Sweet Potato Facts And Why You Should Eat Them

As the days have grown shorter and colder, I find myself cooking hearty comfort foods that fill me with warmth. I have always been cold-natured, and when you throw in my Hashimoto’s and my- surprisingly more common than you’d think- tendency to develop huge hives when I’m cold, I am magnetically repelled by cold foods in the winter.

Why did I move back to Ohio again?? I do love having the four seasons, but the cold season does not love me. I digress..

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Last night I made a shepherd’s pie for dinner, and I have to brag on myself here, it was one of the best things I’ve ever made. I swapped out some of my usual spices and used sweet potatoes to top off the pie.

My husband liked it. My kids ate it. I was nervous about the missing beloved white potatoes, but #winning!

So, that brings me to today’s post- all about sweet potatoes!

I’ll share my shepherd’s pie recipe soon. Unfortunately, I didn’t snap pics last night, and the stock photo sites appear to have an aversion to sweet potato shepherd's pie shots.

Most of you know that I was on a pretty strict elimination diet recently, and while I’ve finished it, I’m still trying to keep my dietary inflammatory load low. That means I’m trying not to eat as much of the foods that are known to be inflammatory in a lot of people, but they didn’t really cause me to react when I challenged them. It’s possible that they could still be working against my health goals if I eat them in larger quantities or in small quantities for longer, consistent periods of time.

The main ones I’m paying attention to are nightshades. Common vegetables in the nightshade family include tomatoes, peppers, white potatoes, and eggplant. I’m fine with never eating another eggplant or whole pepper again, but let me tell you, in my family of five, tomatoes, potatoes, and pepper spices have been brutal to avoid.

I’m not certain, but I suspect that my husband thinks that white potatoes are a food group.

While regular old spuds have their own nutritional benefits, it doesn’t really matter if they are causing us all to be more inflamed and in turn, more symptomatic of our various issues. Sweet potatoes are actually a member of the morning glory family, so they're a great substitution for our old standby.

Thus, the sweet potato topping on my shepherd’s pie.

If you’re not sure you are fan of these guys, let me share some info that may sway you to at least include them a *little* more into your diet.

Now, keep in mind that sweet potatoes and yams really are different. Yams are related to lilies and grasses and originate from Africa and Asia while sweet potatoes originate from Central and South America. They also look a little different, but if you're like me and still can't tell for sure- just read the signs well at the grocery store.

First, let's get the bad stuff out of the way: if you are prone to kidney stones, certain types of pelvic floor pain, or interstitial cystitis, sweet potatoes may not be your friend despite their lovely nutritional profile. They are high in oxalates which can contribute to flare-ups of these conditions. No fun.

Now for the good stuff.

They are jam-packed with immune boosting Vitamins A and C, beta-carotene- in a highly bioavailable form no less, heart healthy potassium, and cancer fighting antioxidants. Some research suggests that those antioxidants may also support memory and brain function.

They are a great source of both soluble and insoluble fiber which helps you feel full longer, decrease blood sugar spikes, decreases diabetes risk, and supports gut health. There's also a connection between fiber and UTI's, frequent pee and/or poop accidents and bed-wetting in kids as fiber improves constipation which is known to contribute to these issues.

While they are mostly carbs, what little protein they have is a unique form of protein that facilitates healing following physical damage to the potato. We don’t really know what that protein does for us, but now you have a fun fact to impress your family with at the dinner table.

Opting for a sweet potato over a regular white potato by itself aids in preventing blood sugar spikes due to its lower glycemic index rating. However, we can enhance that effect on blood sugar stability by pairing the sweet potato with some non-starchy veggies and a healthy protein. Absorption of beta-carotene is facilitated by eating it with a little fat, while cooking them improves the absorption of vitamin C and some of the many antioxidants. Therefore, my shepherd's pie recipe you'll see soon makes for a well-rounded, healthy meal perfect for these cold winter evenings.

What's your favorite way to eat a sweet potato? Comment below- I'm always looking for a new way to cook these things.

NourishmentErin Collins