Does “being healthy” feel like a daunting task? Like everything “good” is off limits and a really good diet is pretty boring? I thought like this for a long time too…but I'm happy to say it's not the case ;-)
Eating healthy is fun! I'm being serious here…there are hundreds of different healthy foods that taste amazing and give you tons of energy…I cannot wait to share them with you! That's why I created“ The Secret Foods” blog series which will be dedicated to the most amazing foods on the planet (in no particular order), What they are, Why they are important, and How to enjoy them… Here goes…
Top 10 AMAZING goods you need on your plate TODAY
#7 of 10 Sweet Potatoes
What they are…
Sweet potatoes are root vegetables. Unlike regular potatoes, sweet potatoes do not belong to the nightshade family. Interestingly, they belong in the morning glory plant family. Sweet potatoes origin from Central/South America. The flavor of sweet potatoes is just like their name explains, sweet! There are tons of varieties of sweet potatoes, around 200 commonly eaten species worldwide! Depending on the variety of the sweet potato, the skin and flesh differ from white, cream, yellow, orange, pink, or deep purple. White/cream and yellow-orange flesh are the most common. Sometimes the shape will look similar to a potato, being short and blocky with rounded ends, while other times be longer with tapered ends. Sweet potatoes can be found year-round, however are in peak season in November and December
Why they’re important…
Not only are sweet potatoes delicious, they are extra nutritious. Sweet potatoes are an excellent carbohydrate source pre, or post exercise. They are also a super source of vitamin A, provide good amounts of vitamin C and can help fight inflammation.
Top 5 Health Benefits…
1. Packed with Vitamin A: Similar to our other secret food, pumpkin, sweet potatoes are packed with Vitamin A. One sweet potato contains up to 100% of your daily vitamin A intake. Vitamin A is super important in helping the skin and mucus membranes effectively repel bacteria and viruses. Additionally, vitamin A is critical in maintaining healthy eyesight.
2. Vitamin C power: Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, this guy naturally fights against oxidative stress and free radicals. (Athletes tend to have increased oxidative stress and free radicals, so vitamin C is extra important for you!) While vitamin C may not actually prevent your next cold, it has however, been found to shorten the duration. Plus, vitamin C aids in muscle recovery.
3. Anti-Inflammatory Nutrients. The color related pigments in sweet potatoes are valuable for their anti-inflammatory health benefits. Having these post exercise is a great way to rebound between practices.
4. Healthy carbohydrates! It is true, you do need carbohydrates to fuel your workouts. Sweet potatoes also have a low glycemic index, which means the carbohydrates are digested and absorbed gradually. The carbohydrate is acting like an IV of energy to your muscles, providing sustained energy for long workouts.
5. Keeps you full. Sweet potatoes are a full of fiber, who slows food down as it goes through your body. Eating these can help keep you full for a few hours. Fiber makes sweet potatoes is a great addition to your breakfast and to fuel up if you know you’ll be having a long day.
How to Enjoy it...
When finding the perfect sweet tater, look for one that is frim without and cracks, bruises or soft spots. Sweet potatoes should be stored in cool, dark well-ventilated places. They’ll keep fresh for more than 2 weeks. Ideally, do not keep in the refrigerator. A good place would be in a brown paper bag, punched with holes in a well-ventilated cupboard.
Ways to Eat them!....
Sweet potatoes can be easy to prepare, whether you’re feeding a large crowd, or shooting for a simple weeknight dinner. Keep the peel on them for extra fiber, just make sure to give it a little scrub with water before you begin prepping them.
Top 5 Ways to Eat them…!
1. Mash them for breakfast! Puree cooked sweet potatoes with bananas, maple syrup and cinnamon. Top with chopped walnuts to help absorb the vitamin A.
2. Make them into “fries”. Cut sweet potato into ½ inch wide sticks. In a large bowl, toss strips of sweet potatoeswith 2Tbsp of olive oil. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper and toss to coat. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 400*F for 15-20 minutes.
3. Chips! A healthy guilty pleasure to snack on, or with a meal. You can find a chip recipe here: https://elevatemynutrition.com/eat-to-peak/prepost-workout-snack/
4. Baked. Simple and delicious. Pierce a sweet potato 5-6 times with a fork. Place in a pre-heated 400*F oven and bake for 45minutes to 1 hour. Baked sweet potatoes are great even when they are cold! They can make a great to-go lunch.
5. Cube them and steam them. Cut sweet potatoes into ½ inch cubes. Fill the bottom of a pot with 2” of water. Bring water to a boil, then add in sweet potatoes. Steamed sweet potatoes could go great with eggs, or seasoned on the side of a healthy protein at dinner.
Lindsay Wexler, RDN, LD
Clinical Dietitian at the University of Nevada, Reno