This week on vegitales we’re sweetening up your health with the nutrient dense sweet potato! Native to Central America, this root vegetable is one of the oldest vegetables known to man. It boasts many health benefits that far surpass the good old white potato that we all know and love. In fact, it comes from an entirely different food family altogether, called Convolvulaceae. Try and say that ten times! Depending on the variety, the skin and flesh of the sweet potato can be white/cream, yellow/orange, pink, or deep purple, although it is more common to see white/cream and yellow-orange flesh. Sweet potatoes come in a variety of sizes. Some are short and round while others are long and tubular.

So what’s so great about this sweet dessert like vegetable? For starters, sweet potatoes contain one of the highest amounts of Vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene. Just 1 cup of baked sweet potato provides over 400% of your daily value of Vitamin A! Sweet potatoes are also a great source of vitamin C, vitamin B5, manganese, fiber, niacin and potassium. If that doesn’t make you want to eat them, perhaps their anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant benefits will be of interest. The colour-related pigments in sweet potatoes are the compounds that help to reduce inflammation in the body and protect our cells against free radical damage. Lastly, even though this vegetable is sweet and starchy, it can actually improve blood sugar regulation. Who knew?! Recent research has demonstrated that extracts from sweet potatoes can increase blood levels of a protein hormone called adiponectin. This hormone, produced by our fat cells, helps to modify insulin metabolism. Now that’s pretty sweet!

There are various ways of preparing sweet potatoes. Boiling is one of the best methods of preparation that lowers the glycemic index and increases the blood sugar regulating properties of this vegetable. However, sweet potatoes can also be baked, steamed, roasted or stir-fried. When making sweet potatoes, it’s a good idea to pair them with a healthy source of fat (extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, etc). This helps to improve the absorption of beta-carotene into our cells. Whether you enjoy them mashed, in bite size pieces or in their whole form, each bite will definitely sweeten your health!

By: Shelby Kroach,
Registered Holistic Nutritionist

Shelby Kroach is a registered holistic nutritionist and food enthusiast. She currently practices in Thornhill at Dr. Green's Health and Wellness. Some of the areas that Shelby focuses on in her clinic are weight loss, inflammation, digestion and athletic performance. Shelby strongly believes that what you put in your body affects how you feel both inside and out. That is why she works with clients to create individualized nutrition programs that are attainable and results oriented. Outside of the clinic, Shelby runs corporate wellness programs as well as healthy eating seminars to groups and organizations. She also has a food and nutrition blog called The Simple Dish where she posts recipes, nutrition tips, product reviews and restaurant reviews weekly.

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