What’s the scoop on sweet potatoes? Whether you like sweet potato pie served at holiday meals, or you just want to learn more about this tasty, nutrient-packed vegetable, read on!
Sweet potatoes originated in Latin America. Sweet potatoes are root vegetables. They grow under the ground, with a green, leafy portion of the plant above ground. (Fun fact: sweet potato leaves are also edible.) Sweet potatoes are botanically distinct from both “Irish” potatoes and from yams. And they have corresponding unique nutritional properties.
Sweet Potato Nutrition
Sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin A, potassium, vitamin B6, magnesium, and fiber, as well as smaller amounts of vitamin C, iron, and calcium (USDA). They also contain phytochemicals – plant compounds with disease-preventing properties.
Sweet potatoes are high in fiber, potassium, and phytochemicals, which play important roles in heart health. February is American Heart Month, so these are a great one to highlight.
Fiber: Sweet potatoes contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps with cholesterol management by preventing the absorption of cholesterol precursors. Fewer cholesterol precursors means lower LDL and lower total cholesterol. Insoluble fiber helps with gut health and reduces risk for colon cancer.
Potassium: This mineral regulates blood pressure, reducing risk for heart disease and stroke.
In the Kitchen
Sweet potatoes store well at room temperature, are available year-round, and are relatively affordable. They are a great addition to a weekly meal plan. They are also incredibly versatile!
Basic prep methods include:
- Baking whole sweet potatoes
- Roasting sweet potato cubes, wedges, or slices
- Boiling sweet potato cubes
- Microwaving sweet potato cubes: peel and cube sweet potatoes, place in a microwave-safe dish, add 1-2 tablespoons of water, cover with lid (or a plate!), and microwave on high for ~15 minutes or until tender, pausing to stir halfway through
Cubed sweet potatoes prepared using the microwave method above make a great side dish or addition to a power bowl. They also serve as a great starting point for recipes that use mashed or pureed sweet potatoes. Make sure they are very tender if your recipe calls for mashing or pureeing.
When I was working on my dietetic internship, a fellow intern turned me on to cooking whole sweet potatoes in the slow cooker, which is a great meal prep hack. Check it out here! Whole sweet potatoes prepared using the slow cooker method can be served whole as loaded sweet potatoes or you can scoop out the flesh for other recipes.
I reached out to our team of dietitians for their favorite sweet potato recipes:
Ellen: Cubed sweet potatoes tossed with olive oil and salt and pepper and roasted are a hit with my entire family! She’s also really excited to try Sweet Potato Shepard’s Pie – if you’ve tried it, reach out and let her know what you think.
Melissa C: I love sweet potatoes mixed into hummus! (Check out this recipe.)
Melissa B: Mashed sweet potatoes and sweet potato muffins Try this simple recipe for mashed sweet potatoes (these are delicious with or without the topping, so feel free to skip the topping if you’re pressed on time).
With so many delicious options, we hope this leaves you feeling inspired to add sweet potatoes to your menu! Connect with us on social media to share your favorite way to eat sweet potatoes and let us know which of these recipes you want to try first!
USDA Nutrient Database: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168482/nutrients