If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be? It might not cross your mind to choose sweet potatoes, but it would take such a long time to get sick of them compared to other foods. This vegetable is so versatile in the different forms that you can cook and eat them. February is National Sweet Potato Month and the best way that we can celebrate is learning more about their nutritional value and ways to cook them!
The history of the sweet potato is quite interesting as it was cultivated before the commonly known white Irish potato. Cultivation and consumption are dated back to 750 BCE in Peru. Christopher Columbus took this new vegetable back to Europe and the Europeans named it the “sweet potato” based off of its flavor. This vegetable is now a staple for Thanksgiving meals, often candied or with marshmallows, dating back to the 16th century.
Sweet potatoes are often known for their high fiber and carbohydrate content. They are a complex carbohydrate, with their 3 grams of fiber, keeping you fuller longer. These fibers are both soluble and insoluble, meaning that blood glucose will spike less than any refined sugars. Consuming insoluble fibers helps with prevention of diabetes and improved gut health. Sweet potatoes also have 337mg of potassium, 8509 µg of beta carotene, and 25mg of magnesium. The potassium content helps regulate blood pressure, beta carotene helps with clearer vision, and manganese helps with growth, development, and metabolism regulation. Adding more sweet potatoes in your diet might be something you want to consider, especially if you have a hard time controlling blood sugar, lack fiber, or have unclear vision.
Sweet potatoes can be cooked in so many ways, with my favorite being sweet potato fries. I tend to bake sweet potato fries in the oven as a healthier alternative to deep frying them. First, take about 2 lbs of sweet potatoes and slice them into ¼ inch strips. On a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil, drizzle about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1 teaspoon of paprika, 1 teaspoon of salt, and ½ a teaspoon cumin. Mix in the pan, ensuring that all of the fries are covered evenly with oil and spices. Cook the fries at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes and flip the fries to cook for another 10 minutes. Serve as a side to a well balanced entree such as baked chicken breast and broccoli.
If you are looking for a recipe to impress your friends and family with, try making this 3 ingredient homemade sweet potato gnocchi. This recipe calls for 2 large sweet potatoes, 2 ½ cups of flour, and 2 teaspoons of salt. These can be gluten free if you wanted to rice, coconut, or almond flour. Poking holes ahead of time, bake your sweet potatoes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 40-50 minutes or until they are soft. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups of flour and salt with a well in the middle. When the potatoes cool down, take the skin off and place them in the well. Start to knead the sweet potato and flour mixture together until a dough is formed. Feel free to use the extra flour if the dough feels too sticky. Roll the dough into a ball, cut into 8 even pieces, and roll into 1 inch thick logs. You can then cut them into 1 inch square and use a fork to press on stripes that replicate the classic gnocchi look. To cook the gnocchi, boil water and let them float to the top for 30 seconds. These gnocchi can be served with your favorite vegetables and sauces such as spinach and pesto.
Sweet potatoes can come in all different shapes, sizes, and forms such as baked, fried, dehydrated, mashed, and roasted. This American Thanksgiving staple has gained popularity due to its desirable taste and nutritional benefits. The next time you are at the grocery store, consider buying more sweet potatoes as it can be difficult to get bored of them.