They look like orange-tinged potatoes, yet taste like dessert due to their natural sweetness. While most people think sweet potatoes are nothing more than a healthy and interesting replacement for potatoes, they actually offer a lot of benefits for your health — from helping minimize your risk of obesity to inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, to name a few. By learning how to cook sweet potatoes properly, you can maximize their flavor and preserve the valuable nutrients they have to offer.
But first — what is a sweet potato?
The sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) belongs to the Convolvulaceae plant family, which includes other flowering plants like water spinach, the morning glory and chokeweed. It’s native to tropical parts of the Americas, from the Caribbean to the southeastern U.S., having been cultivated there for at least 5,000 years. Relics of sweet potatoes dating back 10,000 years have even been unearthed in Peruvian caves in South America, making them one of the oldest vegetables known to mankind.
About 400 sweet potato varieties exist, and they differ by the color of their skin and flesh. Their hues can vary, ranging from cream, yellow and orange to pink or purple. Sweet potato’s benefits come from an impressive array of nutrients, which include potassium, protein, vitamins C and A, sodium, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.
In the U.S., more than half of commercially grown sweet potatoes hail from the southern states, particularly North Carolina.
Sweet potatoes versus yams
Many people often confuse sweet potatoes with yams, which are starchy root vegetables that actually belong to the Dioscoreaceae family and are native to Africa and Asia. According to The Kitchn, yams, compared to sweet potatoes, are drier and starchier and their skin is bark-like, with a black or brown color. When peeled, the skin is either white, purple or a reddish color.
True yams aren’t actually common in the U.S., but what makes it confusing is that U.S. grocery stores label “soft” sweet potato varieties as “yams,” while “firm” sweet potatoes retain their name. So when you’re out shopping, make sure you confirm that you’re buying real yams.
How long to cook sweet potatoes
The time it takes for sweet potatoes to cook depends on the method you choose. Sweet potatoes contain beta-carotene, one of the nutrients that make them beneficial to your health. The best ways to improve the bioavailability of beta-carotene is to steam or bake the sweet potatoes. This makes the nutrient more accessible for your body.
The Kitchn notes that baking sweet potatoes can take up to an hour, at a temperature of 375 degrees F or higher. Boiling sweet potatoes is not recommended, as it can destroy many of the healthy compounds in this food.
If you want to cook sweet potatoes quickly, steaming is the better option. According to Bon Appetit, steaming makes the potatoes’ flesh “pudding-like and fluffy.” This method works best on smaller potatoes. If done correctly, it will only take 20 to 30 minutes to cook.
How to cook sweet potatoes in the oven
Perfect Baked Sweet Potato Recipe
How to cook sweet potatoes on the stove
Steaming is the best way to cook sweet potatoes on the stove, and if you’re in a hurry, here’s one tip: cut the sweet potatoes in small pieces to let them cook faster. This recipe, adapted from the George Mateljan Foundation, is one of the fastest ways to cook sweet potatoes — it only takes a few minutes!
7-Minute ‘Quick Steamed’ Sweet Potatoes
2 medium sweet potatoes
This recipe makes two servings.
Other sweet potato recipes you can try
Sweet potatoes are a versatile ingredient and there are a number of ways to serve them. They can be the star of the meal or just a supporting player. Sweet potatoes can even be served as a sweet dessert. Here are a few recipes you can make at home:
Loaded Southwestern Stuffed Sweet Potato Recipe
Healthy Sweet Potato Casserole Recipe
This recipe makes 12 servings.
Thyme-Roasted Sweet Potatoes Recipe
This recipe makes six to eight servings.
Sweet potatoes are truly a tasty treat for your health
Sweet potatoes are great for any age, even for infants who are just starting to eat solid foods. Try pureeing them with mashed avocado or cooked carrots and peas to make homemade baby food. Despite their sweet flavor, sweet potatoes are also good for diabetics, as they have a low glycemic index.
One additional tip: Eat sweet potatoes with a small amount of fat, like grass fed butter or coconut oil. Since the beta-carotene sweet potatoes contain is fat-soluble, the added healthy fat will help the beta-carotene to be absorbed well by your body.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about cooking sweet potatoes
Q. How should you cook sweet potato for your baby?
Q. Are yams sweet potatoes?
A. No, yams are not the same as sweet potatoes. They come from different plant families. In U.S. grocery stores, however, “soft” sweet potatoes are sometimes called yams.
Q. Are sweet potatoes healthy?
A. Yes, they are. They contain potassium, protein, vitamins C and A, sodium, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.
Source: mercola rss