All About Sweet Potatoes, And An Easy Recipe To Bake Them
Sweet potatoes are one of my favorite foods. These nutrient-dense root vegetables come in a variety of colors with varying textures and flavors, so they please the palate as much as the eye. They are high in fiber and many other nutrients so help keep you full and fueled. Further, they are high in antioxidants, which protect your body from free radical damage and promote a healthy gut and brain. So today I’m going to share an easy baked sweet potato recipe along with some interesting facts about this vegetables.
Baked Sweet Potato Recipe
An especially great thing about baked sweet potatoes is their versatility. You can eat them as-is, or add whatever spices and herbs you like to in order to suit your mood or preferred flavor. They make a great side dish or snack, but I’ve also seen them served as a main entré. I love them when they first come out of the oven and are still piping hot and steaming. However, baked sweet potato also stores well, so can be refrigerated for several days and are still tasty when cold. So I encourage you to make extra, and then you can use them in your meal prep for the coming days.
Sweet Potato – whole
- Pre-heat oven to 425°F
- Wash your sweet potatoes and pat dry
- Cut off the ends of each sweet potato, leaving the rest of skin intact
- Now cut them in half lengthwise
- Add a very light coating of oil to both the cut side and the skin side
- Follow that up with a light sprinkle of salt to all sides
- Place the cut, oiled and seasoned sweet potatoes open-face down on a lightly oiled baking sheet
- Pop the whole thing into the hot oven and bake sweet potatoes for 25-30 minutes
- Check for doneness by poking with a skewer, knife or fork. The baked sweet potato flesh should be soft and easy to pierce.
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Hopefully you agree that was an easy sweet potato recipe. Now let’s take a look at what makes sweet potatoes so interesting, nutritious and beneficial to your health.
Sweet Potato vs. Yam
The first thing to ask is: What is a sweet potato? It turns out that they aren’t actually even potatoes! Although they both grow underground and have the same general appearance, there are several big differences between potatoes and sweet potatoes. Firstly, your traditional potato -of which there are many varieties- is a stem tuber related to tomatoes and eggplants. The sweet potato, on the other hand, is a root vegetable that is part of the Morning Glory family – the plants with the pretty flowers. (Although, to add some confusion, sweet potatoes may also be referred to as a “tuberous root”.)
Secondly, when it comes to nutrition, these two vegetables also vary. Both types of ‘potatoes’ are high in fiber (with a slight edge to sweet potatoes), carbs, and vitamins B6 and C. However, true potatoes are higher in potassium, whereas the varieties of sweet potato contain more vitamin A. Of course, sweet potatoes contain a bit more sugar -ergo their flavor- compared to their slightly starchier cousin.
Now that you know that sweet potatoes aren’t truly potatoes, you’re probably thinking: But what about yams? Is a yam the same thing as a sweet potato? In short, no. True yams are an edible tuber originating in Africa and Asia (rather than South America). In general, they are much starchier and drier than sweet potatoes and have tougher outer skin that is more bark-like. Yams are rarely found in US grocery stores. The great confusion regarding these roots is due to American farmers first referring to the orange-red sweet potatoes as “yams” in order to differentiate them from the paler versions.
Nutritional Information Of Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes, and Yams
|White Potato||Sweet Potato||Yam|
|Protein||2 grams||2 grams||1.5 grams|
|Fat||0.15 grams||0.15 grams||0.20 grams|
|Carbs||21 grams||21 grams||28 grams|
|Fiber||2.1 grams||3.3 grams||4.0 grams|
|Vitamin A||0.1% of RDV||107% of RDV||2.7% of RDV|
|Vitamin B6||12% of RDV||17% of RDV||13% of RDV|
|Vitamin C||14% of RDV||22% of RDV||28% of RDV|
|Potassium||17% of RDV||10% of RDV||23% of RDV|
|Calcium||1% of RDV||3% of RDV||1.3% of RDV|
|Magnesium||6% of RDV||6% of RDV||4.5% of RDV|
Kinds Of Sweet Potatoes
As I’ve hinted at, there are many varieties of starchy tubers. Today I’ll quickly run through the six most common kinds of sweet potatoes that you are likely to find at a grocer near you.
