The lowly sweet potato is often over-looked, and sometimes despised, in kitchens across the country and that truly is a shame. More popular in the south, where sweet potato pie has earned it’s rightful place, sweet potatoes are available and affordable most everywhere.
Sweet potatoes are not yams and yams are not sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes, yellow or orange tubers, are elongated with ends tapering to a point. They are of two dominant types:
– the paler-skinned sweet potato has a thin, light yellow skin with pale yellow flesh which is not sweet and has a dry, crumbly texture similar to a white baking potato.
– the darker-skinned variety (which is most often called “yam” in error) has a thicker, dark orange to reddish skin with a vivid orange, sweet flesh and a moist texture.
For the technical among us, the true yam (right) is the tuber of a tropical vine (Dioscorea batatas) and is not even distantly related to the sweet potato (center). The sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is a dicotyledonous plant that belongs to the family Convolvulaceae, and is not really a potato (left) at all. The sweet potato plant is a herbaceous perennial vine, bearing alternate heart-shaped or palmately lobed leaves and medium-sized sympetalous flowers actually related to the flower known as the morning glory.
The nutritionists at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), tell us the single most important dietary change for most people, including children, would be to replace fatty foods with foods rich in complex carbohydrates. It just happens that sweet potatoes would be the best choice for that.
The CSPI has ranked the sweet potato number one in nutrition compared to all other vegetables. Given a score of 184, for its content of dietary fiber, naturally occurring sugars and complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins A and C, iron and calcium, the sweet potato out-ranked the next highest vegetable by more than 100 points. In the ranking points were deducted for fat content (especially saturated fat), sodium, cholesterol, added refined sugars and caffeine. Simply stated, the higher the score, the more nutritious the food.
Here is the CSPI list of top scoring vegetables:
Sweet potato baked 184
Potato, baked 83
Mixed Vegetables 52
Winter Squash, Baked 44
Brussels Sprouts 37
Cabbage, Raw 34
Green Peas 33
Corn on the Cob 27
Green Pepper 26
Romaine Lettuce 24
Sweet potatoes took first place due to excellent scores for dietary fiber, naturally occurring sugars, complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins A and C, iron and calcium. The standard baking potato ranked second more than 100 points back. Spinach, broccoli, and squash, which you might expect to be leaders, lagged far behind.
The nutritional facts speak for themselves. Sweet potatoes have almost twice the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A, about 42% of the recommendation for vitamin C, and four times the RDA for beta carotene. Although a less common preparation, when eaten with the skin, sweet potatoes have more fiber than oatmeal. All of these benefits come with only about 130 to 160 calories. Not too shabby for the lowly orange tater!
According to the US Department of Agriculture one medium size sweet potato has the following:
Fat 0.39 g
Protein 2.15 g
Net Carbs 31.56 g
Dietary Fiber 3.9 g
Calcium 28.6 mg
Sodium 16.9 mg
Potassium 265.2 mg
Folate 18.2 mcg
Vitamin A 26081.9 IU
Vitamin C 29.51 mg
Sweet potatoes offer the lowest glycemic index rating of any vegetable. The sweet potato digests slowly, causing a gradual rise in blood sugar. As a result you feel satisfied longer. Unquestionably sweet potatoes should be on your “good” carb list. They are found on many of the most popular diets and we can certainly see why. Diabetics may find them a suitable, and enjoyable, choice.
If not already a part of your diet it may well be time to give the sweet potato a try.
[Rev. Stephen B. Henry, PhD., known to many online as the Wiz, is an entrepreneur, web administrator, business coach, and diabetic, interested in personal motivation, quantum physics, and time travel. He writes on a variety of topics for numerous blogs, including his own: Wizard’s Place.]