Eat Smart

Sweet Potato Pie: A sweet treat fills you up on vitamin A

by Brianna Quaglia, blogger and Social Media Chair


With the holidays creeping closer and closer like the crazy ninja cat on Youtube, you’re probably thinking more and more lately about what you eat and how much you’re eating, like me.  However, not all holiday food needs scrutinizing.

One of my favorite holiday meals is a mashed sweet potato casserole that my aunt makes. She mixes cinnamon and brown sugar with the mashed sweet potato, pouring it in a casserole dish, then burying the concoction in marshmallows until the potato is no longer visible.  She cooks it until the marshmallows are golden brown and the potato is heated through—then I devour it!

Now I may be justifying my holiday pig-out session, but sweet potatoes actually pack a bunch of nutrients that are good for you.  Phew! My favorite dish isn’t just empty calories…

According to wholefoods.com, sweet potatoes are an excellent source of beta carotene, which raises vitamin A in your blood levels.  Some of the beta carotene converts to vitamin A in the body.  Vitamin A helps improve vision and keep your cells from drying out.  Lifeclinic.com and wholefoods.com agree that it is also an antioxidant, which cancels out free radicals that cause damage to the body’s cells. You may also reap anti-inflammatory rewards from consuming the bright orange or sometimes purple tubers.

Other significant nutrients found in sweet potatoes include vitamin C, manganese, copper, dietary fiber, vitamin B6, potassium, and iron.  The ratio of daily value percentage of all of these nutrients to the number of calories (for a plain baked potato) is surprisingly high.  Wholefoods.com states that a sweet potato baked in the skin only contains 95 calories.  The percent of daily vitamin A you can obtain from the same potato is over 200 percent!

The most nutritious way to cook sweet potatoes is to steam or boil them.  Whole Foods also mentions that the benefits of sweet potato may be maximized by combining them with fat,

“Recent research has shown that a minimum of 3-5 grams of fat per meal significantly increases our uptake of beta-carotene from sweet potatoes.”

Yay for me! When I looked up marshmallows on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food search, it tells me that they contain some solid fats.  Perfect!

Plus, research  at the Mayo Clinic shows you can allow yourself that sweet treat once in a while without worry.  Really, all that matters this holiday season is showing control and, as the Mayo Clinic article suggests, using moderation. The article reads:
“Overloading your plate, taking seconds and eating until you feel stuffed can lead to eating more calories, fat and cholesterol than you should.”
So why starve yourself or count calories on the one day of the year you’re allowed to go to town—Turkey Day!? While holiday foods get a bad rap, you might be surprised to find that some of them actually have really beneficial health properties.  I know I won’t hesitate to stuff my face full of sweet potato casserole this thanksgiving, and you shouldn’t either!
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