How sweet it is to eat sweet potatoes. You won’t find many people who don’t love this richly hued root veggie, and for good reason.
Sweet potatoes, often inaccurately called yams, are considered a superfood, thanks to their many health benefits, says nutritionist Katherine Tallmadge. They’re loaded with beta carotene, which functions as a potent antioxidant and a rich source of vitamin A. These nutrients are important for your immune system, skin, vision, bones, and reproductive health, and have cleansing properties that may even reduce one’s risk of developing cancer, Tallmadge adds.
Sweet potatoes are native to Central America (it’s been reported that Christopher Columbus was a big fan) and thus grow well in warmer temperatures. Though they’re in season in November and December, they’re generally available in grocery stores year-round.
How to select them: Choose ones that are free of bruises, cracks, or soft spots, and feel firm, says Tallmadge. They usually keep for up to ten days, if stored in a dark, cool place.
How to prepare them: The entire vegetable is edible, so after scrubbing and washing each thoroughly, there’s usually no need to peel the skin. If you are going to peel the potatoes, it’s best to cook them immediately, since the flesh darkens soon after coming in contact with air. However, to prevent this you can store them in water until you’re ready to cook them.
How to cook them: They can be boiled, steamed, roasted, puréed—the list goes on. Whole Foods says steaming them with two inches of water is one of the best ways to maintain the potatoes’ nutritional value. Plus adding any dressing or olive oil after the potatoes have been cooked can prevent losing any essential nutrients.