Since I proclaimed my love for the sweet potato in my last blog post, An intro to recipes, I decided to devote this week’s post to that amazing vegetable. If you despise sweet potatoes, have no fear! The recipe I will be sharing can be made with any type of potato you choose; simply modify the baking time to a time appropriate for your particular potato variety.
Okay, back to the glorious sweet potato! I am sure all of you know that sweet potatoes are a healthy starch option for meal planning. BUT, do you know exactly HOW nutritious these cute orange veggies are?! Here are my 5 favorite nutrition fun facts about sweet potatoes:
1) Sweet potatoes contain almost twice as much fiber as other potatoes, approximately 7 grams per serving!
Oh all important fiber…when will I ever hear the end of you? Food labels/ads are always boasting about their products’ high fiber content. Now I enjoy a bowl of Fiber One as much as the next person, but seriously, what’s the deal with all this fiber? Basically, fiber comes in two forms: soluble and insoluble. Sweet potatoes contain soluble fiber that dissolves in liquid when digested, turning into a gel-like substance that binds to bile acids and eliminates excess cholesterol from your body. It also plays a major role in balancing blood sugar levels; in fact studies have shown that for some diabetic people, an increase of soluble fiber in the diet can reduce the need for medication. Sooooo fiber helps protect us from heart disease and Type 2 diabetes…Sounds good!
2) Sweet potatoes are high in a truckload of vitamins: beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E just to name a few!
Thank you, beta-carotene for making our sweet potatoes so pretty and orange! Oh, and more importantly, thank you for protecting us against night blindness and other eye problems, skin disorders, colds, the flu, and other random infections. Thank you for your robust antioxidant power that aids in our protection against cancer formation! And FYI for all of you ladies (and some men too) worried about wrinkles, your body converts beta-carotene to retinol; that’s the active ingredient in your anti-wrinkle moisturizer! Vitamins C and E are not too shabby either. I like to call these the “beauty vitamins” as they promote a healthy, glowing complexion and vibrant hair due to their powerful antioxidant function that protects our cells and increases longevity (aka slows the aging process)!
3) Sweet potatoes contain robust levels of anti-inflammatory phytonutrients.
Anthocyanin and other color-related pigments in sweet potatoes lower levels of the following pro-inflammatory molecules: nuclear factor-kappa B, inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), and malondialdehyde (MDA). Don’t worry about knowing the names; just know they are as nasty as they sound when they over accumulate in your body. In animal studies, sweet potato consumption has reduced inflammation in brain and nerve tissue throughout the body. Pretty nifty, sweet potato. Keep up the good work! Color-related sweet potato phytonutrients also regulate levels of fibrinogen in your body. To avoid boring you to death with the details, controlling fibrinogen levels ensures successful blood clotting.
4) Sweet potatoes are a great source of potassium.
Potassium is an important electrolyte that helps regulate heartbeat and nerve signals. Some of potassium’s important functions include regulating muscle contractions, reducing swelling, and promoting proper kidney function. Many people know that bananas are high in potassium, but eating a banana can spike your blood sugar levels in a way that is similar to eating white bread or white sugar. Sweet potatoes offer another option for getting necessary potassium without causing a blood sugar imbalance.
5) Sweet potatoes provide us with essential iron.
Many Americans are deficient in iron, an extremely important mineral. Iron is necessary for many things, including proper function of our immune system and stress resistance (VERY important in today’s busy and stressful world). Also, iron is needed to make hemoglobin (blood); in fact iron is the component in the “heme” group that oxygen attaches to in our blood cells. So without iron our blood cannot carry oxygen throughout our body. Sweet potatoes offer a safe way to accumulate enough iron without the toxic effects that can occur via iron supplements. This is probably my favorite nutrition fun fact…sweet potatoes are just SO COOL…and I think heme groups are cool. If you are ever curious as to why bruises change color as they heal, ask me and I will let you know! Or you can just google it…
OKAY, now that you all want to stuff your faces with these magical veggies, here is this week’s recipe! It is an adaptation of a recipe from Alicia Silverstone’s cookbook, The Kind Diet. Basically, I did not have everything the recipe called for so I made my own version and loved it!
Garlic Lime Roasted Sweet Potatoes
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into preferred size pieces (for an idea of size, see picture below)
2 tbsp oil (I used safflower oil but olive oil would also work)
Fine sea salt
Minced garlic added to preferred taste
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil (I used aluminum foil and that is why in picture some parts look a bit dark. I like the crispy parts, but if you want to avoid them, parchment paper may work better for you.)
Place the sweet potatoes in a medium bowl, toss with 2 tbsp of the oil, and season to taste with salt. Spread the potatoes on the prepared baking sheet, and roast for about 30 minutes. I like my sweet potatoes super soft, like a baked potato, so just keep an eye on them, checking occasionally until they become the texture you want them to be.
Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl, and toss with the garlic and lime juice. Adjust the seasoning to taste with salt. Serve warm. YUM!
Helpful Hint 1: If you make this and you miss the classically “sweet” sweet potato taste (I like the sweet/salty combo but some people do not), you can always skip the second part of the recipe and eat the sweet potatoes right when they come out of the oven. They would just have the oil and salt at that point and you can add whatever you want to them to make your own recipe. Maybe a little cinnamon…
Helpful Hint 2: The oil in the recipe is not only a flavor enhancer! 3-5 grams of fat per meal significantly increases our uptake of beta-carotene! If you use the oil, you are covered. ¼ tbsp has ~3.5 grams fat so each serving of these potatoes will enough fat to reap the beta-carotene benefits.
Helpful Hint 3: The rice I served this with is AMAZING! My sister and I fought over who got to eat the leftovers the next day for lunch. To make it, just make some brown rice however you normally do and then add 2 tbsp oil, a little minced garlic, 1 tbsp lime juice (or whatever amount tastes best to you), and diced tomatoes. SO. GOOD.
Happy cooking! Let me know if you try the recipe or if you put your own twist on it. I am always looking for a new good sweet potato recipe!!