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Seasonal Eats: Everything You Need To Know About Sweet Potatoes, From A Dietitian

Did you know sweet potatoes are in peak season right now? So it’s a great time to take advantage of your local farmer’s market and stock up!

“Sweet potatoes last for 3-5 weeks in a dark, dry place (like your pantry), they are they sturdy and resilient, and they are nutrition powerhouses. Simply put, they help YOU be sturdy and resilient with the change in seasons,” says Emily Haddock, a Nashville-based registered dietitian with a private practice, Music City Nutrition & Wellness, PLLC.

Particularly rich in vitamin A, sweet potatoes specifically offer the micronutrient in a form known as beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is a potent antioxidant, meaning it protects our cells from environmental toxins. Several studies have shown some protective benefits of beta-carotene against certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, and macular degeneration.

In addition to vitamin A, sweet potatoes also have a good dose of vitamin C, which has its own antioxidant-like properties. Vitamin C affects so many aspects of the body, especially the immune system. It’s important in fighting off long-term chronic issues like cancer and heart disease, as well as everyday illnesses, like the common-cold. Plus, the bioavailability of vitamin C from good food sources like sweet potatoes is far superior to supplements or “mega doses.”

The macronutrient profile (carbs, fats, and proteins) of a sweet potato is also just as robust as the micronutrient profile.

A typical medium sweet potato (with the skin) has about 5 grams of fiber and 3 to 4 grams of protein. This may sound low, but for a vegetable source this is an awesome yield! For comparison’s sake, two cups of spinach has about 1/4 the amount of fiber and 1/2 the amount of protein as a sweet potato.

Yes, sweet potatoes are a concentrated source of carbohydrates, but due to the fiber and protein amounts they are what we as dietitians call “complex carbohydrates” or “quality carbohydrates.”

For those that have blood sugar issues, this would be the type of carbohydrate to eat more of in replacement of low-nutrient carbohydrates such as crackers, chips, and white bread. The fiber and protein in the potato help to steady your blood sugar curve by slowing down the digestion process and assist in keeping you full for longer.

Now that you’re sold on the superiority of the sweet potato, let’s talk recipes

One of my favorite ways to enjoy this fall tuber is a twice baked sweet potato. A filling and nutrient-dense dish that has the capability to be very versatile in flavor profile with a few adjustments. The egg and cheese in this recipe increase protein and fat to help satisfy you for hours. Just add a simple side salad to complete the meal. Check out three of my favorite ways to twice-bake your sweet potatoes below!

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes, Three Ways:

Mascarpone & butter:

Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 400 F. Place sweet potatoes on a baking tray and bake for 1 hour. 
  • Take out and let potatoes cool for 10-15 minutes (until able to touch them with your hands).
  • Scoop out the centers of potatoes into a large bowl, leave a little of the potato flesh inside the skin so that they do not tear and have some stability. 
  • Mash sweet potato flesh with a fork.
  • Add eggs and whisk into sweet potato mixture. 
  • Add other ingredients and mix.
  • Can leave mixture as is, fill skins, and bake at 400 F for another 20 minutes, or divide into three and try out the alternatives below!

Rosemary, honey, & pecan:

  • 1 tbsp of fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2 tbsp of roasted pecans, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp of honey

Instructions:

  • Fold ingredients into sweet potato mixture. 
  • Fill two potato halves. 
  • Top with a little more chopped rosemary and a few pecans. 
  • Bake.

Garlic, thyme, & pecorino:

Instructions:

  • Fold ingredients into mixture. 
  • Fill two potato halves. 
  • Top with an extra sprinkle of thyme and Pecorino. 
  • Bake.

Emily Haddock is a Nashville-based registered dietitian with a private practice, Music City Nutrition & Wellness, PLLC. She uses a non-diet approach to health with a focus on gut-health. For more information or to schedule an appointment click here.

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