Fun Fall Fact For Sweet Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes vs Yams: Is There a Difference?
I’d like to start this blog by saying I absolutely LOVE Fall. Crisp autumn leaves full of beautiful and changing colors, chilly walks, warm apple crisp, upcoming holidays and gatherings - it doesn’t get much better than this! What a wonderful time of year! From the outdoors to the kitchen, everyday seems to present a new array of colors.
I love how the outdoor colors also match fall foods made in the kitchen. One of my personal favorites is sweet potatoes. From sweet to savory, a variety of recipes await to be made this season. This may have you asking the questions: “Do you mean sweet potatoes or yams? Is there a difference?”
I personally find this to be one of my favorite food discrepancy questions to nerd out on. One reason I find it interesting is because I realized years back I had it wrong. Long story short (if you don’t already know): sweet potatoes, not yams, are what we primarily find here in the States. If you find a true yam, it is likely among the produce stands at an international market.
The term “yam” actually originates from Africa. A true yam, or “nyami”, is mostly produced and eaten in Africa and Asia. Producers in America needed a term to distinguish between the two primary types of sweet potatoes, hence “yam” stuck with the orange flesh sweet potato. The gold skin with light yellow flesh is less sweet and referred to as the sweet potato.
A true yam is different in the way that it is much more starchy and dry. Oddly enough, the skin color also happens to resemble more of a sweet potato and not what we refer to as yams. Another key difference is a true yam can grow much larger than a sweet potato. Some can grow up to 5 feet in length!
So what can we make this holiday season with the different versions of sweet potatoes? One of my favorites is to roast sweet potatoes and beets together. The color is vibrant, and beets add another fall favorite full of nutrition. Other fun ways include sweet potato nachos with black beans, red onion, and white cheddar cheese (kids often enjoy this one too !). My personal favorite touch is to add fresh rosemary on top. The sweet potatoes can be sliced and baked soft for more of a casserole style dish, or baked crispy for more of a true nacho crunch. Stuffed sweet potatoes are another way to be creative as there are many options for filling ideas. For something on the sweeter side, simply boil, mash, and add a little olive oil, cinnamon, and a dash of salt to bring out the true sweet of the sweet potato.
And finally, why sweet potatoes? What is the nutrition benefit? Where do I even begin...sweet potatoes are full of antioxidants, fiber, and potassium, just to name a few. Antioxidants are key for our immune systems to help keep us from getting sick. Fiber helps maintain blood sugar and proper gut health. Potassium works with water and salt to balance hydration in our body as well as help with muscle and nerve function. Leave the skin on the potatoes to ensure you get the most bang for your buck, just be sure to wash them well first!
Michelle B Smith, MS RDN CD
CEO, Sensibly Sprouted