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!
With the temperatures starting to plummet, there is no better time to make a large pot of chili full of healthy and colourful vegetables! This recipe is based on Jamie Oliver’s Chili Con Carne (Jamie’s Food Revolution), with a few modifications of my own. It is super quick to prepare and makes for a hearty lunch for the rest of the week.
- 1 ½ tbsp olive oil
- 1 white onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 13 baby carrots
- 2 celery stalks
- 1 red pepper
- 1 yellow pepper
- 1 large sweet potato
- ½ tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cayenne powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- Salt & pepper
- 1 can chickpeas
- 1 can white kidney beans
- 1 can (28 fl oz) whole tomatoes (low sodium)
- 2 cilantro stalks
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Garnishes: fresh guacamole, plain yogurt, cilantro and a wedge of lime
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot.
- Add to the pot all roughly chopped vegetables; onion, garlic, carrots, celery, red pepper, yellow pepper and sweet potato.
- Add the paprika, cayenne powder, cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Stir so that all vegetables are evenly coated with the spices.
- Cook on medium heat for approximately 10 minutes, stirring a few times.
- Drain and wash the chickpeas and kidney beans. Add to the pot.
- Squash the tomatoes with a potato masher, or your clean hands and add entirety of the can to the pot. As well, fill the can ¾ of the way with water and add to the pot.
- Thoroughly clean the stalks of cilantro and chop into small pieces. Add the stems to the pot and reserve the leaves for garnish.
- Add the balsamic vinegar and stir thoroughly.
- Bring to a boil and then simmer on low with the lid slightly askew for 1 hour.
- Stir every so often.
- Salt & pepper to taste and serve by itself or on a bed of your favourite rice.
- Garnish with fresh guacamole, plain yogurt, cilantro leaves and a wedge of lime.
Chickpeas are referred to by many different names depending on where you reside; Garbanzo beans, Bengal grams and Egyptian peas to name a few. This legume is one of the earliest cultivated foods, originally farmed in the Mediterranean Basin (Saxena, 1990). Presently, it continues to be an important food in the Middle East and is favoured because of its buttery texture, nutty taste and year round availability. Chickpeas are a great food for weight loss or management because of their high fiber and protein content paired with their low fat concentration. This winning combination allows you to feel full longer while also aiding with blood sugar regulation (Balanza, et al., 2010). Chickpeas contain no cholesterol and have actually been shown to improve cholesterol levels by decreasing LDL cholesterol (Bazzano, 2008). A study by Pittaway et al., (2006) followed participants for five weeks who were randomized to either a fibrous diet supplemented with chickpeas or wheat. Comparatively the group ingesting the chickpea supplemented diet had a significant reduction in both serum cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. Furthermore, the association between increased legumes, specifically chickpeas, in the diet and a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease is very strong (Leterme, 2002) and warrants further research. This vegetable’s amazing nutritional content includes important minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc. As well, chickpeas are great sources of healthy fatty acids and vitamins A, B, C, E and K (USDA, 2012). Best of all, it is easy to incorporate chickpeas into your diet since they can be found in a wide variety of recipes such as soups, salads and curries. Additionally, if you have intolerance to gluten there is high protein chickpea flour, referred to as garam, which can be used as a wheat flour substitute in many recipes. So just remember that no matter what you call this universally tasty and versatile legume it comes packed with a multitude of health benefits.