Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoesSweet potatoes are similar to regular potatoes with which most people are familiar with. Although sweet potatoes are not consumed as much as regular potatoes, they provide many health benefits and have a rich flavor. They are not only more sweet compared to regular potatoes, but they also contain less calories. Thus, you can consider sweet potatoes to be the better version of regular potatoes with more flavor and less calories.

Description

In the United States, sweet potatoes are popular because they are considered to be part of the Thanksgiving tradition. However, sweet potatoes can also be eaten throughout the year since they serve as a great addition to a wide variety of meals. Sweet potatoes are considered to be some of the most nutritious vegetables around. Many researchers have confirmed that they are a healthier option compared to regular potatoes. Sweet potatoes are available all year round, but they are in season in November and December. Whenever people think of potatoes, they often lump all potatoes in one category. However, potatoes can have different tastes, flavors, textures and nutrients. In this regard, sweet potatoes are no exception. Sweet potatoes actually belong to a different food family compared to common potatoes. Many people often confuse sweet potatoes with yams. However, yams are a different vegetable. The distinction between yams and sweet potatoes will be explored later in this article. In total, there are more than 400 different types of potatoes. Sweet potatoes can also vary in texture and taste. The skin and the flesh of the sweet potato can be white, cream, orange, pink, yellow or purple. While purple sweet potatoes are not very common, they are consumed by different populations all over the world. The most common types of sweet  potatoes are those with yellow-orange flesh, or those with white or cream flesh. In many cases, the root vegetable is shaped like a regular potato. However, it can also take on a different shape and have tapered ends. The intensity of the color of the flesh is related to the beta-carotene content. Carotene is also present in carrots and gives carrots its bright orange color. Sweet potatoes which have purple flesh are a great source of anthocyanins. Also, these purple potatoes are known for their antioxidant properties. In one study, the antioxidant content in purple potatoes turned out to be 3 times higher compared to that of a blueberry. It is not just the potatoes itself which have been proven to provide health benefits. The leaves of the sweet potato have been shown to provide important antioxidant benefits. It is for this reason that the leaves are consumed as well. The leaves also have a rich flavor and are therefore often added to soups in various cuisines. Generally, sweet potatoes can be grouped in two different categories. The distinction is based on their texture when they are cooked. While some are firm and dry, others are soft and moist. Both types of sweet potatoes have a sweet and starchy tastes. The taste of the potato is, however, dependent on the type of sweet potato.

History

Sweet potatoes have their origins in Central and South America. They are considered to be one of the oldest vegetables known to man. While it is not clear when sweet potatoes were first consumed, it is estimated that this goes back to prehistoric times. The evidence for this finding is the fact that sweet potato relics date back to over 10,000 years, when they were discovered in Peruvian caves. It is said that Christopher Columbus was the first person to bring sweet potatoes to Europe after he had been travelling to the New World in 1492. In the 16th century, sweet potatoes were introduced in various parts of the world. For example, Spanish explorers brought sweet potatoes to the Philippines. The Portuguese also played a role in introducing sweet potatoes in parts of the world. They have introduced sweet potatoes in Indonesia, India and different parts of Africa. Around the 16th century was also the time when sweet potatoes were first being cultivated in the southern parts of the United States. In these parts of the United States, sweet potatoes are still considered to be a staple food and are seen as part of the traditional cuisine. On a global scale, more than 80 million tons of sweet potatoes are produced. China is considered to be one of the largest producers of sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are also produced in Africa, Central and South America. The production of sweet potatoes in the United States mainly happens in North Carolina.

