Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sweet Potatoes: Good and Great for You

As some of you may know, sweet potatoes are one of my favorite ingredients. Here's some useful information, courtesy of the New Orleans Times Picayune:

By Judy Walker
November 06, 2009, 2:30PM

Thanksgiving turns the spotlight on sweet potatoes, but they're good for you all year long, according to a new press release from LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames.

The Louisiana yam is an exceptional type of sweet potato sweet and flavorful, with a soft, moist flesh, Reames says. "Not only are yams delicious, they are a perfect choice for the health-conscious. They add valuable nutrients and color to any meal and can be enjoyed all year.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Research Service, sweet potatoes are often called a “nutritional powerhouse” because they are very high in beta-carotene. The deep orange color of the sweet potato indicates it is rich in carotene, which becomes vitamin A inside the body. Vitamin A is needed for normal growth, development, reproduction, a healthy immune system and vision. One medium-size baked sweet potato provides about twice the recommended daily amount of vitamin A.

Sweet potatoes are a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B-6, potassium and vitamin C when they’re baked in the skin, Reames says. They are low in sodium, fat and saturated fat. One medium-size baked sweet potato has only 103 calories.

When buying yams, choose well-shaped, firm potatoes with smooth, bright, uniformly colored skins. Avoid those with skin penetrated by holes or cuts, which cause decay.

In case you purchase sweet potatoes at a farmers market, Reams warns that freshly dug potatoes are uncured. They are good boiled, mashed, candied, fried and in many cooked dishes, but uncured potatoes do not bake successfully. They must be cured several weeks before they are ready for baking, stored in a cool, dry place where the temperature is about 55 or 60 degrees. Do not store them in the refrigerator. Chilling the vegetable will give it a hard core and an undesirable taste when it’s cooked.

Ideally, fresh sweet potatoes should be cooked within a week or two of being purchased, but may be stored for up to one month.

“Well-matured, carefully handled and properly cured potatoes will keep for several months if the temperature and storage conditions are ideal,” Reames says. “This usually is not possible, however, and potatoes spoil easily. You might wish to cook and freeze them to maintain their high quality.”

Some useful tips on cooking sweet potatoes here.

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