The Wonderful, Fabulous, Versatile Sweet Potato
There is nothing like a hot baked sweet potato with butter melting and maybe a little brown sugar or cinnamon! Yum! Or what about yam casserole at Thanksgiving? Sprinkle a pecan topping and melt some marshmallows and you are ready to go! As good as those things are many people don’t realize this tasty tuber is so much more and is so versatile.
The sweet potato according to nutritionists at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is the richest vegetable in complex carbohydrates and ranks number one in nutrition far above the humble white potato and surprisingly more so than many other vegetables. In fact CSPI ranked the sweet potato number one in nutrition of ALL vegetables. With a score of 184 it outscored most vegetables by more than 100 points! How were they graded? Points were given for dietary fiber, naturally occurring sugars and complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins A and C, iron and calcium. Points were deducted for fat, especially saturated fat. Also, sodium, cholesterol, added refined sugars and caffeine were considered. Look at these comparisons to other vegetables:
Sweet potato baked 184
Potato, baked 83
Mixed Vegetables 52
Winter Squash, Baked 44
Brussels Sprouts 37
Cabbage, Raw 34
Green Peas 33
Corn on the Cob 27
Green Pepper 26
Romaine Lettuce 24
(SOURCE: The Center for Science in the Public Interest, Washington D.C.)
Sweet potatoes are highest in beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin B6 and vitamin C; fiber, thiamine, niacin, potassium and copper. They are also a good source of protein, calcium and vitamin E. Well, I could go on and on but I am here to discuss the versatility of this super food and to give you some ideas on how to use this versatile tuber in some ways you may not have thought of.
The sweet potato has become my ‘go to’ vegetable for adding to recipes. One thing I love to do is stir fry. It is a great way to prepare a colorful, healthy meal or use as a side dish. First I wash the sweet potato and most of the time I leave the peelings on. I do cut off any bad spots and usually cut the ends off. Now, get that shredder or food processor out; personally I love the versatility of the old fashioned metal shredder. Just shred the amount of sweet potato you think you will need. I find one potato goes pretty far depending what else you stir fry with it. The great thing about stir fry is it only takes a couple of teaspoons of oil. Go ahead and use a healthy oil like olive oil, grape seed oil or coconut oil. You may want to throw in a couple pats of butter also. Throw in some fresh Kale or whatever your favorite cruciferous green may be. Use your imagination and use whatever vegetables you like. Experiment with combinations to figure out what you like best. I like to chop up asparagus, carrots, cabbage, bell pepper and onion… I’m always experimenting. Teriyaki sauce surprisingly really enhances the flavor of shredded sweet potato in a stir fry. You can also add meat of your choice that has already been cooked and cut to small size. Season to taste. You can add salt, pepper, turmeric, garlic… whatever you like!
How about a nice quiche? Rather than using a pie crust here is a healthy twist. Bake your sweet potatoes, peel and then smash and spread around a pie dish all the way up onto walls of dish creating a sweet potato pie crust. Bake in oven about 375°F until baked slightly dry to the touch. While it is baking stir fry together some of your favorite vegetables. I like eggplant, kale, zucchini, mushrooms, carrots and other vegetables in various combinations. When sweet potato pie crust is done baking just pour all that stir fry in the pie shell. If you wish, you can also add meat of your choice that has already been cooked and cut to small size. Crack a couple of eggs into the mix and a little shredded cheese. Stir this around just a little. If you like a cheesy topping add some shredded cheese as a topping. Then back into the oven until the egg is thoroughly cooked through and the cheese has browned to your liking, maybe even switch to broil just to get a crusty cheese topping.
Sweet potatoes can also be made into a healthy pan of brownies. 1 cup of mashed sweet potato should do. Mix in 3 whisked eggs, ¼ cup each of coconut oil and honey. ¼ tsp. of vanilla extract and cinnamon. Mix in 2 tbsp. of cocoa powder, more if you like it more chocolaty; 3-1/2 tbsp. of your favorite flour. Mix it all together and bake at 350°F for about 30 minutes. Really tasty and healthy.
Gypsy Soup is another recipe I love. In a large pot sauté some onions, garlic, celery and some bite sized chunks of sweet potatoes about five minutes with some turmeric, basil, salt, cinnamon, even a little cayenne if you like a kick. Add about 3 cups of broth of your choice. Let it simmer about 15 minutes and then add vegetables like celery, tomatoes, sweet peppers, cauliflower florets… whatever you like. Let it simmer another 10 minutes and you have a delicious stew.
That gives you a few ideas to work with. Just go wild and you will be surprised how versatile the sweet potato can be!
Sweet Potato Nutrition Facts (for one medium size sweet potato)
Fat 0.39 g
Protein 2.15 g
Net Carbs 31.56 g
Dietary Fiber 3.9 g
Calcium 28.6 mg
Sodium 16.9 mg
Potassium 265.2 mg
Folate 18.2 mcg
Vitamin C 29.51 mg
Vitamin A 26081.9 IU
(Source: US Department of Agriculture)