Sweet potatoes come in two varieties that will vary based on availability. Sometimes orders are filled with the tan-skinned white flesh variety; other times the purple-skinned orange flesh will be sent.
Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes may be one of nature’s unsurpassed sources of beta-carotene. Several recent studies have shown the superior ability of sweet potatoes to raise our blood levels of vitamin A. This benefit may be particularly true for children.
Sweet potatoes also offer antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and blood sugar regulation properties.
Sweet Potatoes and Yams
In the U.S., there is often much confusion between sweet potatoes and yams. They are completely different foods, belonging to different plant families. Sweet potatoes are much more highly available in the U.S. than are yams.
This confusion exists for two reasons. First, as a shopper, it is possible for you to find sweet potatoes and yams that look reasonably alike in terms of size, skin color, and flesh color. Second, government agencies have allowed these terms to be used somewhat interchangeably on labeling, so that you often cannot rely on the grocery store signs to help you determine whether you are looking at a bin full of sweet potatoes or a bin full of yams. For example, in many stores you can find bins that are labeled “Red Garnet Yams” and “Jewel Yams” and the foods in these bins are actually sweet potatoes. Here are some general practical rules that you can follow.
In most U.S. groceries, you should assume that you are always purchasing a sweet potato, even if the sign says “yams.”Over 1 million sweet potatoes are commercially grown in the U.S. each year, while commercial production of yams in the U.S. is rare.
Don’t use flesh color to decide whether you are getting a sweet potato or a yam. Both root vegetables come in a variety of colors. Once again, you should assume that you are getting a sweet potato regardless of flesh color.
If you are specially seeking a true yam (from the plant genus Dioscorea), it might be helpful to visit a more internationally focused store that specializes in foods from tropical countries.
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