Monday, October 5, 2009

Prudently Pick Your Potato

When it comes to potatoes, not every one is created equal. Sweet potatoes by far outshine regular potatoes when it comes to your health. In fact, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), those orange, candy-like potatoes rank #1 among all other vegetables.

One of the main differences between sweet and regular potatoes is that sweet potatoes have a low glycemic index rating. This means that they are digested slowly, allowing blood sugar to rise at a gradual rate. This makes the consumer feel fuller for a longer period of time. Potatoes on the other hand have a high glycemic rating, causing the blood sugar to spike upon eating them. High glycemic foods can be taxing on the body, whereas low glycemic foods help maintain steady energy levels. Low glycemic index foods promote weight loss, a decreased sensitivity to insulin, a decrased risk of heart disease, and lower cholestorol levels.

Sweet potatoes are about twice as high in dietary fiber as a typical Russet white potato. So although they seem very sweet and sugary, the fiber slows the release of the sugar preventing any harmful spike in blood sugar.

Both types of potatoes contain substantial amounts of nutrients. However, sweet potatoes are more concentrated with antioxidants, such as vitamin A containing twice the daily recommendation of the vitamin. They also have plenty of vitamin C, manganese, iron, vitamin B6, and potassium. Both the vitamin A & C within sweet potatoes help to get rid of cancerous free radical molecules which damage cells and cell membranes.

Another distinct difference is regular potatoes are part of the nightshade family. Vegetables that fall under the nightshade family, which include green peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes, are often associated with triggering arthritis flare-ups. Nightshades also contain alkaloids of which can trigger allergy-like symptoms. For those with arthritis, many nutrtionist recommend staying away from nightshade vegetables all together, making sweet potatoes a better choice.

Regular potatoes are also often prepared in ways that contain a lot of fat and calories, such as greasy french fries, buttery mashed potatoes, mayonnaise-y potato salad, and addictive potato chips. While all of these are certainly tasty, they pretty much all contain a lot of fat and salt, making it an addictive combination which can often lead to overeating. If you are going to eat regular potatoes, make it simple by steaming them and adding a little olive oil, S&P.

Sweet potatoes are extremely easy to prepare considering they just taste naturally delicious. Simply wrap a sweet potato in aluminum foil, and bake at 375 degrees for 45-60 minutes. Once the potato is soft enough to mash, remove from the oven. Add a little salt and maybe a dab of butter or drizzle of olive oil and enjoy. I can eat sweet potatoes like this for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And make extra because they're even good left over without even having to heat them up. However, to reheat them, simply nuke them in the microwave for a minute or so.

You can also chop sweet potatoes into cubes, place them on an aluminum lined baking sheet, and top them with a little cinammon and maple syrup and let them caramelize in the oven.

Or to make savory sweet potato fries, check out this recipe from Women's Health magazine:
Spicy Sweet Potato Sticks
Peel 1 sweet potato and cut lengthwise into 3 or 4 pieces, then cut each piece lengthwise into finger-size slices. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a bowl and toss with potato to coat. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and 1 tablespoon chili powder blend, paprika, or chipotle steak seasoning. Toss again to coat. Spread potato sticks evenly on a baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes, turning them once halfway through. Makes 1 serving.

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