Cultivation of sweet potatoes, which are native to Peru, dates back to 750 BCE. Sweet potatoes are native to Central America and are one of the oldest vegetables known to man.
Christopher Columbus brought sweet potatoes to Europe after his first voyage to the New World in 1492. By the 16th century, they were brought to the Philippines by Spanish explorers and to Africa, India, Indonesia and southern Asia by the Portuguese. Around this same time, sweet potatoes began to be cultivated in the southern United States, where they still remain a staple food in the traditional cuisine.
When the sweet potato was introduced to the United States in the 1700s it was given the name “yam” to distinguish it from other sweet potatoes and from the white “Irish” potatoes.
These tuberous roots are among the most nutritious foods in the vegetable kingdom. They are packed with calcium, potassium, and vitamins A and C. Sweet potatoes are often confused with yams. Yams are large, starchy roots grown in Africa and Asia. Because of the common use of the term “yam,” it is acceptable to use this term when referring to sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes contain an enzyme that converts most of its starches into sugars as the potato matures. This sweetness continues to increase during storage and when they are cooked.
There are about 400 varieties of sweet potato, some more rare than others, differentiated by their skin and flesh color, ranging from cream, yellow, and orange to pink or purple.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SWEET POTATOES AND YAMS?
The many varieties of sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are members of the morning glory family. The skin color can range from white to yellow, red, purple or brown. The flesh also ranges in color from white to yellow, orange, or orange-red.
Sweet potato varieties are classified as either ‘firm’ or ‘soft’. When cooked, those in the ‘firm’ category remain firm, while ‘soft’ varieties become soft and moist. It is the ‘soft’ varieties that are often labeled as yams in the United States.
Yams are closely related to lilies and grasses. Native to Africa and Asia, yams vary in size from that of a small potato to a record 130 pounds (as of 1999).
There are over 600 varieties of yams and 95% of these crops are grown in Africa. Compared to sweet potatoes, yams are starchier and drier.
Sweet potatoes, a super-food, are one of the highest ranked vegetables on the nutrition scale with many established health and well being benefits. They’re high in fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, potassium and manganese. Their lower GI index stabilizes blood sugar, which means they’re also a good choice for diabetics. When cooked accordingly, not fried or deep-fried, they are relatively low in calories with an average of 95 calories per sweet potato.
Sweet potatoes are excellent sources of plant proteins with very low calories. Unlike other starchy root vegetables, it is very low in sugar, and in fact is a good blood sugar regulator.
The following link will give you additional Nutritional information: http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2667/2
Anti-Inflammatory: Sweet potato has anti-inflammatory properties thanks to the vitamin C, vitamin B6, beta-carotene, and manganese it contains. They are just as effective in curing both internal and external inflammations. Lowered inflammation has been shown in brain tissue and nerve tissue throughout the body following the consumption of sweet potato.
Anti-oxidant: Sweet potatoes have been found to contain a high amount of anti-oxidant, making it suitable in combating inflammatory problems like asthma, arthritis, gout, etc.
Arthritis: Beta-carotene, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin-B complex make sweet potatoes a hugely important food source for managing arthritis. The water where sweet potatoes are boiled can also be applied externally on joints to ease the associated pain of arthritis.
Asthma: Sweet potatoes are effective for curing congestion of the nose, bronchi and lungs, thereby giving relief from asthma. Its typical aroma helps in this property.
Blood Sugar: The carotenoids in sweet potato can help your body respond to insulin and stabilize your blood sugar. Sweet potatoes also have a significant amount of Vitamin B6, helping resistance to diabetic heart disease. Their high content of soluble fiber aids in lowering both blood sugar and cholesterol, and their abundance of chlorogenic acid may help decrease insulin resistance.
Bronchitis: The concentration of vitamin-C, iron and other nutrients help to cure bronchitis. Sweet potatoes are believed to be capable of warming up the body, possibly due to the sweetness and other nutrients that impact body temperature. This property is also beneficial for people suffering from bronchitis, along with its powerful effect on congestion.
Cancer: Beta-carotene, the champion antioxidant and anticarcinogenic substance, is the pigment responsible for the color of the peel of the sweet potatoes. The beta carotene and vitamin-C contained in sweet potatoes are very beneficial for curing various types of cancer, mainly those of the colon, intestines, prostrate, kidneys and other internal organs.
Diabetes: This fibrous root is suitable for diabetics’ consumption as it is a very good blood sugar regulator, helps to stabilize and lower insulin resistance.
Digestive tract, health: The significant amount of dietary fiber, especially when eaten with the skin, helps to promote a healthy digestive tract, relieving constipation and also helps prevent colon cancer. Research has found that they may also help to cleanse heavy metals such as arsenic and mercury from the digestive tract.
Emphysema: Smokers and people who inhale second-hand smoke should regularly consume foods high in vitamin A as smoke has been found to induce vitamin A deficiency, causing a host of other health problems to the lungs.
Fetal development: The high folate content is important and necessary for healthy fetal cell and tissue development.
Heart diseases: Consumption of this high potassium root helps to prevent heart attack and stroke. It helps maintain fluid and electrolyte balance in the body cells, as well as normal heart function and blood pressure.
