Do sweet potatoes top your healthiest foods list? They top mine... because they're delicious, easy-to-prepare and VERY forgiving in every recipe I've tried them in... give them the opportunity and they'll make you a believer!
If you think of sweet potatoes and yams as one in the same, think again. While they may look similar and are both high in Vitamin C and fibre,1 2 yams and sweet potatoes are from different plant families and are quite diverse when more closely inspected.
Generally, you'll find sweet potatoes at the farmers’ market (or grocery store) with smooth, thin, orange to reddish-purple skin and sweet, orange flesh... often incorrectly labelled as yams. Yams do not have the beta-carotene found in a sweet potato’s orange flesh, though they are a rich source of potassium.
A genuine yam has thicker skin that varies from yellow, brown, purple or black and is more like tree bark with starchy white to yellow flesh that can turn pink to purple when ripe. Additionally, yams are not sweet; they're more like traditional baking potatoes.
While you probably won’t come upon a yam too often – yams are common in Africa and Asia – the great health benefits of our delicious sweet potatoes are easy to enjoy.
The orange pigment in sweet potatoes, beta-carotene, converts to Vitamin A, which is an important nutrient for healing your gastro-intestinal tract and skin. Beta-carotene gives sweet potatoes their robust colour and is part of the carotenoid family, which provides antioxidant protection for all your cells. Antioxidants protect you from cardiovascular disease, wrinkles, cancer and toxins by combating harmful free radicals.3
Did you know that Vitamin C is also an antioxidant? Vitamin C guards your cells, lowers your risk of cold or flu, allows you to manage everyday stressors more effectively, and prevents digestive upset & negative moods.4 5
Manganese is a mineral you need, in trace amounts. It is essential for the growth and maintenance of strong bones and cartilage, and is also necessary for the synthesis of synovial fluid, which lubricates your joints for pain-free movement.6
Vitamin B6 has more functions in your body than any other one vitamin or mineral. One job of Vitamin B6 is to prevent the formation of a harmful chemical, called homocysteine, that damages heart muscle and allows cholesterol to deposit in the injured tissue.7
It turns out, 4g of fibre per serving holds the starches in suspension so they do not spike your blood sugar, the way mashed potatoes would.8 The trick is to keep the skin on, which is where most of the fibre resides.