by Kim Cooper
How sweet it is for your health to eat sweet potatoes! Not only do they taste like dessert, but they provide some surprising health benefits. Many people think about sweet potatoes as being nothing more than plain old potatoes that can tweak our taste buds with some extra flavour.
The sweet potato is an important root vegetable crop which is gaining popularity in many parts of North America. The sweet potato is only distantly related to the potato. In some parts of the English-speaking world, sweet potatoes are locally known by other names, including yam and kumara.
Sweet potatoes are native to parts of South America. Native North Americans were already growing sweet potatoes when Columbus came in 1492.
China is the world’s largest supplier of sweet potatoes, growing 80% of the world’s supply.
So why should you eat sweet potatoes? They are high in vitamin B6, which helps reduce the chemical homocysteine in our bodies. Homocysteine has been linked with degenerative diseases, including heart attacks.
Sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin C, which plays an important role in bone and tooth formation, digestion, and blood cell formation.
They are a good source of vitamin D, which helps build healthy bones.
Sweet potatoes contain iron and support a healthy immune system.
They are a good source of magnesium, which is a relaxation and anti-stress mineral.
They are also a source of potassium, which helps regulate heartbeat and nerve signals.
Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet-tasting but their natural sugars are slowly released into the bloodstream, helping to ensure a balanced and regular source of energy, without the blood sugar spikes linked to fatigue and weight gain.
The rich orange colour in sweet potatoes indicates they are high in carotenoids like beta carotene, which are powerful antioxidants that help ward off cancer and protect against the effects of aging.
Sweet potatoes are fat-free and cholesterol-free, low in sodium, and easy to prepare. For only about 120 calories in a medium sweet potato, they are a great all-around package.
We have a few sweet potato growers here in Chatham-Kent who supply some of our areas food vendors, including some of our local grocery stores. You can also buy them directly at Gladstone Farms (519-676-5984) near Blenheim, Vink Farms (519-809-0376) on Oldfield Line in Chatham, as well as organic sweet potatoes from Paul and Patti Watson (519-627-0566) from the Tupperville area.
Why not purchase some locally grown sweet potatoes for your next meal? Try some sweet potato fries or bake a sweet potato pie. Whatever it is, thank you for supporting our local producers.
If you are looking for some family fun, the Thamesville Maize, Pumpkin Patch & Fun Farm (519-692-5451) would be a great place to visit. Now in their 16th year of operation, the 13 acre maze this year pays tribute to Canada’s 150th birthday. There is lots to do for all ages so everyone has the opportunity of getting lost in the corn maize. Don’t miss it!
Remember that here in Chatham-Kent ‘We Grow for the World’. Check out our community’s agricultural website at wegrowfortheworld.com
Kim Cooper has been involved in the agribusiness sector for over 45 years. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also follow him on Twitter at ‘theAGguy’