They are often a staple at any Thanksgiving meal, but Jenna Smith, University of Illinois Extension Livingston-McLean-Woodford nutrition and wellness educator, says there are some common misconceptions about sweet potatoes.
“Unless you’re a foodie like me, it’s probably unlikely that your Thanksgiving dinner conversation will entail a hot debate of whether or not you are eating sweet potatoes or yams,” says Smith.
She recalls a debate she had with a family member.
“ ‘Why isn’t it called a yam casserole?’ asks my aunt. ‘Because it’s made with sweet potatoes, not yams.’ I answer matter-of-factly,” Smith says. “ ‘No, it’s not; the label at the grocery store said yam’ argues my aunt. ‘Yes, but it’s a sweet potato, not a yam.’ “
Those yams you thought you were buying were probably sweet potatoes. Yams and sweet potatoes are actually two very different plants that are not even related.
“The sweet potato is native to Central and South America, while the yam is an entirely separate species that grows only in the tropics, making real yams hard to find,.” says University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator Kelly Allsup,
Yams have a dark-colored, rough skin with a white, purple or reddish flesh. They’re starchier than sweet potatoes and are very low in beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A in our bodies, said Allsup.
Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, can have golden skin with white flesh or darker skin with orange flesh. The dark-skinned, orange flesh potatoes are sometimes labeled ‘yams’ in the grocery store to distinguish the two.
However, the United States Department of Agriculture requires labels with the term ‘yam’ to be accompanied by the term ‘sweet potato.’ Sweet potatoes are full of beta-carotene, fiber and potassium. In the end, call it what you want. Sweet potatoes are tasty and healthy!
subhed: Sweet Potato Grilled Cheese Sandwich
1 large sweet potato, peeled, sliced into thin rounds
½ Tablespoon olive oil
½ large onion, sliced
1 cup baby kale, stems removed, leaves torn into 1-inch pieces
4 slices mozzarella or white cheddar cheese
8 slices whole wheat bread
1 Tablespoon trans-fat free margarine
In a microwave-safe dish, microwave sweet potato rounds with 1 Tablespoon water, covered for 5-7 minutes or until fork tender; set aside. Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet. Stir in onions and cook on medium-high heat 8-10 minutes or until caramelized; set aside. Spread margarine on one side of each slice of bread. For each sandwich, place bread, margarine-side down, on skillet; top with 1 slice of cheese, a fourth of the potatoes, a fourth of the kale, a fourth of the onions and 1 slice of bread, margarine-side up. Heat over medium heat 3-5 minutes on each side or until golden brown and cheese melts. Serve immediately.
Yield: 4 servings
Nutritional analysis per serving: 320 calories, 13 grams fat, 540 milligrams sodium, 35 grams carbohydrate, 6 grams fiber, 15 grams protein
For more information, contact Jenna Smith, Extension unit educator,nutrition and wellness, Livingston-McLean-Woodford Unit, (309) 663-8306. firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Is it sweet potatoes or yams on the holiday menu? —