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Healthy Eats and Repeat

Highlighting Food, Recipes, and Ideas for a Healthy Lifestyle
Sweet Potato with  cut 1

Sweet on Sweet Potatoes


The color scheme of October might be orange: leaves changing color, pumpkins waiting to be picked for carving, and this orange veggie coming into season – the increasingly popular sweet potato.

Nutrition

One medium fresh sweet potato (about 5 inches long) contains around 100 calories, 25g carbohydrates, 4g fiber, 2g protein, and is a source of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A and potassium. Like many fresh vegetables, sweet potatoes contain little fat or sodium.

Available fresh most of the year, you may also find sweet potatoes canned or in your freezer case.

  • Buy: Look for fresh sweet potatoes that are firm with smooth, uniform skin. Avoid those that are wrinkled, have roots, or have holes or cuts. If choosing canned varieties, look for plain vacuum-packed sweet potatoes or those in lite syrup. For frozen sweet potatoes – often sold as French fries – choose brands with the least fat and sodium.

(While sweet potatoes may be included in other prepared foods, such as soups, snack foods, and desserts, this blog post will not focus on these products.)

  • Price: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, on average, fresh sweet potatoes cost around $0.45 per cup, making them a very economical vegetable. When sold as frozen fries, the cost is around $1.40 per cup.
  • Store: For longest shelf life, store sweet potatoes in a cool, dry place. Avoid refrigerating uncooked sweet potatoes, which changes the texture and taste of the potato.
  • Prepare: Since sweet potatoes are grown in dirt, wash the skin well before use, even if the skin looks clean. Cook as directed in your recipe. The skins are edible, so leave them on for extra fiber. Or peel them off if you like. Diced sweet potatoes tend to cook quicker than white potatoes, so pay attention they do not overcook.

  • Eat: Sweet potatoes are very versatile, and can be prepared in much the same way as white potatoes. Try mashed, cut and baked as fries, baked in the skin, or peeled and diced into a recipe.  Or replace pumpkin for mashed sweet potato in your favorite pumpkin bread recipe!

Reference: Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, Louisiana Sweet Potatoes, 2011.
Reference: US Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Research Service, National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

Sweet potatoes complement a variety of sweet and savory dishes. Try this mild curry recipe on a cool day.

Chicken Peanut Curry (serves 4)

This easy one pot recipe pairs some interesting ingredients together, but makes a yummy, stick-to-your-ribs kind of meal. While seemingly high in fat, this dish has mostly healthy unsaturated fats from the oil and peanut butter.

1 Tbsp canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp curry powder
15-oz can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
1/3 cup smooth or chunky peanut butter
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
2 cups frozen green beans

1. Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Sauté onion in oil 2 or 3 minutes or until onion is translucent.
2. Add chicken and garlic to pot. Cook and stir until chicken pieces are browned on all sides, about 5 minutes.
3. Stir in curry powder, tomatoes, peanut butter, sweet potatoes, and green beans. Continue to stir until peanut butter is incorporated.
4. Reduce heat to a simmer; cover pot. Stirring frequently, cook 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are tender and beans are cooked.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 580 calories, 33g fat, 6g saturated fat, 740mg sodium, 47g carbohydrate, 9g fiber, 26g protein

WEB HIGHLIGHT: Learn more about growing these tubers through University of Illinois Extension's website "Watch Your Garden Grow" for sweet potatoes.

NEWS HIGHLIGHT: Some stores will advertise sweet potatoes as yams. In fact, yams and sweet potatoes are completely different. Learn more about the differences in this UI Extension press release "Yams or Sweet Potatoes?"

TRIVIA HIGHLIGHT: Orange sweet potatoes are commonly sold, but varieties that are light yellow to purple in color do exist. Look in your local farmer's market for fun colors of sweet potatoes.



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