Immune System: Being very rich in beta carotene, which is a major antioxidant, along with vitamin-C and B-complex vitamins, iron and phosphorus, sweet potatoes are excellent immune system boosters that can defend your body from a wide variety of conditions and afflictions.
Inflammation: Like the common potato, sweet potatoes also have anti-inflammatory properties, although they do not belong to the same family as common potato. This is primarily due to the presence of beta-carotene, vitamin-C and magnesium. It is equally effective in curing internal and external inflammation.
Lower GI: Sweet potatoes also have a lower glycemic index (GI) than regular white potatoes. The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly blood glucose levels rise after eating. Foods that have a lower glycemic index release sugar over a longer period of time, meaning you feel fuller for longer. Eating foods, like the sweet potato, will diminish your hunger and cravings and the consumption of extra calories.
Muscle cramps: A deficiency in potassium can cause muscular cramps and greater susceptibility to injury. Make sweet potatoes a regular part of your diet if you exercise a lot, both for an energy boost and to prevent cramps and injuries.
Other Benefits: They are effective for helping people quit addictions like smoking, drinking and taking certain narcotics. They are good for the health of the arteries and veins, as they protect their walls against hardening. The high concentration of beta carotene (an alternative form of vitamin-A) and phosphorus are excellent for both ocular and cardiac health.
Stomach Ulcers: Sweet potatoes have a soothing effect on the stomach and the intestines. B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, beta carotene, potassium and calcium are all very effective in curing stomach ulcers. Moreover, the roughage in sweet potatoes prevents constipation and the resultant acid formation, thereby reducing the chance of ulcers. The anti-inflammatory and soothing properties of sweet potatoes also reduce the pain and inflammation of the ulcers.
Stress: When we are stressed, our metabolic rate rises, causing the body potassium levels to be reduced. By snacking on the potassium-packed sweet potato, it helps to rebalance the vital mineral, and helps normalize the heartbeat. This in turn sends oxygen to the brain and regulates the body’s water balance.
BENEFITS FOR YOUR HAIR AND SKIN
Eyes: Take two slices and place them on your eyes. As mentioned before, anthocyanin helps in reducing pigmentation and has anti-inflammatory properties that will help in getting rid of dark circles, wrinkles and puffiness of eyes.
Face: Boil sweet potatoes. Let them cool and then mash them. Add a tablespoon of honey and spread this over your face. Let it stay for 20-30 minutes and wash off. You can also add 2-3 teaspoon lemon juice to it in case you have oily skin.
Feet: In case you have dry feet and cracked heels, instead of cooling the water in which the sweet potatoes were boiled completely, let it remain a little warm and soak your feet in it. It will help in getting rid of painful cracked heels.
Hair: Sweet potato works really well for your hair as well. With the abundance of different nutrients, the nourishment it provides to thirsty strands is almost unmatched. Take one big sweet potato, 1 cup yogurt, 1 tablespoon honey and 1 tablespoon of olive or almond oil. Blend all the ingredients until the mixture is smooth, apply it and let it sit for 15-20 minutes. For those who have very dry hair, you can also add 2-3 tablespoon of coconut cream with the rest of the ingredients
Toner: After boiling sweet potato, do not throw away the water. It is packed with nutrients that can help in improving your skin texture and clear your complexion. After boiling sweet potatoes, strain the water. Store this water in a bottle and keep it in the refrigerator to cool down. Use this sweet potato water as a toner for skin. This natural toner will help to absorb impurities, deep cleansing your pores and soothing irritated skin.
HOW TO SELECT AND STORE
Choose sweet potatoes that are firm and do not have any cracks, bruises or soft spots. Avoid those that are displayed in the refrigerated section of the produce department since cold temperature negatively alters their taste.
Sweet potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark and well-ventilated place, where they will keep fresh for up to ten days. Ideally, they should be kept out of the refrigerator in a cool, dry, dark place not above 60°F /15°C.
Do not store in plastic bag, make sure they are stored in a cool, dark, and well-ventilated cupboard away from sources of excess heat.
If you purchase organically grown sweet potatoes, you can eat the entire tuber, flesh and skin. Yet, if you buy conventionally grown ones, you should peel them before eating since sometimes the skin is treated with dye or wax; if preparing the sweet potato whole, just peel it after cooking.
As the flesh of sweet potatoes will darken upon contact with the air, you should cook them immediately after peeling and/or cutting them. If this is not possible, to prevent oxidation, keep them in a bowl covered completely with water until you are ready to cook them.
HEALTHY WAYS OF COOKING
Sweet potatoes can be:
- Eaten Raw
- Fried (use very little oil)
NOTE: We never suggest microwaving anything since it kills all the properties leaving nothing but empty calories.
HOW TO ENJOY
- Baked sweet potatoes are delicious even when served cold and therefore make a great food to pack in to-go lunches.
- Purée cooked sweet potatoes with bananas, maple syrup and cinnamon. Top with chopped walnuts. The fat content of the walnuts will help you get optimal absorption of the beta-carotene in the sweet potatoes.
- Steam cubed sweet potatoes, tofu, and broccoli. Mix in raisins and serve hot or cold with a curried vinaigrette dressing. Once again, the oil in the vinaigrette will help you improve the bioavailability of the sweet potatoes’ beta-carotene.
Here is a delicious recipe and instructions from “Blue Apron”. Just click on the link below.