Sweet Potatoes: Natural Weight-Loss Foods

In some homes in the United States, sweet potatoes are only served at Thanksgiving, even though they are available year-round. Too bad. Sweet potatoes are one of the unsung heroes of a fat-fighting diet. For a reasonable number of calories, you get a load of nutrients.

Sweet potatoes contain carotenoids that appear to help stabilize blood sugar levels and lower insulin resistance, making cells more responsive to insulin. This can ultimately help with your weight-loss efforts.


Health Benefits

This starchy vegetable has bulk to keep your tummy full for hours. Yet its nutritional profile makes the calories worth it, especially since they are fat free. Its fiber alone is enough to make a sweet potato worth eating.

If a beta-carotene contest were held, sweet potatoes would tie carrots for first place. That may make them top-notch for fighting chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease, as well as disease related to inflammation, such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Sweet potatoes are also rich in potassium and vitamin C; a small potato provides almost half the daily allowance.


Selection and Storage

Though often called a yam, a sweet potato is a different vegetable. True yams can only be found at ethnic markets. The sweet potatoes in supermarkets are either the moist, orange-fleshed type or the dry, yellow-fleshed variety that resemble baking potatoes in texture. The orange variety has a thicker, more colorful skin, with bright orange flesh. It is much sweeter and moister than other varieties.

Look for potatoes that are small to medium in size, with smooth, unbruised skin. Avoid any with a white stringy "beard," a sure sign the potato is overmature and probably tough. Though sweet potatoes look hardy, they're actually quite fragile and spoil easily. Any cut or bruise on the surface quickly spreads, ruining the whole potato. Do not refrigerate them; it speeds up the deterioration.


Preparation and Serving Tips

To cook sweet potatoes, boil unpeeled. Leaving the peel intact prevents excessive loss of precious nutrients and "locks" in its natural sweetness. The dry, yellow variety can be used in just about any recipe that calls for white potatoes. The darker, sweeter varieties are typically served at Thanksgiving. Try them mashed, in a souffle, or in traditional Southern sweet-potato pie. Resist candying them; it adds lots of unnecessary calories.

For a reasonable amount of calories, you get fiber to make you feel full and nutrients to keep your body in robust health. Sounds like a good menu bet.


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