The sweet potato is a firm favourite in healthy diets because it’s a complex carbohydrate that ranks as medium on the glycemic index (GI) and is packed full of nutritious goodness, not to mention tastes great (Especially in these recipes!)
The large, starchy, tuberous root of the sweet potato is where all the goodness lies. It ranges in colour from yellow, orange and red to brown, purple and beige. The depth of colour usually denotes the dominant vitamin and mineral content and its nutrient density. Basically, the deeper and richer the colour, the better.
Why you need to eat them
The sweet potato is a rich source of dietary fibre and beta-carotene, a provitamin A carotenoid. Sweet potato cultivars with dark orange flesh have more beta-carotene than those with light-coloured flesh. It also offers moderate amounts of other micronutrients, including vitamins B5 and B6, vitamin C, as well as vital minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, and potassium.
The flesh of the sweet potato is the richest source of these nutrients. The orange, yellow and red variety of sweet potato are a rich source of orange-hued carotenoid pigments, which contain powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, storage proteins found in sweet potato that help the plant heal from damage also have important antioxidant properties.
A medium-sized raw sweet potato (200g) contains:
- 172 calories
- 3.2g protein
- 40.2g carbs
- 6.6g of dietary fibre
- 0.2g fat
- Vitamin A 150%
- Vitamin C 45%
- Potassium 15%
- Sodium 5%
- Calcium 6%
- Iron 6%
Sweet potatoes have a creamy texture and a sweet-spicy flavour that makes them ideal for all savoury dishes. It pairs well with most proteins, and is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a number of ways, such as mash, French fries or chips, wedges or served whole with a variety of fillings.
Bonus tip: Include a source of fat with your sweet potatoes to get the full benefit of the beta-carotene found in this root vegetable, as vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin.
Baked sweet potato with crispy kale, walnuts and feta
- 4 large sweet potatoes
- 1 medium-sized bunch of kale
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ½ cup walnuts, chopped
- ¾ cup crumbled feta cheese
- Pre-heat oven to 200°C.
- Scrub potatoes, wipe dry and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.
- Remove the centre ribs from the kale leaves and cut into chip-sized pieces.
- In a medium bowl, toss the chopped kale in olive oil, salt and pepper. Place kale mixture on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in oven at 200°C for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until crispy. Turn kale leaves for even cooking.
- Slice sweet potatoes in half, lengthwise. Use a fork to loosen potato, then mix in kale, feta, and walnuts. Return to oven for 10 to 12 minutes to melt the feta.
Creamy pumpkin and sweet potato soup
- 2 large sweet potatoes, cut into chunks
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 6 cups roasted pumpkin
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock (per preference)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ cup cream
- 1 cup full-cream milk
- 1-2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp oregano or fresh basil
- 1 tbsp Greek yoghurt
- In a large saucepan, heat the butter and virgin olive oil over medium heat until butter melts.
- Add the chopped onions and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes until soft, stirring frequently.
- Add in pumpkin, sweet potato and oregano or fresh basil. Mix well and fry for 1 minute. Add the chopped garlic and cook for further a minute.
- Add the stock, cinnamon stick, and nutmeg. Increase heat to bring mixture to the boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer for approximately 15 to 20 minutes, or until sweet potato skin is soft and other vegetables are tender. Remove cinnamon stick.
- Allow soup to cool slightly before transferring to a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth.
- Pour back into a saucepan and add the milk and cream. Heat slowly on medium heat, adding the lemon juice and salt and pepper.
- Serve hot with a tablespoon of Greek yogurt swirled in with a crack of black pepper on top.
Sweet potato pancakes
Makes 1 serving
- 1 large sweet potato, roasted
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup white whole-wheat flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Greek yoghurt
- Handful of spinach leaves
- Remove the flesh from a cooled, roasted sweet potato, and puree.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the two eggs and sweet potato puree, adding in the milk.
- In a smaller bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, spices, sugar and salt.
- Add dry ingredients into bowl of wet ingredients and continue stirring until combined.
- Coat a griddle pan with olive oil and place over medium heat.
- Spoon out a ¼ cup measure of batter onto the griddle and spread evenly. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, flip, then cook for another 3-5 minutes until brown and crisp.
- Remove and serve with a bunch of spinach leaves and ½ cup of Greek yoghurt.
Recipes and information by Alani Keiser, raw food chef and creator of the Processed to Plantbased recipe book, with 15 years of experience with plant-based living.
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.