Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sweet Potato or Yam?

Actual sweet potatoes on the left, African yams on the right.
Sweets or Yams? Most of us think that the dryer, lighter fleshed tuber is a sweet potato, while the orange fleshed variety is a yam. But actually, both are sweet potatoes, botanically. This is important to know, because the two; yams vs. sweet potatoes have distinctly different nutritional benefits. The tubers we normally see in the grocery store or farmers markets here in the US are almost always Sweets. Often grocers refer to the light skinned ones as Sweets, and the orange fleshed ones, in the image at left, as yams. True yams are grown in Africa as a staple, and are rarely seen in grocery stores domestically. (For comparison, see the image above of the African yam. The true yam is rough skinned, and can grow to an astounding 150 pounds. Sweets are smooth skinned and certainly aren't known for rivaling livestock in weigh-ins. All Sweets, whether light fleshed or orange fleshed, are morning glory relatives. Though different in colors, the sweets share similar nutritional value and health benefits because they are all genetically similar. Though shockingly low-calorie considering their filling attributes, the sweet potato has a reputation among health food lovers as being among the most densely nutritious veggie available.

Sweet potatoes are packed with vitamin A; one medium sized tuber has nearly eight times an adult's needs. Additionally, the sweet contains considerable amounts of anti-inflammatory compounds which can be very important to people with IBS, arthritis, gout and other inflammation-related diseases and the tuber also has a very low glycemic index which is thought to be a benefit for those dealing with diabetes.

If they weren't so darn good, maybe we could see not adding them to our diets on a regular basis, but happily, these gems are quite tasty, and deserve to be grown and served more frequently than during the winter holidays!

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