Sweet Potato: The Healthier Starch

Sweet potatoes are a great option for a healthier starch. The American Cancer Society, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the American Heart Association support eating sweet potatoes due to their nutritious nature and their helpfulness in prevention of disease. Considering the fiber content, complex carbohydrates, proteins, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, iron and calcium, the sweet potato ranks high in nutritious value. The sweet potato ranks significantly higher than potatoes, spinach and broccoli in their overall nutrition quality. Eating more sweet potatoes will provide higher fiber options, complex carbohydrates and little fat.
Sweet potato fries have a sweet flavor and are a great substitute for the simple carbohydrates found in French fries. Sweet potatoes can even be made into a casserole side dish for a holiday meal. With all this great news about sweet potatoes, it is important to mention that a sweet potato is not a true potato; and a sweet potato and yam are not the same. There is a geographical area where the crop evolved separately from its American ancestors. In Papa, New Guinea and other parts of Asia, many types of sweet potatoes can be found that are genetically different from the sweet potatoes found in the Americas.
Some researchers believe that European explorers took the sweet potato to the South Pacific, while others believe that the sweet potatoes were moved from island to island across the Pacific by the indigenous people. Needless to say, the origin of the sweet potato can be complicated and many experts still have different versions on where the tasty vegetable originates.
Sweet potatoes have a rich history and unique origin. It is one of the oldest vegetables known to mankind. Scientists believe that the sweet potato was domesticated thousands of years ago in Central America. After his first voyage to the Americas in 1492, Christopher Columbus took sweet potatoes back home to Europe. The crop was introduced in China in the late 16th Century and spread through Asia, Africa, and Latin America during the 17th and 18th centuries. A sweet potato has broad adaptability and its planting material can be multiplied quickly from few roots. It is now grown in more developing countries than any other root crop and is a staple crop in many countries. All around the world, people eat and use this superfood, including its plant leaves and roots.
How should someone purchase sweet potatoes? Fresh sweet potatoes should be clean, blemish free, decay free, smooth and firm. One decayed area can spoil the entire sweet potato, which can causing a awful taste. How should someone store sweet potatoes? Uncooked sweet potatoes should not be refrigerated because refrigeration of uncooked sweet potatoes can make them starchy. Instead store all potatoes, including sweet potatoes, in a cool dark place. In order to preserve raw sweet potatoes and other fresh produce, try freezing. How should cooks serve sweet potatoes? Sweet potatoes can be served in numerous ways; diced well with coconut, nuts, fruits, as well as spices like allspice, cinnamon, coriander, ginger, and nutmeg. Sweet potatoes can be an ingredient in many dishes including: casseroles, desserts (pies, cakes, puddings, and cookies, breads, dips, salads sauces, snacks, soufflés and soups). Sweet potatoes are a tasty treat with many nutritious benefits.

By Tracy Williams
Dominican University Nutrition Department Graduate