My wife posted the photo on the left along with a comment about the purple sweet potatoes on her facebook page and got tons of comments so I thought I should talk about them in today's Phytonutrient Friday post.
First thing I want to do is to answer a question that was asked several times - Where do you get the purple sweety potato slips? Well to tell you the truth, I just went to Central Market in Austin, Texas and bought the organic purple sweet potatoes that they had, I set them in the sun and before long I had many slips to plant. I'll do the same next season since it worked out so well this time around!
In addition to its sweet taste, sweet potatoes are packed with lots of nutrition and has so many benefits for human health that some people suggest you eat them every day! Personally, I do not go quite that far, I believe in moderation and variety in our food consumption, but I would not argue with the fact that sweet potatoes are very good for us. Although they are thought to have come from the American continent, botanical and agricultural experts now tell us that the origin of the sweet potato is most likely New Zealand, Polynesia, and the central part of America.
Sweet potato, (Ipomoea batatas) is a staple food in Africa. In Asia, in addition to parts of the tuber itself being consumed, the young sweet potato leaves are also prepared as a vegetable dish.
In our local markets, we can often find various types of sweet potatoes, there are orange, purple, red, pale yellow or white. Sweet potatoes are rich in antioxidants, the more intense the color the more antioxidants, choose colorful sweet potatoes for a real health boost to your meals. According to The U.S. Sweet Potato Council, sweet potatoes are cooked with the skin produces more fiber than a serving of oatmeal. Sweet potatoes also contain vitamins A, B, C, as well as a load of phytonutrients, antioxidants, calcium and potassium which works to relieve inflammation of the stomach.
A single sweet potato contains more than 200 percent of the daily requirement for vitamin A. This vitamin gives the sweet potatoes their yellowish color due to the presents of beta carotene. Beta carotene also plays an important role as an antioxidant as well as maintaining human eye health. A sweet potato is a low calories food stuffed full of nutrition and flavor, a perfect combination!
How many calories are in a sweet potato? Well, that of course depends on the size of the tuber you eat, but information from the USDA National Nutrient Data Base tells us that in every 100 grams of baked sweet potato (with the skin) one fill find just 90 calories. To burn those 90 calories, you only need to do things such as swimming for 7 minutes, or jogging for 10 minutes, or cycling for 14 minutes. If you prefer walking, it will take a little longer but still just 25 minutes.
Sweet potato varieties with dark orange flesh have more beta carotene than those with light-colored flesh, and their increased cultivation is being encouraged in Africa, where vitamin A deficiency is a serious health problem. A 2012 study of 10,000 households in Uganda found that 50% of children who ate normal sweet potatoes suffered from vitamin A deficiency compared with only 10% of those on the high beta carotene variety.
In terms of market competition, the common potato is more popular as it is found in a variety of menus, but the sweet potato is finding its way into our diets more and more, many restaurants even offer sweet potato fries as a better choice than regular French fries. In fact, sweet potatoes have proven to be much healthier than the common potato that we all eat way too much of.
Need convincing? Here are a few health benefits of sweet potatoes:
- Blood Pressure - According to the American Heart Association, the sweet potato is one of the foods that are rich in potassium. Potassium has a very important role in maintaining blood pressure. In addition, potassium also plays a role in controlling muscle and nerve function. On average, adults need as much as 4,700 milligrams of calcium each day, and a large sweet potato contains 300 milligrams of potassium, or more.
- Cancer - Sweet potatoes contain lots of beta carotene which is an antioxidant, a substance that is not only able to fight free radicals, substances that fight cancer. There have been many studies that prove that the high content of carotenoids and beta-carotene in the blood is associated with reduced risk of breast cancer. Health experts recommend eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, especially those that contain lots of beta carotene.
- Maintain Weight Loss - Want to Slim? Stay away from potatoes, especially if you mainly eat your potatoes in the form of French fries and chips. But, not all tubers have the same effect, for example sweet potatoes are much better for us than the potatoes we most often eat. If you like to enjoy sweet potatoes, you’re in luck, research shows that sweet potatoes assist in maintaining a stable weight. Not only that, they may also help us in losing weight as there is a good deal of fiber in sweet potatoes. The fiber has the effect of making us feel full longer, and helps us to maintain a stable and lower blood sugar level. Soluble fiber contained in sweet potato also helps lower LDL (bad cholesterol) in the blood.
- One of the best sources of Vitamin A - Sweet potatoes was given the title of a ‘super food’ by the Center for Science in the Public Interest for nutritional content. A single medium-size sweet potato provides more than 200 percent of the daily requirement for vitamin A. Vitamin A itself is beneficial to our eyesight, skin, and bones. Sweet potatoes also provide us with antioxidants, helping to prevent infection in the digestive tract, urinary tract, and lungs. In a study conducted by Kansas State University in 2003, and published in The American Society for Nutritional Sciences, discovered that there is a relationship between vitamin A deficiency and emphysema (a lung infection that causes difficulty breathing). Consuming sweet potatoes provides the vitamin A we need to maintain our health.
- Immune system - Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, as well as various other nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin B complex, iron, phosphorus, and hundreds of phytonutrients. This makes the sweet potato a great immune booster.
- Helps digestion - Fiber in sweet potatoes is also higher compared to other types of potatoes in general. This, combined with the presence of other vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, makes this food the right choice to help in proper digestion. Besides that, sweet potato is easy to digested itself, which makes it good for gastric and small intestine health.
