The Sweetest Carb Whatever Your Goal!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017. Author Martin Cheifetz

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As far as starchy carbs go, sweet potatoes rule.  They’re incredibly versatile, delicious, and very nutrient dense.  They’re a far more nutritious option than a standard white potato, and in our humble opinion, much more interesting to cook with and eat.

Sweet potatoes are NOT the same thing as yams.  They are completely different plants so it's wise to check before you buy.  Sweet potatoes are also only distantly related to regular white potatoes.  While all different plants, they are all tubers, or root vegetables.

Sweet potatoes are most commonly brown on the outside and bright orange on the inside, but depending on the specific variety, the skin may also be purple (with purple or white flesh) or brown with gold flesh.  Like apples, the different skin and flesh colours will have different flavors, textures, and respond differently to a variety of cooking methods.  For the purposes of this article, we’ll discuss the most common variety of sweet potato:  Brown skin and orange flesh.

From a nutritional perspective, the orange flesh holds a vivid, visual clue as to the vitamin content.  Similar to other orange fruits and vegetables, sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, and Vitamins C and A.  In fact, sweet potatoes are one of the richest sources of beta-carotene and Vitamin A you can find.  
 
One cup (about 200 grams) of sweet potato (with the skin) has a whopping 769% of your Daily Value (DV) of Vitamin A, 65% of your DV for Vitamin C,  and 29% of your DV for Vitamin B6.  On the mineral side of the equation, you’ll also get 27% of your DV for potassium and 50% for manganese in that same 200g serving.  Of that delicious, nutritious 200 gram serving, 41g are carbs (of which 7g is dietary fiber) and 4g is protein, and it contains only 180 calories.

Sweet potatoes are one of those curious foods that show up on weight loss diets (because they are nutritionally dense but have a low caloric load and glycemic index), but also appear on muscle building (weight gain) diets because they are high in clean carbs and are excellent carriers for additional healthy fats.

For example, you can make a sweet potato mash that consists of nothing other than boiled, mashed sweet potato (perhaps adding a little salt, pepper or nutmeg to taste) and serve that with a piece of fish and some steamed spinach or broccoli and you have an incredibly simple, nutritious, and delicious meal that will happily fit into most calorie controlled diets, including our own Genetically Tailored Fat Loss Plan.  On the other hand, you can “beef up” that sweet potato mash by adding a good dose of extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil, plus chia seeds, ground almonds, ground linseeds (or any kind of ground nut or seed) and you can greatly enhance the protein and fat content of the dish (as well as the caloric load).  This nut, seed, and coconut oil mash is also a great, hot breakfast food  (instead of a more traditional oatmeal), so make a big batch as it may also be perfect for your FitnessGenes Genetically Tailored Muscle Building Plan.

This type of versatility is a hallmark of the humble sweet potato and you can find all sorts of ways to substitute them for less nutritious carbs throughout the day: from morning’s “toast replacements” to evening’s decadent desserts like “flourless chocolate cakes”.  

From our own genetic test kitchen, this week Chef Leilah has prepared Spicy Sweet Potato Burgers which are a delicious, nutritious, crowd pleaser, and we’d highly advise making a big batch.  They make a great meal, but are also a really tasty, wholesome, easily portable meals/snacks when you’re on the run!

As you will have surmised by now, sweet potatoes have a wide variety of potential health benefits depending on your genetic profile:

Antioxidants 

Sweet potatoes are loaded with beta carotene and Vitamin A (retinol).  You’ll have probably noticed that most “youth promoting” skin care products contain high levels of retinol due to its antioxidant properties.  Vitamins A, C and E have numerous other benefits for the body, including improved ocular health and strengthening of the immune system.

Anti inflammatory

Low sodium levels and high choline and potassium content can help lower blood pressure and the high carotenoid content has even been shown to help shrink cancer cells in bowel and prostate patients.  

Blood sugar regulation

Sweet Potato’s low glycemic index and high fiber content can help regulate blood sugar, even in people who already suffer from diabetes.  The high fibre content (predominantly the easier to digest soluble type) are also helpful to promote digestive regularity.

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