Chefs and foodies have long been aware of the positive qualities of sweet potatoes, but only in recent years have these fantastic and versatile vegetables become more widely valued. Not only does their flavor lend itself to accompanying savoury foods – and not only are they easy to prepare- but the added bonus is the most important of all: they’re healthy.
According to health.com, one baked medium sweet potato contains 438% of your daily value of vitamin A, 37% of vitamin c, and calcium, potassium and iron, all within 105 calories. It’s no surprise that chains such as Bills, Chimichanga and many others are offering sweet potatoes as alternatives to the traditional potato and even if the fried version is not as healthy as a baked counterpart, it makes up for it with flavour and the benefits listed above.
Another reason that sweet potatoes are so popular is that they are equally delicious as part of a savoury main meal and desserts. They can be mashed, cut into needles or wedges, and pureed into soup to name but a few.
Wedges are particularly satisfying; cut them into canoe shapes, toss a little Cajun powder (salt, peppers, chillies, garlic) into the mix, and throw them in the oven on a high heat for a healthy accompaniment to practically any meat and salad combo. The heat, texture and contrast of sweet and spicy is a joy.
‘Normal’ potatoes certainly have their virtues, and contain high values of vitamin C potassium among their many nutritional benefits. Both are packed with fibre which is a great weapon against colorectal cancer and digestive problems, while their high volumes of magnesium are good for blood pressure and healthy bones. As we all know, keeping the skins on (both versions) packs in even more goodness during preparation. But the sweet potato has fewer calories (90 compared to 130), more vitamin A and C, and fewer total carbs than its more mainstream alternative.
The list of options with desserts are equally plentiful. Sweet potato pie, casserole, sweet potato-pecan cupcakes, and cobbler (with apple) are various fantastic options for a third course, and you can find the various recipes here. These are not healthy as they’re likely to be laden with additional sugars. However, there are many other less healthy alternatives to sweet potatoes that could be substituted into the recipe.
There’s also an aesthetic quality to the sweet potato, of golds and oranges and yellows and bronzes, that the plain beige-brown of a normal potato just doesn’t possess. There’s a softer texture that makes it easier to eat for very young children, and therefore it’s a great gateway into eating other healthy, flavoursome vegetables. Sweet potatoes can be prepared beforehand and packed into a lunchbox as a great meal at nursery or school, or just a little snack for break time. Add a little mixed herb or peppers to complete the effect.
No-one should give up on potatoes – they’re unfairly maligned by some – but for a healthier and perhaps more exciting alternative, the sweet potato is the winner.