The most common sweet potato variety in American grocery stores has purplish-red skin and a deep orange interior. The flesh is slightly stringier and juicier than other varieties when cooked. This means they’ll tend to get softer, but they will also be sweeter.
The second most common sweet potato also has orange flesh, but the skin is more light orange than purple. These are less sweet than Beauregards, but stay moist and juicy when cooked so can be used in many of the same recipes.
Named after their skin, these orange-fleshed sweet potatoes have dark orange-red skin. They contain the most moisture, so are great for baking projects like pies and casseroles.
These white-fleshed sweet potatoes were some of the first to be farmed and eaten in America. They are dense and firm, so have a slight flakiness similar to a regular potatoes when cooked. The are great for roasting in chunks, turning into fries, or mashing.
Also known by their Japanese name, beni-imo, these sweet potatoes have dusty, light purple skins and bright purple flesh. They are denser than orange varieties so are ideal for roasting solo or adding to stews.
Another Japanese variety of sweet potato, these beauties have a dark-purple skin and pale yellow flesh. They tend to be much denser and starchier, so may take longer to cook. However, they yield a sweet, rich & creamy treat.
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How To Shop For Sweet Potatoes
Here are some tips to help you pick the best sweet potatoes from the bin the next time you are shopping:
- Larger sweet potatoes tend to be starchier and a bit more stringy when cooked, so…
- Look for ones that are small to medium in size if you want them to be sweet and creamy
- Skin should be firm, relatively smooth and even-toned
- Try to avoid ones with cuts, cracks or scars
- In general, the deeper the color of the skin, the more beta-carotene, so go dark for more antioxidant benefit
Also: How To Store Sweet Potatoes
If you’re buying sweet potatoes then you probably want to know how to keep them fresh. It is best to keep them in cool or room-temperature location, away from moisture, heat and light. A kitchen cupboard (or even a drawer) not directly next to your oven would be good. Note that a location near the floor will stay cooler than ones that are higher up. The ideal temperature for sweet potato storage is between 50 and 60 F. This may sound shocking, but if stored in ideal conditions, they can last 4-6 months!
Why Sweet Potatoes Are Good For you
Sweet potatoes not only taste good, but provide a remarkable number of health benefits. As you can see in the table above, they are full of vital nutrients. Here are some more nutritional facts that will hopefully convince you to add more of these root vegetables to your diet.
- Sweet potatoes are loaded with beta-carotene and Vitamin A, which is vital to your body in fighting off infections.
- Further, this beta-carotene, along with anthocyanins, may help prevent vision loss and improve eye health.
- The abundance of antioxidants help protect your body from free-radical damage, inflammation and chronic disease like cancer, heart disease, and aging.
- In addition to the antioxidants, sweet potatoes contain a high level of fiber. Together, these promote the growth of good gut bacteria and contribute to a healthy gut.
- Studies have shown that consuming purple sweet potatoes rich in anthocyanins may improve brain health by reducing inflammation and preventing mental decline.
- Categorized as low on the glycemic index scale, their slow release of sugar into the bloodstream -unlike other starchy foods- can help minimize the occurrence of insulin resistance and low blood sugar levels, as well as high blood sugar in people who are suffering from diabetes.
- The magnesium in sweet potatoes may help you manage stress and anxiety.
- This magnesium, in addition to the potassium contained in sweet potatoes can help regulate blood pressure.
- Rich in vitamins A, C, and E; sweet potatoes can help improve the health of hair and skin.
As you can see, there are many great reasons to eat these hearty root vegetables. I hope you find these sweet potato facts informative, and the baked sweet potato recipe an easy way to add these tasty tuberous roots to your diet.
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