Difference between sweet potatoes and yams

Many people confuse sweet potatoes with yams. While they might look like each other, they are two completely different good and they belong to different plant families as well. Especially in the United States, many people struggle to distinguish between the two. Yams are actually not very common in the United States since most people prefer sweet potatoes. The confusion about the two vegetables exists for two reasons. Firstly, the two vegetables look very similar to each other. When you are in a store where they sell both products you will notice that the two are alike in size, flesh color and skin color. The second reason why many people struggle to distinguish the two is because the terms are being used interchangeably on labeling. Various government agencies have allowed the interchangeable use of the two terms. Supermarkets therefore might often not have the right signs up. Thus, there are a few ways how you will be able to distinguish whether you are buying sweet potatoes or yams. If you are buying your vegetables from a supermarket, you can assume that you are purchasing  a sweet potato even if the sigh says otherwise. This is due to the fact that yams are rarely commercially grown thus it will be more likely that you are buying sweet potatoes. While you might hope that the flesh color will help you to distinguish between the two, this is unfortunately not the case. Both yams and sweet potatoes come in a variety of colors thus flesh color will not be helpful in distinguishing between the two. If you are looking for yams specifically, it is worth paying a visit to an internationally focused store. They often have a range of vegetables which regular supermarkets do not sell. Interestingly, the term “yam” is derived from the West African term “nyami” which means “to eat”. This term was traditionally used to refer to yams. Unlike potatoes, yams  have the potential of becoming a large size vegetable. Also, yams belong to the Dioscoreaceae family, which are characterized by having one embryonic seed leaf. Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, belong to the Convolvulacea family and are characterized for having two embryonic seed leaves. Thus, this implies that the two root vegetables are not related even though many people use the terms interchangeably.


Health benefits

Sweet potatoes provide various health benefits. One of the benefits of sweet potatoes is the fact that they can enhance your skin. This is due to the high content of beta-carotene present in the vegetable. Beta-carotene helps to convert vitamin A in your body. This is turn triggers DNA which is responsible for producing new skin cells. Thus, as your body makes new cells, your old skin is sloughed off. This eventually leads to the fact that you will have a vibrant sheen which is more resistant to damage and chemicals. Various scientist have also said that beta-carotene can help to reverse radical damage. This radical damage could lead to wrinkles if not treated. Thus, if you want to keep your skin glowing and healthy, it is worth considering using sweet potato products in order to help keep your skin hydrated. A suggestion for a face mask would be to make a paste out of half a cup of boiled sweet potatoes. Add a tablespoon of coffee grounds to the potatoes and one tablespoon of kefir. Use the scrub when you are in the shower and once you have rinsed your face, follow up with a coconut oil moisturizer. Another interesting health benefit of sweet potatoes is the fact that they can help to regulate blood sugar despite their high sugar content. Various studies have verified that extracts of sweet  potatoes can increase the blood levels of adiponectin. This element is a protein which is normally produced by fat cells. This specific protein helps to regulate the way your body metabolizes insulin. Also, it can lower insulin levels when needed.

Studies on sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes have become more popular over the last couple of years due to the positive results of studies. One study explores the influence of various heat processing methods for sweet potatoes. The study found that baking, boiling or steaming sweet potatoes actually releases beta-carotene. It was said that this is most likely caused by the disruption in the microstructure of the tissue of the vegetable. Other studies found that extracts of sweet potato can have an anti-obesity and anti-inflammatory potential. This could in turn reduce inflammation in the brain tissue and nerve tissue throughout the body.  Another study which was conducted on sweet potatoes explored the role of the vegetable in preventing or treating cancer. The study showed that cancerous colorectal tumors multiply in the presence of substances such as pyridine and dimethylhyadrazine. However, multiplication of these substances were inhibited when the purple sweet potato was introduced. This clearly demonstrated that the purple sweet potato has the ability to reduce colorectal carcinogens.

How to select and store

As mentioned, sweet potatoes can often be found in regular supermarkets. Even though many signs in the supermarket will say that the vegetable might be a yam, you can assume that you are purchasing a sweet potato since yams are not usually commercially produced. There are a few things you should pay attention to when buying sweet potatoes. When choosing your potatoes, make sure that they are firm and that they do not have any soft spots of bruises. You might also find that sweet potatoes are offered in the refrigerated section of the supermarket. It is not recommended to  purchase these since the cold often negatively affects the vegetable. Instead, it is recommended to buy individual potatoes and prepare them at home. Also, if possible, choose those sweet potatoes which are organically grown. In this way you will be guaranteed that the vegetables have not been exposed to pesticides or heavy metals. When storing sweet potatoes, make sure to store them in a cool and dry place. If you store them properly, they will usually last up to ten days. If possible, store them in a dry place under the temperature of 15 degrees since this is considered to be the ideal temperature for root vegetables. Also, it is not recommended to store the potatoes in a plastic bag. Instead, make sure they are loose and are situated in a well-ventilated place.





                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Article written by: SarahAjaoud
Times read: 787x
Added: 30-01-2017 01:23
Last modified: 30-03-2017 10:37

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