Our Sweet Patooty is not just another pretty face. There’s so much goodness under her skin, I hardly know where to start. She comes from a large family. There are at least 18 relatives you might meet at the supermarket. All of them bring great qualities to the table. Some have orange or reddish skins, while others are purple-skinned. The purple ones can have white or purple flesh. But we don’t discriminate based on the color of the skin…they are all equally sweet inside!
Our Sweet Patooty is only distantly related to the common table potato that I grew up seeing on nearly every dinner plate. But she’s so much more agreeable! Her starch is complex and requires more time to digest, slowly releasing its sugars into the blood. When sweet potatoes are on the menu, our pancreas isn’t stressed by sugar spikes. But there’s something more… a very special protein hormone that actually improves blood sugar regulation, even in diabetics!
And that’s only for starters. Her proteins are only now revealing what great antioxidants they are, repairing cell damage caused by oxygen from the air we breath. She also relieves inflammation in our bodies through the many anthocyanins and phytonutrients that make up her lively orange and purple colors. Choosing foods with bright colors is smart. Put a rainbow on your plate and enjoy the benefits of better health… less swelling, less joint problems, fewer headaches, fewer heart problems… the list goes on and on.
Sweet Patooty gets annoyed only when she’s mistakenly called a yam. Yams are from another family altogether. There are over 200 kinds and they come with a stunning lavender-colored flesh. Yams are not as common here as sweet potatoes but are equally interesting… a subject for a later post, perhaps. What you need to know for now is that the moist-fleshed, orange- or white-colored root vegetable that is often called a yam is actually a sweet potato. The only kind of potato I eat these days is sweet potatoes. One day, though, I’d love to get my hands on those gorgeous lavender yams!
Like carrots, another bright orange veggie, Sweet Patooty offers amazing amounts of Vitamin A. One cup provides 4 times more than we need in any one day. Preserve your eyesight with this colorful super food on the menu.
Two things to keep in mind when cooking with sweet potatoes: 1) Always add a little healthy fat to the mix. It’s needed to improve absorption of the vitamin A this veggie delivers. 2) Steaming or boiling the flesh disables a component of the potato that breaks the anthocyanins down. We want to get as many as those powerful antioxidants into our bodies as possible. If roasting sweet potatoes, I recommend steaming them first for 2 minutes for maximum health benefits.
Here is one of my favorite recipes starring sweet potatoes.
Baked sweet potato with pepper and garlic black beans, flavored with goats cheese, basil, and walnuts
1 medium sweet potato (my favorite is the red-skinned ones with white flesh)
1 tablespoon organic coconut or canola oil
1 tablespoon (2-3 cloves) garlic, chopped finely
1/2 medium pepper, chopped finely (I used red, but if you can find hotter versions, go ahead)
¼ cup chopped onion
1 cup black beans (if canned, rinse well!)
2 ounces creamy goats cheese
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons homemade taco spice (recipe here)
sea salt to taste
¼ cup walnuts coarsely crushed
finely chopped basil to garnish
- Scrub well, then steam the potato for two minutes over boiling water.
- Dry well, then grease the potato skin with a little oil. Make a few fork holes to allow steam to escape. Roast it in the oven at 400F for 45 minutes to one hour. Poke it with a fork to see if it has softened through and through.
- While the potato is baking, fry the onions, peppers and garlic in the oil over low-medium heat in a small pan.
- Add the beans and cover. Allow to cook on low for about 5-7 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of the taco spice, stir well and remove from heat.
- In a medium bowl cream the goats cheese with the yogurt and the remaining tablespoon of taco spice.
- Cut the sweet potato in half. Gently remove the flesh from each half, being careful not to tear the skin. Mash the flesh into the cheese mixture. Spoon half of the cheese mixture back into each of the potato shells.
- Top with the bean mixture and return to the oven for 10 minutes with heat reduced to 300F.
When ready to serve, garnish each with some walnuts and chopped basil. You can even add a drizzle of liquid honey if you like, but I didn’t. This dish tasted delicious and is packed with amazing nutrients.
And that’s the story of how you can’t judge a sweet potato by its cover.
The World’s healthiest Foods For a thorough explanation of sweet potato’s health benefits with lots of scientific references. This is the website of The George Mateljan Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation with no commercial interests or advertising, I find it to be a wealth of information on healthy eating.
Sweet Patooty makes quick work of flaky biscuits Check out other ways to use sweet potatoes and control blood sugar.