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Sweet potatoes add healthy twist to meals
By Brittnie Burton
MSU Ag Communications
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Many people see sweet potatoes as a winter food, but they can be used year-round when incorporated in non-traditional ways to spring dishes.
Stephen Meyers, Mississippi State University Extension sweet potato specialist, said sweet potatoes can be added to most meals by modifying simple recipes.
“Sweet potato pancakes are a popular use for leftover baked or mashed sweet potatoes,” Meyers said. “Sweet potatoes also can be stuffed with lean meats and vegetables for a healthy supper.”
Butter, brown sugar, pecans and marshmallows are traditional Southern toppings for sweet potatoes, but their flavor, fiber and vitamin content can add versatility to baked goods as well as main and side dishes.
Home of the original sweet potato pie, Sweet Potato Sweets in Vardaman has built an entire business around using sweet potatoes in unusual ways. The shop sells sweet potato candies, cookies, cakes, pies, muffins and a variety of other items.
Judy Holder, manager of Sweet Potato Sweets, is currently experimenting with new recipes like a sweet potato and pineapple cake and a sweet potato and blueberry dessert. She is also collaborating with MSU to create a new sweet potato ice cream.
“Our recipes are primarily made up of sweet potatoes, which is one of the healthiest foods you can eat,” Holder said. “We also sell gluten-free desserts.”
Sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber, and they are budget-friendly.
“One medium baked sweet potato can provide consumers with four times their daily required vitamin A and nearly 40 percent of their daily required vitamin C,” Meyers said. “That is a huge nutritional benefit for a vegetable that costs very little to purchase.”
For health-conscious consumers, sweet potatoes have natural sugars and require no additional sweeteners, Meyers said. Sweet potatoes should not be peeled, because their skin is a great source of nutrition.
Their high vitamin A content ranks sweet potatoes as one of the most nutritious vegetables, said Benny Graves, executive director of the Mississippi Sweet Potato Council.
“The high vitamin A content comes from beta-carotene, the part of a sweet potato that is orange colored,” Graves said.
Although sweet potatoes have natural sugars, they are healthier than white potatoes, Graves said. White potatoes are composed of simple carbohydrates that convert quickly to sugar, which causes a sugar rush.
“Sweet potatoes are different because they are made up of complex carbohydrates and digest slowly in your system, so the sugar you receive is released over time,” Graves said.
Sweet potatoes are good for Mississippi’s economy, too. Mississippi is ranked No. 2 in the nation for sweet potato production.
“The sweet potato is the most economically important vegetable in the state of Mississippi,” Meyers said. “It provides the state with more than $130 million in direct and indirect value and contributes an estimate 1,059 full-time equivalent jobs.”
Mississippians work in a variety of sweet potato-related businesses, from restaurants to grocery stores, farm supply companies to machine fabricators, and brokers to truck drivers, Meyers said.
“The sweet potato industry is made up of about 100 family farms that rely on the industry to maintain their livelihood and the economic well-being of their local communities,” Meyers said.
For sweet potato recipes, go to the MSU Extension Service Pinterest board, http://www.pinterest.com/msuextservice.