Real Food, Less Fake: Purple Sweet Potatoes

Today, I’m highlighting a really wonderful food that can be added to your diet today. The food that I’m talking about is none of other than the sweet potato, but more specifically, yellow-fleshed and purple-fleshed varieties.

The first time I came in contact with a yellow-fleshed sweet potato (also known as a Japanese sweet potato) was around 5 years ago when I was in college. I visited a multicultural church with some friends and their potluck-style lunch after church included all kinds of foods from around the world. Growing up in a church that spans 6 continents meant that I was really never nervous about trying new foods in this setting, but this sweet potato that was yellow on the inside really threw me off. When I tasted it, I was completely blown away. How could something this good exist and no one had ever told me? It was so delicious that I had another helping.

My first time having a purple-fleshed sweet potato was just a couple years ago. My local Sprouts Farmer’s Market introduced them and I was so intrigued because of the experience I had with the Japanese sweet potato a few years before. When I took it home and baked it, I added just a tiny bit of butter and enjoyed it plain. It was so filling and beautiful that I knew it had to be added to my list of foods to buy on a regular basis. 

Benefits of Sweet Potatoes

In general, potatoes are one of the most satiating foods that exist in any category. According to the study, The Satiety Index of Common Foods,  potatoes outperform all other foods when it comes to how full they make people feel. If you have ever eaten a potato, you know how filling they are. Many people are afraid of eating potatoes because they are considered carbohydrates (which many people still fear), but they are also plants, meaning that they are inherently much healthier than any “foods” we can create or process. They are a great asset to a plant-based diet, especially for those on a budget.

Sweet potatoes are also full of many vitamins and minerals. Just one cup of baked sweet potato can contain a week’s worth of Vitamin A and around half of your daily value of Vitamin C and manganese. It can also contains a quarter of your daily value of dietary fiber and potassium, and just under one-fifth of the copper.

And lastly, Japanese sweet potatoes are one of the primary foods in the diet of some of the longest-living people in the world. In 2005, Okinawa, Japan (along with the Seventh-day Adventist population of Loma Linda, California, the male centenarians of Sardinia, Italy and the elders of Nicoya, Costa Rica and Ikaria, Greece) was identified as a Blue Zone. According to Dan Buettner, Blue Zones are essentially the areas around the world where people live the longest. The people of Okinawa, Japan have a very unique way of living that contributes to their long lives and their diet is one of the factors that makes them incredibly unique. For starters, they eat a 96% whole food, plant-based diet. I don’t know about you, but as someone who adds kale into EVERYTHING (smoothies, spaghetti, juice, muffins, etc.) as I fight to get enough veggies in each day, I am highly impressed by that number. Around 69% of their diet consists of purple and orange sweet potato. In whole, they eat a diet of sweet potatoes, beans, different varieties of soy including tofu and miso, as well as stir-fried vegetables. Pork and fish (around 1% of their diet) are eaten sparingly, with the aforementioned foods making up their daily diet. They also incorporate many medicinal herbs such as mugwort, ginger and turmeric on the daily basis for their healing properties.

According to BlueZones.com, Okinawans who follow the traditional diet have much better health outcomes than Americans. They are 5.5 times less likely to die from breast cancer, have 6-12 times fewer heart disease deaths, 7 times fewer prostate cancer deaths and 2-3 times fewer colon cancer deaths. The elderly population there also experiences much lower instances of dementia than people in most places. If adding more of their plant-based staples can help improve our numbers this way, it is definitely worth consideration.

Recipe Suggestion

My absolute favorite way to eat purple sweet potato is to make sweet potato salad. Potato salad was a staple in my family growing up. My mom & aunts always added russet potatoes, boiled eggs, mayonnaise, relish, celery salt and a variety of spices to make this mouth-watering side dish. Now that I try to eat more a plant-based diet, I wanted a more nutrient-dense version of this food that I love. When I went searching, I knew that Jeneé from the website SweetPotatoSoul.com would have something good. She, too, is a Georgia peach and knows how important potato salad is to a Southern dinner table. She added a new twist on this recipe that I absolutely love. In her recipe, Jeneé uses vegan mayonnaise, white AND orange sweet potatoes as well as all the right seasonings & spices. I decided to make this at home a few months back, but I added a purple-fleshed sweet potato to the mix. At first, my husband turned his nose up a my tri-color sweet potato salad. He didn’t think it looked too appetizing, but after one bite, he took the bowl from my hands and smiled. This is when I know that my food is really good. We ate the entire bowl in three days (so much for a week long meal prep!) and it was undoubtedly the item I was most excited to eat in my lunch. I encourage you to give her recipe a try and add some purple sweet potatoes in, too. You won’t regret it.

If you decide to have purple sweet potatoes for the first time, please tell me how you liked them. If you have eaten them before, I would love to hear about how you serve them. And if you have any questions, please leave them below in the Comments section. I’d love to keep our dialogue going. As always, thanks for reading.

In pursuit of greener foods,

Brittany

Websites & Articles:

Blue Zone Exploration: Okinawa, Japan

Okinawa Centenarian Study

Self NutritionData: Sweet Potato

Study: A satiety index of common foods

Sweet Potato Salad (vegan)

The Okinawa Diet: Eating & Living to 100

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