We Americans sure do love our spuds! Whether they are chips, French fries, baked or boiled with corned beef and cabbage on St. Paddy’s Day, white potatoes are a big part of many household menus. But they can pack a dietary gut punch. These starches can play havoc with blood sugar levels, especially for people with Type 2 diabetes.
Instead of swearing off taters, consider embracing their slightly exotic-looking relative: the sweet potato. Despite their name, these orange wonders actually help regulate blood sugar, and their antioxidants can ward off chronic diseases.
The orange coloring in sweet potatoes comes from beta-carotene, an antioxidant that the body converts into vitamin A. Beta-carotene also has been shown to slow long-term cognitive decline, especially among men, and it also helps keeps lungs functioning as we age. Sweet potatoes also are packed with healthy fiber and protein.
Here we pause to clarify that sweet potatoes and yams, while similar, are not the same. Yams, for instance, are much higher in starch and not as sweet as their copper cousins.
When it comes to cooking sweet potatoes, the method does matter. A 2011 study found that baking, roasting and frying — basically, the ways in which most people would prepare them — are not as healthy as boiling, which softens the potatoes and makes the starch easier to digest. Try doctoring them up with cinnamon or go in the other direction with paprika or black pepper. And leave on the skin, it’s a major source of fiber.
If you’re looking to dress up your dinner plate while maintaining a healthy diet, be sure to root out sweet potatoes the next time you’re at your local grocery.