Yum, sweet potatoes! This vegetable can be prepared in a variety of ways and tastes delicious with savoury spices such as nutmeg and cinnamon. This side dish is very easy to make and adds a beautiful splash of orange to your dinner plate.
- 2 sweet potatoes
- ½ tsp olive oil
- ¼ red onion
- ½ pint cherry tomatoes
- 1 ½ tbsp plain yogurt
- 1 tbsp sour cream
- 1/3 cup cilantro
- 1 avocado
- Salt & pepper
- Wash sweet potatoes very well with water. Cut into small chunks.
- Steam sweet potato until tender, approximately 15 minutes.
- Mash sweet potatoes in a bowl and add yogurt and sour cream.
- In a saucepan, heat olive oil. Add chopped onion and sauté for 3 minutes.
- Cut tomatoes in half and add to the pan, cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the sautéed mix, chopped avocado and cilantro to the sweet potatoes and mix.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
Botanically, the sweet potato is very different from the yam. However, many North Americans still refer to it by this erroneous name. The sweet potato is native to Central and South America and has been depicted in Peruvian imagery dating back thousands of years. This vegetable is available year round and can be found in many different colours such as pink, yellow, green and purple (Bovell-Benjamin, 2007). The purple sweet potato contains a pigment called anthocyanin which is under investigation for its antioxidant properties (Kano, et al., 2005). In animal models, anthocyanin has been shown to prevent the activation of key inflammation processes after consumption which reduced inflammation of brain and nervous tissues (Wang, et al., 2010). The orange variety of this tuber has a highly bioavailable concentration of the carotenoid pigment beta-carotene. Oodles of research have shown that beta-carotene is converted in the body to vitamin A which is eminent for both cardiovascular and eye health (Bobroff, 2011). This vegetable’s pigments are only one of the many ways it aids with the reduction of unwanted inflammation. A study by Ludvik et al. (2008) examined the effects of sweet potato extracts given to people with Type 2 diabetes and found that it helped to decrease plasma levels of fibrinogen and improve insulin sensitivity. Although fibrinogen is naturally found in the blood and is crucial for blood clotting, high concentrations can lead to unwanted inflammation and deterioration of the myelin sheaths that surround nerves. In addition to this vegetables anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties it contains a wonderful expanse of minerals and vitamins such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and vitamins A, B, C and K. It is also a great source of complex carbohydrates and dietary fiber (USDA, 2012). Interestingly, the sweet potato is a key component of the well-known Okinawa diet. This tremendously healthy way of eating, observed in the southernmost parts of Japan, is linked with reduced risks of diabetes, obesity and several age-related diseases (Willcox, et al., 2009). So perhaps this unknowingly healthy tuber may be one of the secrets to a long and healthy life!
Salsa is a great summer snack and doesn’t involve turning on any appliances that produce heat. I love this particular recipe because it’s very refreshing and goes well with chicken, shrimp, white fish and of course tortilla chips. I found this recipe (here) and made a few tasty adjustments.
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 fresh lime juice and zest
- 1 mango
- 1 avocado
- 1/2 cup red onion
- 1 pint of grape tomatoes
- 1/2 jalapeño pepper
- 1/2 cup cilantro
- Whisk together the olive oil, paprika, salt, pepper, garlic, lime juice and zest.
- Finely chop the mango, avocado, red onion and jalapeño pepper into similar sized pieces. *Remove the jalapeño seeds if you don’t like too much spice.
- Add this to the whisked dressing and stir until everything is evenly combined.
- Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and then add the coarsely chopped cilantro prior to serving.
The avocado, nicknamed the Alligator pear because of its skin texture, has been cultivated for many thousands of years (Meyer et al., Chapter 3, 2011). This fruit is native to Central and South America and contains a wealth of nutrients including; carotenoids, manganese, phosphorous, iron, potassium, folic acid and vitamins B, C and E. As well, avocados contain both soluble and insoluble fiber (6.7g/100g avocado) which aid in digestion and make you feel fuller longer, thus managing weight control (Naveh, et al., 2002). Avocados are also found on the low glycemic index list which means that the carbohydrates are broken down slowly with a gradual release of glucose into the bloodstream (NCI, 2009). You may recall from an earlier post that folic acid and vitamin B6 regulate homocysteine levels, which help to prevent heart disease (Meyer et al., Chapter 3, 2011). They are a heart healthy food not only because of the aforementioned, but also because of their ‘good’ fat content which accounts for 85% of avocados calories. Oleic acid and omega-3 fatty acid, in the form of alpha-linolenic acid, are found in high concentrations and improve levels of inflammatory risk factors and help to lower cholesterol levels (Dreher and Davenport, 2012). Interestingly, this extraordinary but not ordinary combination of fats is very beneficial to your heart’s health. A study by Ledesma et al.(1996), assessed serum lipids of healthy individuals in a control group and those following a high monounsaturated fatty acid (MFA) diet (which included avocados). After only seven days it was found that the participants following the MFA diet had a significant decrease of blood total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides, and an increase of HDL levels. Another study, which had noteworthy results found that by adding 1 cup of avocado (approximately 150g) to a salad increased the absorption of fat soluble carotenoids by 200-400% (Unlu et al., 2005). Although carotenoids are generally associated with orange coloured vegetables and fruits, avocados contain nine different types of this pigment (Colle et al., 2012). On that note, don’t be scared of the fatty avocado…it’s actually very healthy for you and contains a winning combination of fats and fat soluble nutrients!