Few foods are as versatile as they are nutritious, but the humble sweet potato is one exception. Whether you bake, roast, grill, saute, steam or microwave it, the orange-fleshed root vegetable delivers substantial amounts of vitamins A, C and B-6, potassium, iron and dietary fiber. Boiling sweet potatoes is not the most nutritious option because some of the vitamins are lost into the cooking water. You’ll get the most nutritional value from a sweet potato if you eat the whole thing, as its skin is a highly concentrated source of minerals and fiber. You’ll also absorb more of the vegetable’s beta-carotene -- which your body converts to vitamin A -- by consuming it with a small amount of fat.
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In the Oven
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Rinse the sweet potato under cool running water. Use your fingers to brush off any dirt, as a scrubber may strip away some of the vegetable’s thin skin. Pat it dry with a paper towel.
Pierce the sweet potato with a fork several times. Not only will this help the flesh cook evenly, but it will also keep the potato from bursting by allowing steam to escape.
Place the vegetable in a roasting pan or other shallow baking dish. Because sweet potatoes tend to ooze some of their sticky sugars as they cook, you may want to line the dish with a piece of aluminum foil for easy cleanup.
Cook the sweet potato for 35 to 45 minutes, turning it once about halfway through. Baked sweet potatoes are done when their skin becomes papery and their escaping sugars look as though they’re caramelized.
Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Use an oven mitt to transfer the hot sweet potato to a plate.
Serve it with a drizzle of olive oil, a dollop of plain yogurt or a sprinkling of freshly ground flaxseed.
In the Microwave
Prepare the sweet potato as you would for baking -- gently rinse it, pat it dry and pierce it with a fork several times.
Set it in a microwave-safe dish. While a plate is sufficient, a rimmed dish will help keep your microwave clean. You can also place a paper towel between the dish and the sweet potato to help minimize hard-to-clean residue.
Microwave the vegetable on high for about three minutes.
Flip it over using an oven mitt. Continue to microwave it for another two to four minutes, depending on its size. As with the baked variety, microwaved sweet potatoes are done when their skin is papery and the sugars they exude begin to brown.
Transfer the sweet potato to a plate using an oven mitt. Allow it to cool slightly before you cut into it, as microwaved potatoes tend to release a lot of steam.