During the Fall and Winter holidays, it seems like every celebration table features sweet potatoes, usually dressed up with lots of butter, brown sugar and/or covered up with melted marshmallows. But this vegetable is so scrumptious and healthy on its own, it really should be enjoyed all year round — and not only smothered with (let’s face it) ingredients that aren’t that healthy for us.
SWEET POTATOES CAN HELP NC STAY HEALTHY
Here’s a fun fact: In North Carolina, we grow 1.7 billion pounds of sweet potatoes annually. We grow more than any other state! In fact, we grow more than half of all the sweet potatoes in the whole country.1
And now… a not so “fun” fact, but truly enlightening: According to the North Carolina State Government, the top five causes of death in the state are cancer, heart disease, stroke, chronic lung disease, and unintentional injuries. The good news here is that cancer, heart disease, and stroke can all be impacted by diet.2 And sweet potatoes contain nutrients that may play a role in preventing these diseases.3
So from a health perspective, here’s what the USDA and NC Sweet Potato Commission4 tell us is sweet about sweet potatoes:
Sweet potatoes get an “A” in vitamin A
When eaten with the skin on, one medium sweet potato contains over 100% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin A, which plays a role in vision, bone development, and immune function. (Eating sweet potato with a little bit of fat helps with the absorption of vitamin A5 — so the olive oil, tahini and sesame oil in the recipe below will do the trick!)
They’re a great source of fiber
Diets rich in foods containing fiber, such as some vegetables and fruits, may reduce the risk of heart disease, and some types of cancer (a disease associated with many factors). A medium sweet potato baked in its skin contains four grams of fiber, more than a packet of instant oatmeal.
Sweet potatoes are rich in potassium
Diets containing foods that are a good source of potassium and that are low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.
EXCLUSIVE SWEET POTATO RECIPE! FROM CHEF VIVIAN HOWARD
Recently we got in touch with Chef Vivian Howard (the creative, award-winning host of PBS’ A Chef’s Life, and best-selling author of the book Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South). We were curious to see if Vivian might have an inventive take on sweet potatoes. So she created this delicious recipe, exclusively for you and your loved ones to enjoy. Easy to make and a delight to share:
Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges with Tahini and Sesame
1 medium to large sweet potato, peel on
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
3 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons honey
Juice of one lemon, about 3 tablespoons
1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the sweet potato into 8-10 medium slices. In a medium mixing bowl, toss the sweet potato wedges with the olive oil and 1 teaspoon of the salt.
Arrange the wedges on a baking sheet flesh side down, and not touching. Slide the baking sheet onto the middle rack of the oven. Roast for 20 minutes. Take the potato wedges out and flip so that the opposite side touches the baking sheet. Roast an additional 20 minutes. The wedges should be brown and crisp on all sides and creamy in the center.
As they roast, whisk together the tahini, honey, lemon juice, sesame oil and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small mixing bowl.
When the potato wedges are done, lay them in a single layer on a serving platter and drizzle them liberally with the tahini mixture. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Serve at room temperature. Optional garnishes that add color and dimension to this dish are fresh cilantro, sliced scallion, parsley or mint.
Vivian said, “This is a tasty, healthy side dish that’s really simple to make. Be sure to leave the skin on the sweet potato; you’ll love the crunch of it, and the skin is full of fiber. You will impress people, I promise.”
EAT BETTER FOR BETTER HEALTH: WORK WITH A NUTRITIONIST!
One of the benefits of being a member of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC), is that seeing a Nutritional Counselor or Registered Dietitian is covered by most of our plans. That’s because we know that the healthier you eat, the healthier you can be.
Everyone can benefit from working with a Nutritional Counselor. For example, this counseling can help you:
- manage diseases and chronic conditions (like high cholesterol, heart disease, and diabetes)
- reach your ideal weight
- relieve anxiety and depression
- boost and maintain energy throughout the day
- lessen aches, pain, and joint issues
- address food allergies
Finding a Nutritional Counselor is easy. Blue Cross NC members can log into Blue Connect to look up your plan’s coverage, and then use the Find a Doctor tool to search for a “Dietitian” or “Nutritionist.”
Enjoy Vivian’s recipe, and have a sweet (potato) summer!