- Got Bronchitis? - The vitamin C content found in sweet potatoes, along with its iron and other nutrients has been used to cure bronchitis in many cultures for many years. Sweet potatoes are also believed to warm the body (probably because of the sweetness and other nutrients).
- Overcoming arthritis - The presents of beta-carotene, magnesium, zinc and vitamin B complex alone make the sweet potato the right choice to tackle arthritis, not to mention all of the other nutrition it offers. Sweet potato cooking water can be applied, externally, to the joints to relieve pain from arthritis. Do I need to mention here that you should allow the cooking water to cool down before applying it?
- Overcoming diabetes - People with diabetes are often advised to avoid sugary foods. This does not apply to sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are very effective in regulating blood sugar levels by helping insulin secretion and function. However, this does not mean that people with diabetes should eat sweet potatoes without any concern at all. But, in moderation, the humble but powerful sweet potato may well help in lowering blood sugar levels in those suffering with both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes.
- Overcome stomach ulcers - Sweet potatoes have a comfortable effect in the stomach and small intestine as they are very easily digested. The Vitamin B complex and vitamin C, beta carotene, potassium and calcium are all also very effective in relieving inflammation of the stomach. In addition, the fiber you get with sweet potatoes can prevent constipation and the accumulation of acid, thus it will decrease the likelihood of gastric inflammation.
There are so many varieties of sweet potatoes available that choosing just the right one to add to your diet may be difficult for some. I would advise that, if you are only eating an occasional sweet potato that you choose the purple colored one, because it has more nutrition compare to any of the other varieties. But having said that, let me ask you, why are you only eating the occasional sweet potato? Eat more of them! Eat some of every color and hue you can find. Eat them baked, French fried, mashed, or even enjoy them as a pie or ice cream!! Purple sweet potato pie or Purple Sweet Potato Ice Cream – Yummy!
Prep time - 10 mins Total time - 10 mins Serves – 6 (if you are willing to share!)
- 360ml / 1½ cups coconut milk (full-fat)
- 1 tbsp arrowroot powder*
- 60ml / ¼ cup maple syrup
- ½ cup purple sweet potato puree or ¾ cup chopped, boiled purple sweet potatoes
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- (Optional) 1 tbsp alcohol, such as vodka or gin**
- Mix all the ingredients, except the vanilla and alcohol, together in a blender and mix until smooth.
- Pour into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, remove from the heat and whisk until smooth and thickened.
- Stir in the vanilla and alcohol.
- Pour into a container and chill overnight.
Instructions for using an ice cream maker
- Once the mixture is chilled, you simply need to add it to your ice cream machine, following the manufacturer's instructions. Once churned, add to a shallow, freezer-safe container and freeze for at least 6 hours or overnight.
Instructions without using an ice cream maker
- If you have a stand mixer with a metal bowl, you can freeze the bowl overnight and "churn" the ice cream using the paddle attachment.
- Otherwise, you will need to whisk the mixture well before freezing it and may need to check on it a couple of times and whisk again to add lot's of air to it and prevent it turning icy.
*Arrowroot powder can be found in the baking aisle of the supermarket. You can also use tapioca flour or corn starch.
**The alcohol is to help keep the ice cream from freezing too hard.
You know, before I end this Phytonutrient Friday post I should also mention that sweet potato tuber is not the only part of the plant that we can benefit from. Did you know that you can eat sweet potato leaves? Well you can! Not the leaves of the ornamental sweet potato vines, but from any variety of the plant that produces a tuber that we eat, we can also enjoy the leaves!
So, do what I do, and say “Step aside, beet greens. It's time to meet the newest bunch of leaves poised for the superfood spotlight: sweet potato leaves.”
While most supermarkets don't carry sweet potato greens, that doesn't mean they're impossible to find: Many farmers in the South who raise sweet potatoes also sell the greens to specialty Asian food stores, farmer's markets, and some small markets during peak growing season, which lasts from May through October.
"I love that you get two crops out of one," says Joan Norman, who sells both the leaves and tubers from her One Straw Farm in Baltimore, Maryland. "We harvest the older leaves and let the new ones keep growing so that the sweet potatoes continue growing, too."
As for eating the leaves, Norman says they're best used like spinach, noting her customers like to sauté them, add to smoothies, and even braise in coconut milk. "The simplest way is to sauté them with garlic and olive oil just until they're wilted," she says. "I add a couple drops of fish sauce, too. You can't go wrong there."
Well now that is all for this week!
1 lg bunch sweet potato greens (about ½ pound)
½ sm white onion, diced
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1½ Tbsp maple syrup
1. REMOVE sweet potato leaves from stems and set aside. Remove smaller stems from the larger, tougher stems. Discard the larger stems and roughly chop the smaller stems.
2. Wash the leaves thoroughly.
3. HEAT olive oil in medium-sized pan over medium high heat. Add onion and sauté until just softened, about 3 minutes.
4. ADD stem pieces and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes.
5. ADD leaves, salt and pepper to taste, and maple syrup. Sauté until leaves are wilted, about 2 minutes. Serve.
1 lg bunch of sweet potato greens
1 tsp canola oil
½ tsp minced fresh ginger
1 tsp sesame oil
2 (4 oz) salmon fillets
Salt and pepper
1 REMOVE sweet potato leaves from stems. Chop smaller stems, and discard the larger ones.
2 HEAT oil in a skillet over medium high heat.
3 ADD leaves and stem pieces, sesame oil, and ginger. Sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and grate some fresh lemon zest on top.
4 SEASON salmon with salt and pepper, and simply roast or grill.
Enjoy, and Happy Gardening!!