Sweet Potato the King of Healthy Carbs
Updated: Apr 16
Sweet Potatoes vs. Yams
Here is a weird story that starts with your mom and ends with the devil: the USDA. First let me say your mom has lied to you for many years (unintentionally, I hope). You know those scrumptious yams topped with lightly roasted marshmallows you’ve been eating for Thanksgiving for as long as you can remember? Turns out they are not yams. They’re actually sweet potatoes labeled as yams. Yup. The yam and sweet potato may look and taste very similar but are in fact not botanically related. A sweet potato is a root and a yam is a tuber (bulb). In a failed attempt to avoid confusion, the USDA made it a requirement that anything labeled “yam” can also be labeled “sweet potato”. Whatever the reason for this decision, a holiday fraud is perpetuated on us all:
“In the United States, firm varieties of sweet potatoes were produced before soft varieties. When soft varieties were first grown commercially, there was a need to differentiate between the two. African slaves had already been calling the ‘soft’ sweet potatoes ‘yams’ because they resembled the yams in Africa. Thus, ‘soft’ sweet potatoes were referred to as ‘yams’ to distinguish them from the ‘firm’ varieties. ” – Library of Congress
Sweet potatoes are white and orange fleshed and can be found at most supermarkets. In the nutritional show down, the sweet potato beats the yam every time. Be on the look out for the harder to find purple fleshed Okinawan sweet potato. In my humble opinion it is awesome. However, if you truly have your heart set on a yam, you’ll need to haul yourself over to an international market and buy one of the 200 varieties from China or Africa.
Sweet potatoes are considered a super-food yet never to be confused with their distant white trash cousins the potato. Unlike the White, Red, Russet, Yellow and Fingerling potato, the classic sweet potato is very healthy and makes an excellent addition to anyone’s diet. It is jam-packed with good stuff yet contains very little insulin raising sugar. One average sized sweet potato packs this nutritional punch:
6 grams of fiber (almost a quarter of your daily need)
4 grams of protein (a lot for a veggie!)
700% RDA of Vitamin A (so much beta carotene it makes carrots jealous)
60% RDA of Vitamin C
7% RDA of Calcium
7% RDA of Iron
25% RDA of Potassium
16% RDA of B6
9% RDA of Copper
Equal to 2.5 servings of vegetables
The non-profit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) lists the sweet potato as the #1 best food to eat. Lead nutritionists at CSPI ranked all vegetables with a number value. Points were given for content of dietary fiber, complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins A and C, iron and calcium. Points were deducted for fat content (especially saturated fat), sodium, cholesterol, added refined sugars and caffeine. The higher the score, the more nutritious the food. With a score of 184, the sweet potato outscored the next highest vegetable by more than 100 points! No matter how bio-valuable these roots are they are not well suited to replace U.S. currency when paying for a hit man:
Sweet potatoes are a low glycemic carbohydrate, meaning they will not spike your insulin and are perfect for a post workout meal. After you train, the body needs to replenish its glycogen stores and shuttle protein into the muscle cells. A complex carbohydrate, like a sweet potato, eaten with a protein will maximize this post workout anabolic window. After you train, muscle growth cannot begin in earnest until you have been properly nourished. Macronutrients like those in sweet potatoes eaten within 75 minutes of training will help support muscle tissue repair and glycogen replenishment. This period of time is so important that it’s been called the post workout “window of opportunity.” During this anabolic window, the metabolic machinery in your body is primed and ready to suck up the nutrients needed to build lean muscle mass. FYI: Steaming a sweet potato will result in lower sugar content and higher antioxidants compared to boiling or baking.
Doug’s Roasted Sweet Potato Post Workout Recipe: 1. Turn your oven on to 425 degrees and search for a clean cookie sheet/pan. Don’t use a microwave.
2. Wash and cut 1 medium or large sized sweet potato depending on your hunger into 1/4 inch cubes (or whatever shape you’d prefer…although the bigger the size, the longer cooking time). If you are using a non-organic variety it may be a good idea to get the peeler out, although conventional sweet potatoes have low pesticide residues. Personally, I don’t like to peel the potato and waste all the good nutrients in the skin. 3. Place on pan and spread about 1 to 2 Tbs of organic extra virgin coconut oil (high in healthy MCT fats) on top of the the cubes with a few pinches of cinnamon and unrefined sea salt (or not).
4. Cook for about 8-10 minutes and turn the cubes with a spatula, pair of kitchen tongs or if your gangster use your bare hands. Cook for another 8-10 minutes. I know they are done when they are starting to brown. Some people like them slightly black and crispy. It’s up to you.
5. Take out of the oven and let cool for a few minutes or you will burn your mouth. 6. Serve with a your favorite post workout protein i.e organic chicken breast, grass-fed organic beef patty, broiled fish, organic cottage cheese, full-fat grass-fed plain yogurt, low sugar protein shake or do my favorite and top the mound of potatoes with some pasture raised eggs. 7. I love hot sauce. If you do too, this might be a good point to get some out of the pantry and judiciously spread over the dish.
Doug Joachim – NYC Personal Trainer