[caption id="attachment_4413" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Sweet Potato"][/caption]
Sweet potatoes are normally confused as it is sometimes called a yam but is not in the yam family nor is it closely related to the common potato. The sweet potato is from the Convolvulaceae botanical family and I. batatas species.
In the year 1492 members of Columbus expeditions were the first Europeans to taste the sweet potatoes. Later the explorers and travelers found many varieties in local names but the name that stayed was the Taino name of batata. This name was later transmuted to the similar name for a different vegetable—the ordinary potato, causing confusion from which it never recovered. The first record of the name "sweet potato" is found in the Oxford English Dictionary of 1775.
Sweet potatoes are native to the tropical parts of South America and were domesticated there at least 5000 years ago. The sweet potato was also grown before western exploration in Polynesia, where it is called the kumara, remarkably similar to the Quechua kumar in Peru. Sweet potato has been radiocarbon-dated in the Cook Islands to 1000 AD, and current thinking is that it was brought to central Polynesia c. 700 AD, possibly by Polynesians who had traveled to South America and back, and spread across Polynesia to Hawaii and New Zealand from there. It is possible however, that South Americans brought it to the Pacific.
Sweet potatoes are now cultivated throughout tropical and warm temperate regions wherever there is sufficient water to support their growth. According to FAO statistics, the majority comes from China, with a production of 105,000,000 tonnes from 49,000 km2. About 20,000 tonnes (20,000,000 kg) of sweet potatoes are produced annually in New Zealand, where sweet potato is known by its Māori name, kūmara. It was a staple food for Māori before European contact.
Orange fleshes sweet potatoes are a good source of beta-carotene and recent studies have shown that it has the ability to raise our blood levels of vitamin A.
Sweet potatoes are not always orange-fleshed on the inside but can also be a spectacular purple color. Sometimes it's impossible to tell from the skin of sweet potato just how rich in purple tones its inside will be. The purple-fleshed sweet potato, anthocyanins-primarily peonidins and cyanidins- have important antioxidant properties and anti-inflammatory properties. Particularly when passing through our digestive tract, they may be able to lower the potential health risk posed by heavy metals and oxygen radicals.
It's important to have some fat in your sweet potato-containing meals if you want to enjoy the full beta-carotene benefits of this root vegetable. The potential health benefits of the sweet potato sporamins that help prevent oxidative damage to our cells should not be surprising since sweet potatoes produce sporamins whenever subjected to physical damage to help promote healing. Sweet potatoes don't have to take a long time to prepare. Cutting them into ½" slices and Healthy Steaming them for just 7 minutes not only bring out their great flavor but help to maximize their nutritional value. And you can add cinnamon, nutmeg, and/or cloves for extra flavor and nutrition.
Many people think about starchy root vegetables as a food group that could not possibly be helpful for controlling their blood sugar. What's fascinating about sweet potatoes is their ability to actually improve blood sugar regulation-even in persons with type 2 diabetes. While sweet potatoes do contain a valuable amount of dietary fiber (just over 3 grams per medium sweet potato) and if boiled or steamed can carry a very reasonable glycemic index (GI) rating of approximately 50, it may not be either of these factors that explain their unusual blood sugar regulating benefits.
Normally sweet potatoes are a part of the Thanksgiving tradition, but do be sure to add these wonderful naturally sweet vegetables to your meals throughout the year; they are some of the most nutritious vegetables around. Sweet potatoes can be grouped into two different categories depending upon the texture they have when cooked: some are firm, dry, and mealy, while others are soft and moist. In both types, the taste is starchy and sweet with different varieties having different unique tastes.
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. Baked sweet potatoes are delicious even when served cold and therefore make a great food to pack in to-go lunches. In India, in some regions fasts of religious nature are an occasion for a change in normal diet, and a total absence from cooking or eating is held as elective while a normal diet for a fasting day is a light feast consisting of different foods from usual, amongst which sweet potato is one of the prime sources of sustenance. They are a variety of dishes like the sweet potato chips, sweet potato pudding, sweet potato curry or salad.
Sweet potato is eaten otherwise too, and a popular variety of preparation in most parts is roasted slow over kitchen coals at night and eaten with some dressing—primarily salt, possibly yogurt—while the easier way in south is simply boiling or pressure cooking before peeling, cubing and seasoning for a vegetable dish as part of the meal. Usually the preparations for sweet potato are similar to the blander ones for potato, while the sharper versions—with more green chilly or red pepper—are reserved for potato
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene). They are also a very good source of vitamin C and manganese. In addition, sweet potatoes are a good source of copper, dietary fiber, vitamin B6, potassium and iron. Besides simple starches, sweet potatoes are rich in complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, beta carotene (a vitamin A equivalent nutrient), vitamin C, and vitamin B6.
The nutritional values of raw sweet potato per 100g are:
Energy: 360 kJ (86 kcal)
Carbohydrates: 20.1 g
Starch: 12.7 g
Sugars: 4.2 g
Dietary fibre: 3.0 g
Fat: 0.1 g
Protein: 1.6 g