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Sweet Potatoes: Delicious Power Food

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Wednesday, January 30, 2019 - 7:00am

Amy: Hi, I am Amy Taylor… I’m joined in the studio by Emily Faquin, dietetic intern at Mississippi State University, who currently is in her rotation at the MSU Extension Service. Today, we are going to talk about sweet potatoes and how they can contribute to your overall health.

Amy: Ms. Faquin thank you for joining us today!

Emily: Thank you so much for having me, Amy. It’s great to be here!

Amy: Vardaman, Mississippi is known as the sweet potato capital of the world and is the home of the original sweet potato pie. Many Mississippians are familiar with Sweet Potato Sweets and the delicious pies, cakes, and other treats they make from sweet potatoes. Can you tell us about the health benefits of sweet potatoes?

Emily: Yes! Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamins and nutrients like beta-carotene, potassium, iron, and vitamins C, E, and B6. They are also high in dietary fiber which keeps you full and regulates blood sugar.  

Amy: What is beta-carotene and why is it important?

Emily: So, beta-carotene converts to vitamin A which is important for healthy skin and vision. It is responsible for the yellowish-orange color you see in many vegetables and fruits. Beta-carotene acts as an antioxidant in the body which helps protect cells from damage. Antioxidants can aid in preventing heart disease and cancers, boost your immune system, and slow aging.

Amy: Wow, it sounds like beta-carotene is a very important component of sweet potatoes! So how should you store them?

Emily: They should be stored in a dry, unrefrigerated area. They should last about 3-5 weeks in your pantry. Remember to wash them before cooking and cut off any brown spots.

Amy: Most of the recipes I know for sweet potatoes involve ‘sweetening’ them up even more.  What are some ways we can take advantage of their already sweet nature and prepare them without adding lots of extra sugar or less healthy ingredients?

Emily: Like the name suggests, sweet potatoes can be cooked in ways that bring out the natural sugars and sweetness of the vegetable. To do this in a healthy way, I recommend baking the sweet potatoes in the oven. Then put them in a bowl with a little bit of butter and cinnamon and mix with a hand mixer to get the perfect mashed sweet potato dish. They’re already naturally sweet so adding excess sugar is unnecessary. Sweet potatoes can also have a savory taste, depending on how you cook and season them. I like to cube my sweet potatoes then roast them in the oven with a little bit of olive oil and rosemary for a nice savory side to go with my meal.

Amy: I have one last question for you. What is the difference between a sweet potato and a yam?

Emily: Sweet potatoes and yams are similar in that they are both root vegetables. They have some key differences that set them apart though. For example, yams tend to grow larger than sweet potatoes and have rough, bark-like skin that is difficult to peel. They taste less sweet and more bitter than sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes also have more vitamin C and beta-carotene than yams, but yams are richer in potassium and manganese. You probably won’t see a lot of yams in grocery stores because most varieties are grown in Africa then imported to the US.

Amy: Where can we find more information about sweet potatoes?

Emily: There's a lot of good information through Mississippi State University Extension Services. The website is extension.msstate.edu.

Amy: Thank you so much. Today we've been speaking with Emily Faquin, Mississippi State University Dietetic Intern. I'm Amy Myers, and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day!

Department: Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion

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