Sweet Potatoes A Nutrition Superstar

by Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN on January 11, 2018 · 1 comment

It has been estimated that 25% of Americans fall short on their daily vitamin A intake. The best sources come from animal products – liver, cod liver oil, milk, butter and eggs – but fruits and vegetables that contain carotenoids are also a valuable source.
Carotenoids are a form of provitamin A which gives sweet potatoes their vibrant orange color. Your body converts carotenoids to vitamin A as needed. Of the approximate 600 carotenoids found in nature, the one that your body changes most efficiently to active vitamin A is beta-carotene. A medium sweet potato can provide twice the amount of beta-carotene needed to meet your daily recommendation for vitamin A. The additional carotenoids which are not converted to active vitamin A enhance your immune system and decrease your risk of heart disease, age-related macular degeneration, and cataract formation.
Cooking actually breaks down chemical bonds naturally found in sweet potatoes, releasing more carotenoids and making them easier to absorb. In a study published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology, researchers found that close to 95% of carotenoids in sweet potatoes were still active after baking, 90% after boiling, and 85% after frying. Few vitamins have that retention rate after being subjected to the heat of cooking.
In addition to serving candied sweet potatoes during the holidays, here is a list of versatile ways to enjoy this nutrition powerhouse year round.
Cut sweet potatoes into wedges, drizzle with olive oil and garlic and roast until soft.
Shred raw sweet potatoes, add chopped garlic and onions and fry in oil to make sweet potato hash browns.
Mash cooked sweet potatoes and try adding minced garlic and butter or sour cream and chopped cilantro.
Steam 1/4–inch sweet potato slices over boiling water for 6 to 10 minutes.
Add to soups or stews in place of white potatoes.
A medium sweet potato will cook in the microwave in 4 to 6 minutes; prick the skin with a fork in a few places before cooking.
Top a baked sweet potato with nuts and cheese.
Shred raw sweet potatoes into slaw or a salad.

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