life span (if stored properly, some can last months), root vegetables are packed with healthy carbs and starches that provide energy. Research on sweet potatoes suggests that this root veggie may contribute to preventing diabetes, obesity, cancer, and other health conditions thanks to their anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, and antimicrobial properties. As a bonus, root veggies including sweet potatoes are also gluten-free, making a great dietary alternative for those with celiac disease, or other gluten intolerances.

The sweet potato is a high-carbohydrate, low-fat, and fiber-rich food. Many nutritionists value their high beta carotene (a precursor of vitamin A), vitamin C, and potassium content. The food is also a decent source of vitamin B5, vitamin B6, vitamin E, and manganese. Although starchy, the sweet potato has the potential to improve the regulation of blood sugar. This is because they contain high amounts of fiber. Sweet potatoes usually have orange flesh, but you can also encounter purple sweet potatoes as well. These potatoes are a special cross-breed which contain high levels of anthocyanins (which give the potatoes their distinctive purple color). These anthocyanins are thought to be powerful antioxidants and may have a number of other beneficial health effects. This may mean that purple sweet potatoes are even more “super” than their orange cousins!

Despite its Latin American origin, farmers throughout the globe produce between 90 to 100 million metric tons of sweet potatoes every year, most of which come from Asia. According to the International Potato Center, sweet potatoes are the sixth most essential food crop, after cassava (a nutty-flavored, starchy root vegetable or tuber), corn, potatoes, wheat, and rice. In developing countries, it moves up to the fifth spot thanks to its nutritional, carb-rich composition. The crop even became a staple in our Thanksgiving meal, one of America’s most popular holidays. The tradition started as early as 1887 when Sarah Josepha Hale, the famous anti-slavery writer often regarded as the godmother of Thanksgiving, mentioned sweet potato pies in a magazine publication. The Spaniards, who introduced the sweet potato to Europe in the late 1490s, called it “patata” (or potato in English). It wasn’t until the 1740s that the “sweet” part was added by American colonists to distinguish it from the popular Irish potato. Often in the United States, ‘yams’ and sweet potatoes are interchangeable, but an actual yam is a different tuber altogether. So whether you boil, steam, air fry or bake, the sweet potato is a superfood you won’t want to miss out on!

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