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— March 16, 2010

Sweet ‘n Healthy

By Lisa James
  • Whether you call them yams or sweet potatoes, they’re good and good for you.

What’s in a name?” Shakespeare once asked, and the sweet potato, which also goes by the name “yam,” would have to agree.

However the true yam is rarely found in the United States; this starchy tuber is native to Africa, where it is a mainstay of agriculture (and in Asia and Oceana as well). Most “yams” in this country are actually sweet potatoes, fleshy root vegetables that are native to tropical South America and belong to a different plant family. The confusion stems from the fact that true sweet potatoes come in two varieties—a firmer, whiter one and a moister, more orange-colored one.

No matter what you call them, sweet potatoes provide superior nutrition. Their orange color is a marker for their beta-carotone content. In addition, sweet potatoes contain calcium, fiber, iron, potassium and vitamins A, B6 and C. This helps explain why the Center for Science in the Public Interest has rated the sweet potato as the top vegetable in overall nutritional value.

Evidence suggests that, unlike plain white potatoes (an unrelated plant, like the yam), sweet potatoes may actually help to stabilize blood sugar levels. That makes them an excellent substitute for white potatoes whether baked, mashed or turned into fries (such as the oven-baked “fries” in this recipe). Sweet potatoes are recommended in the maintenence phases of such low-carb diets as Atkins and South Beach.

When shopping for sweets, look for roots that are clean, plump, dry and smooth. Store them in a cool (55° to 65°F), dry place—never refrigerate sweet potatoes. They can be stored up to a month, although they are best used within a week or two of purchase.

The Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission recommends cutting the roots with a stainless steel knife, as a carbon blade will cause the roots to darken. The commission also suggests using metal rather than bamboo skewers if using sweet potatoes in kebobs; the metal will help cook the potato from the inside.

Call them what you like, but sweet potatoes should always be a welcome addition to your table.

ET Recipe

Sweet Potato Fries

4 sweet potatoes 
(yams), peeled
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper, 
to taste
2-3 tbsp chopped 
parsley (optional)

1. Preheat oven 400°F. Coat baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray or line with foil.

2. Cut sweet potatoes into 1/2”-thick lengthwise strips; toss with oil. Arrange in single layer on baking sheet; bake 15–20 minutes.

3. Turn potatoes over; bake an additional 15–20 minutes or until golden brown all over.

4. Arrange fries on a platter. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley (if using).

Note: For a sweeter version, omit parsley and sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg before baking.

Serves 6. Analysis per serving: 142 calories, 2g protein, 5g fat (1g saturated), 4g fiber, 23g carbohydrate, 71 mg sodium


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