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RD Choice: Sweet Potatoes and Yams

Written by Andrew Akhaphong

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Image Source: Hidden Valley Ranch

Ready for the autumn holiday season? Here is your chance to take advantage of everyone’s favorite root vegetable this November! Your Dietitian’s Choice this week are Sweet Potatoes and Yams for $0.99 per pound from November 11th thru November 17th.

Please note that this post will focus on mostly just yams​.

​What Are Yams?

Yams come in many different shapes and sizes. The one pictured above is called an “Elephant Foot Yam” which is found in India and Sri Lanka. 

The one below is called an African yam, which is found all over Africa and parts of the Middle East. 

Yams are also a variety of different colors on the inside. The flesh could be white, red, orange, or even purple! No wonder why they can be confusing and are often mixed up with sweet potatoes.

 

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Yams, like potatoes, are an edible tuber of plants. There are two types of tubers.

Potatoes are swollen underground stem tubers that grow from the stolon while yams are swollen root tubers. 

  • Examples of underground stem tubers include golden Yukon potatoes, russet potatoes, and baby red potatoes.
  • Examples of root tubers include yams, cassava, and sweet potatoes.

Yams are starchy, tend to have a rough exterior (not all yam species), and have a drier flesh. Although yams are starchy, most of this comes from resistant starch, meaning, the molecules of the starch do not break down as well in heat, preventing it from being too creamy. Sweet potatoes on the other hand tend to have a smoother exterior, are not as starchy, with a more creamy, moist flesh. 

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Nutritional Benefits of Yams

Iron-deficiency anemia is a condition that results in the lack of the mineral, iron, to bind to a protein in the blood called, hemoglobin. Iron, with hemoglobin, helps absorb oxygen in our lungs and transports that oxygen to our muscles, organs, and other tissues throughout the body. 

A condition called copper-deficiency anemia, though uncommon, can occur as well. Copper is an important mineral component for our hemoglobin to absorb iron. A 1 cup serving of cooked yam provides almost 22% of your daily copper needs which reduces the risk for both iron-deficiency anemia and copper-deficiency anemia!

​For those who are working on weight management goals, fat and carbohydrate metabolism is dependent on a lot of different nutrients to function properly. The mineral, manganese, plays an important function for enzymes. Enzymes are a type of protein that work on “digesting” nutrients like protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Without adequate amounts of manganese, these enzymes may not perform the best. Most sources of manganese come from grains and dark green leafy vegetables; however, a 1 cup serving of yams provide almost 6% of your daily needs! 

As mentioned earlier, yams are starchy but contain resistant starch. Resistant starch, like fiber, supports consistent blood sugar levels and insulin response. During digestion, when the gut is saturated with resistant starch, insulin has difficulty detecting digested carbohydrates. This prevents the insulin from absorbing these digested carbohydrates too fast while the body works on binding these carbohydrates with the resistant starch to be excreted via bowel movement. 

Sweet Potato Casserole

By Brooke Caison, October 7, 2022
​https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/a41550455/ruths-chris-sweet-potato-casserole-recipe/

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Ingredients for Sweet Potato

  • 2 lb. sweet potatoes (about 2 large)
  • Neutral oil, for drizzling
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature,                    plus more for pan
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten to blend
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Ingredients for Crust

  • 1/2 c. chopped raw pecans
  • 1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

Directions
SWEET POTATOES

  1. Preheat oven to 425° and line a 11″-by-7″ (or 2-quart) baking dish with foil. Rinse and scrub potatoes to dislodge any dirt, then pat dry. Using a fork, poke holes all over potatoes. Drizzle with oil; season all over with salt.
  2. Transfer potatoes to prepared pan and roast, uncovered, until cooked through and flesh is easily pierced with a fork or paring knife, 60 to 65 minutes.
  3. Transfer potatoes to a large heatproof bowl. Discard foil and grease pan with butter. Reduce oven temperature to 375°. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, remove skins.
  4. In the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or in a large bowl, using an electric mixer), beat potatoes and granulated sugar on medium speed until sugar is incorporated and potatoes are mashed. Add butter and beat until incorporated and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, vanilla, and 3/4 teaspoon salt and beat until mixture is almost doubled in volume, about 5 minutes. Pour mixture into prepared pan and spread with a spatula.
  5. Bake casserole until the center is set but slightly jiggly and edges are beginning to brown, about 35 minutes. Let cool slightly.

BROWN SUGAR CRUST & ASSEMBLY

  1. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine pecans, brown sugar, flour, and salt, breaking up any clumps of sugar with your fingers. Drizzle in butter and toss with a fork until combined.
  2. Sprinkle brown sugar mixture over potatoes. Continue to bake casserole until crust is firm and starts to brown, about 10 minutes more. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.
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