Sweet! Potatoes!

Sweet! Potatoes!

By Diane Reinhold

As many of us enjoyed our favorite traditional and seasonal dishes this past holiday season, there is one main dish, which has an ingredient to be used more than just at Christmas or Thanksgiving. That dish commonly enjoyed is candied sweet potatoes.

This versatile food has become increasingly popular and is a great addition to any meal. And with more and more Americans looking to incorporate healthier options into their diet, sweet potatoes are a great year round food.

Sweet potatoes are considered a superfood. They are an excellent source of many key nutrients such as fiber, vitamins A and C, calcium, potassium and manganese. Additionally, they contain antioxidants and are naturally low in sodium.

Are they sweet potatoes or yams? One theory is that when sweet potatoes were first introduced in the southern portions of the United States, merchants and farmers wanted these potatoes to be marketed differently from other traditional types of potatoes. Another theory is that “yam” is the English form of the word “nyami” which refers to the starchy, edible root, grown in both Africa and Asia. Whether you grew up calling these tasty orange fleshed root vegetables sweet potatoes or yams, here in the United States, the names are used interchangeably. In fact, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires that products labeled as “yam” must also be accompanied by the term “sweet potato.”

Sweet potatoes are native to the tropical Americas and were first cultivated there at least 5,000 years ago.

Sweet potatoes come in several colors. The color of skin and flesh of a sweet potato will depend upon its variety. They come in white, yellow orange, red and even purple. The purple variety is more difficult to find, but it’s out there. The different colored potatoes will contain different phytochemicals or phytonutrients. Phytochemicals are naturally occurring compounds found in plant-based foods that are thought to promote human health.

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