On the Plate: Sweet potato, the super vegetable
Never trust a vitamin in a capsule.
There, I’ve said it – and I realise that many of you have for a long time sought to supplement your overall well-being by laying out an array of wonder-tabs to keep you feeling perky. For me – well, for a start, I think the expense of vitamins in little jars and bottles is prohibitive, and well, I suppose that luckily enough I’ve been enjoying good health on a diet of everything in moderation! There are many people far more expert than I on the subject of health, vitamins, diet, etc but suffice to say that one must-have item in your everyday eating plan should be the wonderful sweet potato!
As I see it, there will always be arguments for and against various items of food in our diet – take chocolate, for example. Many would say “Now, there’s a NO-NO!” But 3,000 years ago the Aztecs first used the cacao tree for its medicinal properties. They referred to it as the ‘food of the gods’ and drank ‘cachuati’, a cold bitter brew made from the cacao seed. Of course, chocolate today is very different – it’s high in calories and fat – but the good news is it contains twice the toxin-fighting antioxidants of tea. Research has found that the compounds in cocoa help decrease the risk of stroke, heart attack and cancer. The dark variety of chocolate is better and the ideal intake of chocolate is about 50g a day – as chocolate does contain substances that relax the body and regulate the mood – in short (and you knew this) – it makes you feel good!
Another love of mine is coffee – caffeine improves concentration, alertness, memory, reasoning and reaction time, and in recent years, caffeine has been included in medicines to reduce pain and fluid retention. Coffee is not technically addictive – and many nutritionists consider that up to four cups a day to be moderate. Well, I’m personally not too sure about that being a healthy intake? However, it apparently helps relax smooth muscles (that control involuntary movements of organs) promotes dilation of blood vessels and has a beneficial pain-relieving effect. Overall I have often noticed that food items that are or were on the “no no” list suddenly are vindicated and are back in favour. The butter vs. margarine debate is just one example.
But let’s get back to the humble, yet versatile sweet potato – from my reading of late – we should be eating this wonderful vegetable for breakfast, lunch and dinner – such is its range in regard to being good for all our body bits and operation thereof! Being an ‘orange’ vegetable it contains beta-carotene – which is converted to Vitamin A, which helps furring up of arteries, and that’s just for starters. It improves lung function, boosts your immune system because of the anti-oxidants it contains, and will help ease arthritis again due to the anti-oxidants, Vitamins C and E and the selenium it contains. Sweet potato has all the good things which promote healthy skin, hair and nails, its level of progesterone aids with menopausal symptoms and hormone imbalances. High in vitamin C – which is depleted during stressful times – it is also required for the uptake of iron into the blood. Do I need to convince you further?
And so, pushing the pills aside I approach the kitchen bench and stove, recalling a recipe I used quite a while ago which was a sort of spicy, potato and tomato combo created by the ever-enthusiastic cook, educator, and promoter of healthy, interesting food – Jamie Oliver. I recall his recipe used potatoes cooked in turmeric, tomato, garam masala and so using this as a base I simply substitute the potato for sweet potato. I made this dish today and it’s just as yummy as I remember it. It can be a stand-alone dish, or is great with a green salad, or green beans, or to jazz up the Sunday roast.