Thanksgiving Sweet Potatoes: Healthy and Delicious

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sweet potatoesWith Thanksgiving right around the corner, I have been busy preparing our holiday menu. While my family and I have a lot of favorite dishes that we enjoy making each year, it’s always fun to try new recipes. One food that we love to get creative with is sweet potatoes. Besides being delicious, this root vegetable is also a rich source of important nutrients, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, B vitamins, copper and magnesium. Considered a “superfood” by many nutrition experts, sweet potatoes are one of the least likely allergenic foods, are incredibly versatile, and have many health benefits. While they are a Thanksgiving staple, sweet potatoes really should be enjoyed year round.

High in both soluble and insoluble fiber, sweet potatoes help to promote healthy blood sugar balance, despite being a starchy vegetable. Research shows that sweet potatoes increase adiponectin in people with type 2 diabetes. This hormone, which is produced by fat cells, serves as an important regulator of insulin metabolism. Another benefit of the fiber in sweet potatoes is that because fiber moves slowly through the digestive tract, it can promote satiation and provide long lasting energy.

Sweet potatoes are also an excellent source of antioxidants. The bright orange flesh is rich in beta-carotene, which is a powerful antioxidant for eye and immune health. Did you know that some sweet potatoes can be purple too? The purple-fleshed varieties contain a high amount of anthocyanins, which are natural pigments (also found in red grapes, red cabbage and berries) that have been shown to have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, research shows that purple sweet potatoes have the ability to increase the activity of important antioxidant enzymes. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits have been shown in brain and nerve tissue throughout the body.

To help maximize the nutritional value of sweet potatoes, there are some recommendations when it comes to cooking and preparing them. Research shows that including some fat such as olive oil or butter (3-5 grams per serving) will enhance the absorption and bioavailability of beta carotene. And, the cooking methods of steaming or boiling can help to preserve the powerful anthocyanins, and have a more favorable impact on blood sugar regulation, as compared to roasting or baking sweet potatoes.

I hope that you feel inspired to enjoy sweet potatoes this Thanksgiving, as well as throughout the year. The delicious looking recipe that has caught my taste buds this year is by Carla Lalli Music, Bon Appetit’s food director, and is featured in her new cookbook, Where Cooking Begins.

Sweet Potatoes with Tahini Butter

• 3 lb. sweet potatoes, any color (6 small or 3 large), scrubbed
• 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
• ¼ cup fresh lime juice
• 2 Tbsp. tahini
• 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
• 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
• Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
• Flaky sea salt
• Toasted sesame seeds and lime wedges (for serving)

  1. Bring a few inches of water to a boil in a medium pot fitted with a steamer basket. Halve sweet potatoes crosswise (if large) and place in steamer. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and steam until fork-tender, 25–30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, smash together butter, lime juice, tahini, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a small bowl with a fork until smooth, about 3 minutes. Season tahini butter with kosher salt and lots of pepper.
  3. Arrange sweet potatoes on a platter or a large plate. Let cool until you can just handle them, then split open and generously spread tahini butter over. Season with sea salt; top liberally with sesame seeds. Serve with lime wedges (this dish really comes alive with lots of bright citrus).

Photo from here, with thanks.

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January 2023