Low in calories and full of fiber, sweet potatoes start off as an excellent choice for your weight loss diet. Turning them into traditional holiday dishes such as pies, tarts and casseroles loaded with sugar and fat offsets their fundamentally nutritious nature, though. Once you break away from the mini-marshmallows and heavy syrups, you'll find that these naturally sweet tubers don't need much to become a healthful accompaniment to your meals.
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A single medium sweet potato provides more than twice the RDA of vitamin A and fills about a third of your recommended intake of vitamin C. This nutritional bounty comes with a low calorie cost; at 105 calories per medium-sized tuber, the sweet potato nicely fits your calorie budget. Four g of dietary fiber and a large amount of the antioxidant beta carotene make sweet potatoes an even more valuable addition to the plate. This native American vegetable is comparable in calories to white potatoes, but carries a lower glycemic index.
Whole baked sweet potatoes retain as much as possible of their nutritional value. Unlike wet cooking methods that drain water-soluble vitamin C from the root and into the cooking liquid, baking preserves vitamins. It also enhances taste; a baked sweet potato's flavor becomes more concentrated as the water within it steams away. The longer they bake, the sweeter these tubers become. When baking a sweet potato, prick the skin with a fork to release steam and use a baking sheet to catch drips. Serve baked potatoes with a sprinkle of cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar for a sweet treat or choose savory spices like garlic and pepper for an accompaniment to dinner.
Although you might think of microwave cooking as the equivalent of baking, the cooking methods differ significantly. Microwaves steam the sweet potato, so the finished product has a denser, heavier texture. If you cook your sweet potatoes in the microwave, they will be ready to eat within minutes, but they'll have a subtler flavor than their oven-baked counterparts. Microwave sweet potatoes in a covered dish or wrapped in plastic film to hold in the steam and cook the vegetable's flesh more evenly.
If baking takes too long and microwaving doesn't provide the texture you want in your sweet potatoes, dice them into cubes and oven-roast them. Because sweet potatoes naturally contain no fat, their cut surfaces can turn dry if you roast them without oil. Spritz them with just enough olive or corn oil to dampen the sweet potato cubes and toss them with salt and pepper. Roast them until they're fork-tender and serve them as is or add them to soups or salads.
Boiling and Mashing
Anything you do to a white potato works as well for sweet potatoes, and that includes mashing. While boiling does remove some of the vitamin C contained in sweet potatoes, the dense flesh still retains some of its ascorbic acid. Boil sweet potatoes until they're fork-tender and mash them with butter, milk, salt and pepper for a rich and savory side dish. A vegan version of mashed sweet potatoes might include almond milk instead of butter. A sweet mash containing pumpkin pie spices and pecans tastes indulgent, but is packed with nutrients.