Sweet potatoes: The taste of health

Sweet potatoes are a powerhouse of nutrients. Time you included them in your diet


Sweet potatoes. Photo: iStock
Sweet potatoes. Photo: iStock

Sweet potatoes have always been relegated to the background, overshadowed by the more common root vegetable, potato. Most of us don’t eat them on a regular basis,which is a pity as there is a lot going for this tuber nutritionally.

Sweet potatoes contain more fibre than potatoes—250g contain about 200 calories and 7.5g of fibre. The same amount of potatoes have 200 calories but only 5g of fibre.

Sweet potatoes are a natural source of beta-carotene (which gets converted into vitamin A in the body)—one medium sweet potato provides the complete recommended daily allowance of vitamin A. It also delivers a good amount of vitamin C— which helps boost immunity—potassium and magnesium, the two essential nutrients for heart health, says Amreen Sheikh, head (dietetics), Wockhardt Hospital, Mumbai. “They are loaded with essential B vitamins—niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5) and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine),” she adds. B5 aids in weight loss, supports healthy hair and skin and helps lower cholesterol, and B6 is important for brain function and development. Niacin improves cholesterol levels, is great for the skin and also for maintaining mobility of the joints.

The tuber has antioxidant properties, which help in preventing oxidative damage by curbing the formation of free radicals that can damage cells. This helps keep lifestyle diseases like cardiac disorders and diabetes at bay, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.

Thai chicken curry with sweet potato. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Thai chicken curry with sweet potato. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

“In fact, beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant that helps ward off cancer and protects against the effects of ageing,” says Sheikh. “In addition, they are rich in anthocyanin, which is an anti-inflammatory pigment that keeps inflammation in the body in check,” she adds.

Both vitamin A and anthocyanins also boost liver function, which in turn helps boost weight loss and keep harmful cholesterol in the body in check, says Dhvani Shah, nutritionist, FIMS (Food Is Medicinal And Supplemental) clinic, Mumbai.

Another benefit of eating sweet potatoes is that they are a constipation-relieving food due to their high-resistant starch (RS) content. “RS functions like soluble, fermentable fibre, which reaches the intestines and helps boost the good bacteria,” Shah explains. Also, sweet potatoes have a low glycemic index and their natural sugars are released slowly into the bloodstream, so they don’t cause sugar spikes. Plus, when you add it to a meal and pair it with some protein, it will help keep you full longer.

Sweet potatoes are a versatile vegetable and the best way to cook them is by steaming or roasting, says Sheikh. But they can also be boiled and puréed. 

Sweet potato tots with creamy ketchup. Photo: Pradeeep Gaur/Mint
Sweet potato tots with creamy ketchup. Photo: Pradeeep Gaur/Mint

Recipes

Sweet Potato Tots with Creamy Ketchup

Ingredients

1 large sweet potato, peeled

1 egg

30g all-purpose flour

N tsp sea salt

N tsp paprika

Ntsp garlic powder

3 cups oil, for deep frying

Creamy ketchup 58g plain Greek yogurt

60g ketchup

Method for the tots

Boil the whole sweet potato and cook for about 15 minutes. You want it to be slightly softened, so that it can be grated. Drain and when cool enough to handle, grate with a cheese grater.

With a fork, combine the shredded potato and egg in a bowl. In another bowl, combine the flour, salt, paprika and garlic powder. Add the flour mixture to the potato and mix.

Heat oil in a deep fryer or in a heavy-bottom pot to 190 degrees Celsius.

Form the potato mixture into 1-inch balls and drop into the hot oil. Do not overcrowd the pot. Fry for 3 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper-towel. Repeat with the remaining batter, allowing the oil to come back to the high temperature between batches.

For the sauce

In a small bowl, combine the yogurt and the ketchup. Serve with the hot tots.

Thai Chicken Curry with Sweet Potato

Ingredients

1 can light coconut milk

2 tbsp red curry paste

2 tsp brown sugar

Kosher salt and pepper

8 small bone-in chicken thighs

1 red pepper

2 small sweet potatoes

1 cup of frozen peas

1 tsp lime zest

3 tbsp lime juice

1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce

Fresh basil, chopped

Method

In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, whisk together the coconut milk, curry paste, brown sugar, and 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper. Add the chicken and red pepper and toss to combine.

Scatter the sweet potatoes over the top, cover and cook until the chicken is cooked through, 5-6 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high.

Remove and discard the bones from the chicken. Gently fold in the peas, lime zest and juice and soy sauce and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Cut the sweet potatoes into smaller pieces.

Serve the chicken curry with sweet potato with rice and sprinkle with basil, if desired.

By Rahis Khan, executive chef, The Metropolitan Hotel & Spa, Delhi. 

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