Sweet potatoes are a pretty sweet superfood, and for good reason. The starchy root vegetables are loaded with nutrients that can provide numerous surprising health benefits. Contrary to popular belief, sweet potatoes aren’t actually potatoes, or a part of the potato family at all. Potatoes and sweet potatoes are both considered root vegetables, along with carrots, beets, parsnips, and yams, but potatoes are actually tubers and are only distantly related to the sweet potato. Focusing back on our favorite superfood, sweet potatoes can be found in a variety of sizes and colors, including orange, white, and purple.
Sweet potatoes contain high contents of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, so there’s no wonder they’re so good for you! Antioxidants in sweet potatoes called anthocyanins protect against free radicals, which are molecules that damage your DNA and trigger inflammation. These molecules have been shown to lead to a number of different diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and aging, so by eating sweet potatoes, you’re protecting your body more than you think. These anthocyanins, found in purple sweet potatoes, have been proven to be especially effective when slowing down the growth of certain types of cancer cells in animals, so they may have the same effects on humans. If you didn’t think that these antioxidants could get any better, they can also protect the brain from free radicals and improve brain function, as well as improve vision and gut health. These are some really protective nutrients!
Orange sweet potatoes are just as healthy as the purple ones! They contain a different antioxidant called beta-carotene, which gives them their bright orange hue. Beta-carotene can help support healthy vision, because when it is consumed, the body converts it to Vitamin A and uses it to form light receptors in the eyes. Going back to beta-carotene, I mentioned before that it is converted to Vitamin A when it is taken in by the body. This Vitamin A has many benefits to your health, including being critical for a healthy immune system, and supporting gut health by keeping mucous membranes in the gut healthy, along with soluble and insoluble fibers. By eating sweet potatoes, you can help prevent a Vitamin A deficiency.
Besides being incredibly healthy, sweet potatoes are very versatile and can be prepared in a number of different ways, including boiled, baked, roasted, fried, steamed, and more! The entire root vegetable is actually edible, so after you wash them, you can choose if you want to peel them or not. Eating sweet potatoes with the skin may have more nutrients, but the skin is tougher than a regular potato’s skin, so most people tend to peel it off. It helps to boost sweet potatoes’ healthy properties if you prepare it with a little bit of fat, like olive or avocado oil, because the beta-carotene in sweet potatoes is fat-soluble, or is absorbed by fat. They are also very easy to grow and can be stored for a long time—up to several months, if stored properly, which makes the sweet potato very accessible.
Sweet potatoes are starchy root vegetables that are versatile, healthy, and delicious! They contain many beneficial vitamins and minerals, including antioxidants like anthocyanins and beta-carotene, and soluble & insoluble fibers. As Everyday Health states, “…this root veggie may contribute to preventing diabetes, obesity, cancer, and other health conditions thanks to their anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, and antimicrobial properties.” Plus, sweet potatoes are gluten-free, making them a starch substitute for people who have celiac disease. A great way to prepare sweet potatoes is by making them into fries. Although the recipe for sweet potato fries below is baked in the oven, not fried, it is still very yummy. You can include as many or as little spices as you would like, or you can just stick with the recipe’s suggestions.
To make these fries, you will need:
- 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Cut the peeled sweet potatoes into sticks that are about 3 inches long and ¼ to ½ inch wide, or whatever size you would like, and toss them with the oil
- Mix the spices, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, and toss them with the oil-covered sweet potatoes.
- Spread the sweet potato fries on 2 rimmed baking sheets.
- Bake the fries until they are browned and crisp on the bottom, about 15 minutes, then flip them over and cook for another 10 minutes, or until the other side is crispy. Serve hot.
The full recipe can be found here: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1014647-sweet-potato-fries