Fun Facts about Sweet Potatoes

This holiday season many of us will be sitting down to enjoy our favorite traditional and seasonal dishes. One dish commonly enjoyed is candied sweet potatoes.

This versatile food has become increasingly popular and is a great addition to any meal. And with more and more Americans looking to incorporate healthier options into their diet, sweet potatoes are a great year round food.

Sweet Potatoes Are Healthy?

Sweet potatoes in fact, are considered a superfood. They are an excellent source of many key nutrients such as fiber, vitamins A and C, calcium, potassium and manganese. Additionally, they contain antioxidants and are naturally low in sodium.

Why do we call Sweet Potatoes Yams?

Great question – One theory is that when sweet potatoes were first introduced in the southern portions of the United States, merchants and farmers wanted these potatoes to be marketed differently from other traditional types of potatoes. Which who doesn't like good marketing?

Another theory is that "yam" is the English form of the word "nyami" which refers to the starchy, edible root, grown in both Africa and Asia. I'd like think the truth is probably somewhere in the middle of both these theories.

Whether you grew up calling these tasty orange fleshed root vegetables sweet potatoes or yams, here in the United States, the names are used interchangeably. In fact, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires that products labeled as "yam" must also be accompanied by the term "sweet potato."

Sweet Potatoes – Where did they come from?

Believe it or not, sweet potatoes are native to the tropical Americas and were first cultivated there at least 5,000 years ago.

Did you know sweet potatoes come in more colors than just orange?

Yup, it's true. The color of skin and flesh (the part that is not the skin) of a sweet potato will depend upon its variety. They come in white, yellow orange, red and even purple. The purple variety is more difficult to find, but it's out there. The different colored potatoes will contain different phytochemicals or phytonutrients.

Check back tomorrow to learn more about phytochemicals!

Today's post was written by Diane Reinhold, MPH, MS, RDN, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving Jo Daviess, Stephenson & Winnebago Counties. She specializes in chronic disease prevention, food preservation and worksite wellness.