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The Amazing Sweet Potato

By Eri Anton

I have been a fan of sweet potatoes for awhile now and have not only enjoyed them as a great nutritious part of my diet but have actually learned a lot about sweet potato varieties, flavors, nutritional values and now I'm sharing all I learned with you!

Types of Sweet Potato

Here are just a few of the most popular types of sweet potatoes:

  • Garnet, Jewel, and Beauregard sweet potatoes have reddish-orange skin and deep orange flesh. These are often the ones many people think are yams at mainstream grocery stores.   
  • White sweet potatoes are crumbly, with whitflesh and golden brown skin. They don’t contain as many antioxidants as orange varieties but are often a little sweeter when grilled.
  • Okinawan sweet potatoes are also known as purple sweet potatoes because of their high anthocyanin content. Anthocyanins are the pigments that give red, blue, and violet plant foods their beautiful colors. Anthocyanins are also what give Okinawan potatoes 150% more antioxidant power than blueberries.  Despite their name, Okinawan potatoes are actually native to the Americas. They were brought over to Japan sometime in the 16th century, where they grow well and have become a staple in Japanese dishes. In North America, you will most likely find true purple sweet potatoes in an Asian supermarket.
  • Japanese or Satsumaimo sweet potatoes are known for being sweeter than most other types. This is especially true when they start caramelizing in the oven.

Nutritional Value of the Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes are high in fiber, vitamin C, potassium, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), niacin (vitamin B3), vitamin B6, manganese, magnesium, and copper. They get their orange color from beta-carotene, which is a pigment and antioxidant. Sweet potatoes also contain a modest but helpful amount of protein — around four grams per cup when cooked.

When compared to white potatoes, sweet potatoes offer more vitamins and antioxidants. Surprisingly, considering their sweeter taste, they also have a mildly lower glycemic index score. This makes them slower to digest.   But the greatest sweet potato nutritional glory of all may be its rich supply of vitamin A. A single sweet potato offers over double the daily value for vitamin A.

Packed with nutrients such as beta-carotene, potassium and fiber, sweet potatoes are also low in calories, making them a good addition to a healthy diet -- whether you're trying to lose weight or just make better food choices.Superfood: Sweet Potatoes. Packed with both nutrients and a sweet flavor, sweet potatoes are one of the most versatile and healthful vegetables available. People with diabetes may also benefit from eating this root vegetable because it ranks low on the glycemic index and has less of an effect on blood glucose levels.

Purple Sweet Potato

Purple sweet potato is one of my favorites but not all purple sweet potato is the same. There are three types of purple sweet potato named Stokes, Okinawa and Ube.

Born in the USA, Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes originated in Stokes County, North Carolina. They’re now grown commercially in the perfectly sandy soil of central California. Available from late August through early to late spring, these sweet potatoes have purple-tinted skin with bold purple flesh that intensifies when cooked. You will find these in Whole Foods and is the main variety I eat. It is purple on the outside and inside.

The origin of the Okinawan sweet potato reads like an adventure novel. Believed to have come from Aztec South America with the Spaniards to the Philippines and China in the 1490s, the plant did not reach Japan until the 1600s. The initial planting was in Okinawa, the southern island of Japan, before they were cultivated all over Japan. Eventually, these purple tubers ended up in Hawaii and became a part of the native menu, where they are also known as “Hawaiian sweet potatoes.”Beige on the outside and lavender-purple on the inside, these purple sweet potatoes are grown in Hawaii for the U.S. market. Blue-ish purple once cooked, they have a delicate, slightly sweet taste and a creamy texture that is on the starchy side.

The Ube purple sweet potato also known as a purple yam, fresh ube has brown, bark-like skin, and flesh that ranges from white with purple specks to lilac. It is well loved all over Asia as a dessert ingredient for its sweet and nutty flavor. It has a purple exterior, but a whitish center.

Preparing Sweet Potato my way....

There are so many ways to prepare sweet potato and although I have probably tried most of them I want to share my favorite way to prepare and eat them. Sweet potato is actually part of my daily diet and I will eat it once and many times twice a day. I like to cut the white and purple sweet potato into slices about 1/4 in thick and rub a little olive oil on and grill them. When they are cooked I will put a nice layer of fresh peanut butter on them and enjoy them one bite at a time. I have grilled many of the varieties but find myself enjoying the white and purple sweet potato the most. The white is a little sweeter when grilled than the purple but the mouth feel of the purple is very robust and compliments the peanut butter really well. I will use skippy peanut butter at times but prefer to use a fresh ground peanut butter and will grind mine fresh at Mother's Market.

Sweet potato is a super food and should be incorporated into a healthy diet. For more information on sweet potato I encourage you to do your own research and learn about things on your own. Until next time happy eating!

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