In my part of the world, we call sweet potatoes yams. I don’t know why. They are not yams, of course. Yams are a starchy vegetable common especially in tropical cuisines. But today I’m thinking about sweet potatoes, a good food we should eat more often and in ways other than mashed with butter and topped with marshmallows. That’s yummy, but it’s not the way you and I should enjoy our sweet potatoes.
Why eat sweet potatoes? Aren’t they awfully high on the glycemic index? They rate at 77 on the 100-point glycemic index. That makes them low among the good starches we have to choose from. Sweet potatoes come in slightly lower than brown rice, for instance, and lower than the white potato.
But the coolest thing about them is their many additional nutrients. They are a low-fat and rich source of vitamins A and E. They’re packed with folate, iron, copper, and calcium too. They are a super food. If you want to be a super human, you have to eat super food.
Though they taste sweeter, they have a lower glycemic value than white potatoes, and so do not so easily trigger an insulin response in diabetics. Because they taste sweet, they offer up a really comforting sweet snack alternative for people who are working to kick sugar from their diets.
They are high in tryptophan, and so good to eat three hours after your evening protein and before bed to help you control food cravings and if you have difficulties with depression. For more on that, read Kathleen DesMaison’s book, Potatoes, not Prozac. I know that advice seems to go counter to idea that carbs should be kept out of the diet in the evenings, but it’s worth experimenting with the evening potato serving just to see how it makes you feel. If it works for you, you’ll know. If not, you’ll know that too.
You’ll need to experiment with sweet potatoes in your cooking. They can be cooked in many of the same ways as the white potato, but their texture is different. So they don’t work as well in gratin dishes, for instance. Or at least, I haven’t had much luck with sweet potato gratins.
I alternate from minimal to intense cooking. Here’s my minimal way to enjoy sweet spuds: I bake up a whole bunch of sweet spuds at one time and then just leave them, in their skins, in the fridge, to be peeled and reheated in the microwave and eaten with a little olive oil and seasoning (curry is great) for an evening snack when I’m hungry. The olive oil helps to lower the insulin response to evening carbs.
As a simple dinner accompaniment, I’ll pre-bake them to just barely tender, then cut them up into big slices that I’ll add alongside a bird or pork loin roast as it’s finishing up. The final heat will caramelize the potato slices just a bit.
You can oven-roast sweet spuds. Cut them into large chunks (keep the chunks in water with a little bit of lemon juice to keep them from browning while you do your cutting), then coat the chunks in a little olive oil and spices (here I would use various peppers and salt and ground cumin), and roast them in a 400 degree F oven on an oiled pan or parchment paper until the chunks are tender and browned around the edges. This won’t take long, maybe 15-30 minutes. You can leave the skins on for this recipe. The skins are good for you and further slow the glycemic response to this great food.
Enjoy your spuds, buds,