When we think of sweet potatoes, very often we are reminded of Thanksgiving and a sweet potato casserole with brown sugar, marshmallows and cinnamon that looks something like the picture at right (credit: myrecipes.com). While cinnamon is gaining a good reputation these days for helping control blood sugar, marshmallows and brown sugar continue to remain high-carb villains! Furthermore, the acidity of the two takes away from the natural alkalinity of sweet potatoes. They are also rich in potassium—342 mgs in just one! Indeed, there are much better ways to serve up this delicious tuber and preserve its nutritional value at the same time.
In Sweet Potato Power, author Ashley Tudor gives a thorough account of what she refers to in chapter 2 as "The Story of the Lowly Sweet Potato". It's an informative and entertaining read. She explains the difference between yams and sweet potatoes—there really isn't much—as well as touting its smart carb value. After all, in these days of Paleo, low-carb and low-glycemic load diets, potatoes are on the do-not-ingest list, though we now have an exception.
As it turns out, sweet potatoes do not have the high starch content of regular potatoes. What they do have is fiber—more than a serving of oatmeal. They also have anti-inflammatory properties. Chapter 5 is devoted to the very common health condition known as "chronic inflammation," including the many ways that sweet potatoes can remedy the situation, due to their high amounts of the powerful antioxidant, vitamin E and of bioavailable beta carotene. Not only that, but they actually rank higher in nutritional value than either spinach or broccoli! This book has some wonderful recipes too, like Sweet Potato Frittata, Sweet Potato Slaw, Sweet Potato Bars, and Sweet Potato Gratin Stackers, just to name a few.
All that yumminess aside, this book ties in with a couple of other books that bring up the value of the sweet potato as well. In The Paleo Answer, well-known founder of the "Paleo" movement, Dr. Loren Cordain, says that "sweet potatoes and yams represent a good source of carbohydrates, which are necessary to replenish your muscles' spent glycogen stores." Dr. Cordain even goes on to indicate that "all tubers are net base (alkaline) yielding vegetables." This is, of course, what caught my attention, since I believe keeping our bodies out of the acidic pH range, and more to the alkaline side, is essential to our health and well-being. Actually, this health principle struck me as so crucial to wellness that it led to my creating the Body Rescue Alkalizing Formula, which contains sweet potato flakes, along with other alkalizing nutrients.
The other book that caught my attention as I've continued to research alkalizing foods is called The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner. This author traveled the world to investigate what are referred to as “blue zones”. The common denominator in these blue zones is the longevity factor and how prevalent it is among the populace. People in these geographic areas are living into their 90s—even to 100 or more—and they are in good health, too!
One of the blue zones that Buettner investigated was on Okinawa. The staple of the Okinawan diet for the older generation, as it turns out, is sweet potatoes. Ironically enough, when the Americans set up shop in Okinawa after WWII, they gradually introduced commercial fast food into the dietary culture of the Okinawan people. What’s happening now is that those in their 90s are outliving those in their 50s. The younger generations, who have more commonly consumed the western diet, tend to die of heart disease more frequently than the old timers who are eating sweet potatoes and fresh vegetables instead of burgers & fries. Go figure!
So what to do with sweet potatoes? Here are a couple recipes you can try at home...
Sweet Potato Hash
recipe credit: "The Paleo Solution" by Robb Wolf
image credit: http://www.cookincanuck.com
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup chopped onions
- 1 medium sweet potato or yam, diced into small cubes
- 1/2 chopped green pepper (optional)
- 1 tbsp water
- fresh ground pepper
Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, saute for 2-3 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes and bell peppers and 1 tbsp of water. Cover and cook for 15 minutes or until potatoes are soft. Toss often to prevent burning. Serve, sprinkling with fresh ground pepper.
Sweet Potato Coconut Soup (a simple variation on the above recipe)
The above recipe can easily be made into a delicious coconut/curry soup. Instead of olive oil, I use coconut oil. Once the potatoes are softened, I add a can of coconut milk with about 1/2 tsp of curry powder, or to taste. Let simmer for 10 minutes and thicken with a little coconut flour made into a paste. Or, simply sprinkle in about a half tsp of Xanthum Gum or other thickener of your choice. It's an alkalizing, nutritious, and very filling soup!