November is Sweet Potato Awareness Month but I’m pretty sure we are all aware of sweet potatoes’ existence. These root vegetables are a staple at the Thanksgiving table! But Thanksgiving isn’t the only time you should be including this veggie in your life. Sweet potatoes are a great addition to a wholesome eating plan and should be celebrated year-round.
Sweet potatoes are frequently called “yams” in the United States. Interestingly the USDA doesn’t allow sweet potatoes to be commercially marketed as yams for more than one reason. Sweet potatoes are actually very different from a true yam – which is native to Africa and Asia. Not to mention, Polynesia has their own unique vegetable- the oca- that they also call yams. To avoid confusion, officially labeling “yam” is prohibited.
The Root of the Sweet Potato
The sweet potatoes that we know and love originated approximately 5,000 years ago in Central America. They are cultivated in warm, tropical temperatures where there is sufficient access to water. In this climate, they can grow to their full potential and harbor the most nutrients.
The Sweet Perks
Sweet potatoes are rich in complex carbohydrates, fiber and beta-carotene- a precursor for Vitamin A. They are known for their starchy, sweet tasting flavor and their vibrant orange color. Did you know that sweet potatoes also come in a purple variety? This type of sweet potato is much more common in Asia where it is treated as a dessert.
Research shows that the best way to enjoy your sweet potatoes is by steaming or boiling them. Steaming your sweet potatoes allows for excellent preservation of anthocyanins compared to roasting. Anthocyanins are plant pigments that actually enhance nutrient composition in food. They act as antioxidants as well as anti-inflammatory agents in the body.
Along with Vitamin A, sweet potatoes are also high in Vitamin C, Manganese and Biotin. Biotin is particularly important because it is a B vitamin, which plays an essential role in carbohydrate metabolism. B Complex vitamins are also needed for healthy hair, skin, nails, eyes and liver.
Your Turn to Take Action: Enjoy sweet potatoes at home as a side to your main dish or bake it with marshmallows for a fun and nutritious sweet treat! Share your favorite sweet potato recipe below!