Sweet Potatoes – A Nutritious Treat for the Holidays

Marie Lemoine, Chaney, John A., Lemoine, Michelle B., Freeman, Earnest L.  |  11/27/2006 11:27:42 PM

News Release Distributed 12/11/2003

Sweet potatoes or yams are extremely versatile. They can be decorative, but they also are nutritious and offer many health benefits to consumers.

"Sweet potatoes are good for you," said Marie Lemoine, an LSU AgCenter agent and dietitian in Avoyelles Parish, adding, "They are nutritionally supercharged."

Sweet potatoes are free of fat and cholesterol and low in calories, sodium and carbohydrates. They also are high in fiber, high in vitamins A and C, and supply substantial amounts of folic acid, iron, calcium and potassium.

"The rich flavor, moist, creamy texture and appetizing color make sweet potatoes a good choice for nutritious, tasty meals," Lemoine said. "They blend well with other foods to create a wide variety of dishes such as breads, desserts, main dishes and casseroles."

The vegetable can be baked, boiled, grilled, microwaved and even made into lower-fat fries. Sweet potatoes also can be substituted for butter or other fats in some recipes, thus reducing the fat in the dish.

"Consider using sweet potatoes and other healthy vegetables as a substitute for some of the traditional – but less healthy ingredients – during the holiday season," Lemoine advised.

Nutritionally, sweet potatoes provide fiber that is needed for regularity and a healthy intestinal tract; folic acid, which reduces birth defects in infants; iron, which helps maintain healthy red blood cells; and vitamin C, which is needed for strong blood vessels, among other things. The low sodium content of sweet potatoes could contribute to lower blood pressure, thereby promoting the health of the heart and kidneys, according to experts.

The use of more sweet potatoes in the diet is not only good for consumers but also for Louisiana farmers who produce the vegetable.

"There is an abundant supply of high-quality fresh sweet potatoes on the market this year," said LSU AgCenter county agent Earnest Freeman. "And the supply should last most of the year."

It is best to use cured sweet potatoes within a few weeks, according to Freeman, but the vegetable can be stored in a dry, well-ventilated area. Avoid refrigerating the uncooked potatoes, however, because refrigeration may lower the sugar content and the flavor.

"Additional holiday recipes and nutritional information about ingredients can be found in the ‘Serving Louisiana’ cookbook published by the LSU AgCenter," said Michelle Lemoine, a nutrition education associate with Southern University, who works in Avoyelles and Evangeline parishes. "And the book will make a great Christmas gift for a friend."

The cookbook is available in hardback and can be purchased from a number of bookstores and restaurants in the state or online at www.lsuagcenter.com/cookbook.

For more information on preparing nutritionally balanced meals during the holidays, contact your parish office of the LSU AgCenter.

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Contacts:
Marie Lemoine at (318) 253-7526 or mlemoine@agcenter.lsu.edu
Michelle Lemoine at (318) 253-7526 or mblemoine@agcenter.lsu.edu
Earnest Freeman at (318) 253-7526 or efreeman@agcenter.lsu.edu
Writer:
John Chaney at (318) 473-6605 or jchaney@agcenter.lsu.edu

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