Sweet potatoes aren’t just an alternative to your regular old spud – they’re a force of their own. Packed with impressive nutrients and boasting a subtle sweetness that pairs perfectly with all manner of flavours – from savoury to dessert – there’s a lot to love about sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes are loaded with essential vitamins and minerals, and are an excellent source of vitamin A, particularly in the form of beta-carotene, which gives them their vibrant orange colour. You’ll also find fibre and vitamin C in these humble veggies.
Vitamin A (Beta-Carotene): Sweet potatoes are renowned for their high vitamin A content, primarily in the form of beta-carotene. Vitamin A is essential for maintaining healthy vision, particularly in low light conditions, and it supports the immune system, skin health, and cell growth.
Vitamin C: Sweet potatoes provide a significant amount of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that supports immune function, aids wound healing, and promotes collagen synthesis, crucial for skin health.
Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 is involved in various enzymatic reactions in the body, including those related to metabolism, nervous system function, and brain development. It also plays a role in mood regulation.
Potassium: Sweet potatoes are a good source of potassium, an electrolyte that helps regulate fluid balance, muscle contractions, and nerve signals. Adequate potassium intake is important for heart health and maintaining healthy blood pressure levels.
Manganese: Manganese is a trace mineral that supports bone health, metabolism, and antioxidant defence. It's also involved in the formation of connective tissues and the efficient use of nutrients.
Sweet Potatoes Are Fibre Powerhouses
Sweet potatoes are a great source of dietary fibre, which is beneficial for digestive health, as it supports regular bowel movements, helps prevent constipation and contributes to a feeling of fullness after meals. Consuming fibre-rich foods like sweet potatoes can also help stabilise blood sugar levels and promote heart health. Where’s the downside?
Sweet potatoes contain both soluble and insoluble fibre, each offering unique health advantages.
- Soluble Fibre: This type of fibre dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract. It helps slow down digestion and the absorption of nutrients, contributing to a steadier release of energy and improved blood sugar control. Soluble fibre also acts as a prebiotic, nourishing beneficial gut bacteria and supporting gut health.
- Insoluble Fibre: This type of fibre does not dissolve in water and adds bulk to stool, aiding in regular bowel movements and preventing constipation. Insoluble fibre also promotes a feeling of fullness, which can assist in weight management.
But put the peeler down! If you’re looking to make the most of sweet potatoes' fibre content, it's best to consume them with their skins, as the skin contains a significant portion of the dietary fibre. Roasting, baking, or steaming sweet potatoes with the skin intact preserves their fibre content.
Sweet potatoes are packed with antioxidants, including vitamin C and beta-carotene, which have powerful free-radical scavenging properties – this means they fight off the bad guys before they leave us with chronic inflammation. Antioxidants help protect your cells from oxidative stress and may reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, certain cancers, and age-related eye conditions. In addition to beta-carotene and vitamin C, sweet potatoes contain other antioxidants like anthocyanins (responsible for the purple variety), quercetin, and chlorogenic acid. These antioxidants have been studied for their potential anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and heart-protective effects.
To maximise the antioxidant content of sweet potatoes, it's best to cook them in ways that preserve their nutrients. Baking, steaming, or roasting sweet potatoes with minimal processing is recommended.
Keen to enjoy the benefits of sweet potato? Try this delicious recipe!
Burnt Butter + Sage Sweet Potato Gnocchi
This dish combines the earthy sweetness of sweet potatoes with the rich flavours of burnt butter and sage, creating a comforting and delightful meal.
For the Gnocchi:
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
For the Burnt Butter and Sage Sauce:
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- Fresh sage leaves
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Making the Gnocchi:
- Boil the sweet potato cubes in a pot of water until fork-tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain and let them cool slightly.
- Mash the cooked sweet potatoes until smooth using a potato masher or fork.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the mashed sweet potatoes, flour, salt, and nutmeg (if using). Mix until a dough forms.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead gently until it comes together.
- Divide the dough into smaller portions and roll each portion into a long rope, about 1/2 inch in diameter.
- Cut the ropes into bite-sized pieces to form the gnocchi. You can press each piece with the tines of a fork to create ridges if desired.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a gentle boil. Drop the gnocchi into the boiling water and cook until they float to the surface, about 2-3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Making the Burnt Butter and Sage Sauce:
- In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Allow the butter to continue cooking until it turns golden brown and develops a nutty aroma. Keep a close watch to avoid burning the butter.
- Add the fresh sage leaves to the skillet and let them sizzle for a minute until they become crispy. Use a slotted spoon to remove them and set aside.
- Add the cooked gnocchi to the skillet and sauté for a few minutes to coat them with the browned butter.
- Season the gnocchi with salt and black pepper to taste.
- Serve the gnocchi in individual plates or bowls, garnished with the crispy sage leaves and a generous sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese.
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