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Season's Pick

Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes

Peru natives were the first to cultivate potatoes. A very important food crop to these Andean Incas, the potato was held in very high regard. Potato gods were worshiped, rituals for plentiful potato crops were practiced and religious ceremonies surrounding the potato were held. Inca pottery was fashioned to resemble the tuber, and sometimes depicted potatoes with human characteristics—an early forerunner to our beloved Mr. Potato Head?

Nutrition Worth Praising

Today we can worship potatoes for their nutrient-packed nourishment. One medium potato is an excellent source of vitamin C, offers three grams of protein and contains several minerals—all for just 120 calories. And provided you eat the skin, you'll take in three grams of dietary fiber.

How Sweet They Are

The potato and sweet potato may share a name, but the two are unrelated botanically. Potatoes are tubers and sweet potatoes are roots. The yam is yet another unrelated root. The "yams," such as Jewel, Beauregard and Garnet, sold in the United States are actually sweet potatoes.

Aside from their names, the potato and sweet potato share good nutrition. One medium sweet potato is an excellent source of the antioxidant vitamins C and A, contains two grams of protein and more than three grams of dietary fiber for the same 120 calories.

Pick Your Potatoes

Another similarity between these two vegetables lies in their selection. When buying potatoes or sweet potatoes, select firm, well-shaped vegetables. Avoid those with soft spots, green spots, mold, sprouts or signs of decay. Keep them in a dark, cool area and use within two weeks. Don't store uncooked potatoes or sweet potatoes in the refrigerator—cold temperatures make their flavors turn bitter. There are so many delicious varieties—get to know your spuds in detail with our chart.

Sweet to Eat

There's nothing like a steaming baked potato to satisfy you on a cold winter's day. Scrub skins and cut out any bruised spots. Then simply bake in the oven until soft and serve with a small pat of butter. Or, use your microwave to save time. Experiment with a variety of healthful toppings such as salsa, nonfat sour cream, steamed veggies, low-fat cottage cheese or leftover chili or stew. Take a tip from the Chinese and enjoy a hot sweet potato out of hand. Their sweet flavor needs no additions. Baked sweet potatoes are a common snack sold by street vendors in today's Beijing.

These vegetables are interchangeable in many recipes. Serve mashed sweet potatoes for a change. You can also make baked "fries". Cut potatoes or sweet potatoes into wedges and toss in a bowl with a little olive oil, salt and paprika or cayenne pepper if desired; bake on a cookie sheet in a hot oven until soft. Experiment further and sauté them cubed or grill them sliced with a variety of seasonings like chili or curry powder.

Celebrate potatoes with these FoodFit recipes:

Smashed Fingerling Potatoes with Roast Garlic-Basil Oil
Jimmy Schmidt, The Rattlesnake Club, Detroit, MI
Sweet Potato Soufflé
Kale and Potato Soup
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
Pizza with Red Peppers, Potatoes, Garlic and Mushrooms
Skinny Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Potatoes Boulangere
Anne Quatrano, Bacchanalia, Atlanta, GA
Pasta with Pesto, Potatoes and Broccoli
Joyce Goldstein

This article was contributed by Catherine Macpherson, MS, RD



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