The superfitbabe Guide to Sweet Potatoes (Varieties, Health Benefits + Recipe Ideas)

Otherwise, my definition of nature’s perfect food. I don’t exactly remember the first time I’ve ever tried a sweet potato, but I do recall that I was hooked upon my first bite. The orange bad boys became a kitchen essential. I then discovered the Japanese sweet potato at my local farmer’s market and never looked back since! I eventually came across the Hannah sweet potato, purple sweet potato and learned that there are a darn lot of sweet potatoes to keep track of. While Japanese sweet potatoes and Okinawan purple sweet potatoes reign supreme in my book, I love all and eat them all. Any sweet potato is better than none, right?
Even though I’ve only just begun my Food Science and Nutrition courses, I thought that a post encompassing everything about a sweet potato–from its health benefits to its varieties–would be beneficial for both of us because 1) you will learn more about everyone’s favorite “carb” vegetable and 2) I’ll be somewhat ahead of the game. Plus, anyone reading this will finally be able to distinguish the difference between the sweet potato and the yam, which I’m guilty of as well! After days of research and multitasking that involved research and noshing on sweet potatoes at the same time, I’ve finally completed what I think is my own personal best version of a sweet potato guide. It’s a win-win situation! And if you’re reading this and you don’t like sweet potatoes, it’s okay, but just know that your curiosity might lead you to think otherwise.
ORIGINS
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Now, let’s begin with what exactly is a sweet potato is. According to Almanac.com, the sweet potato (aka ipomoea batatas) is a grounding root vegetable, meaning that it grows from underneath the ground, from the morning glory family. It is not at all related to white potato nor yam, which it is often used interchangeably for its vastly similar features. But we’ll get to the difference between sweet potatoes and yams in a later part of this post! (1) While the sweet potato is a native crop in Central and South America, sweet potatoes are also grown in China, Southeast Asia, Polynesia, the Caribbean, the United States (with an emphasis on North Carolina) and select countries in Europe. (12)
Beneath is an extensive list of sweet potatoes that I’ve compiled from multiple resources. They are categorized in colors and each variety is arranged in alphabetical order within each sub-category. (3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
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ORANGE/RED VARIETIES
  • Allgold
  • Amish red
  • Apache
  • Beauregard
  • Bettys
  • California gold
  • Carogold
  • Carolina Ruby (pictured above)
  • Carver
  • Centennial
  • Cherokee
  • Continental Red
  • Copper jewel
  • Cordner
  • Covington
  • Darby
  • Dianne
  • Edna Evans
  • Envy
  • Evangeline
  • Garnet
  • Gem
  • Georgia Jet
  • Georgia Red
  • Ginseng
  • Gold nugget
  • Golden jewel
  • Golden slipper
  • Goldrush
  • Heartogold
  • Hernandez
  • Indiana gold
  • Jewel
  • Martins
  • Maryland
  • Nemagold
  • Oklahoma red
  • Oklamar
  • Old orange
  • Porto Rico
  • Qualls
  • Red wine velvet
  • Redcliff
  • Regal
  • Sharp
  • Southern Delite
  • Starleaf
  • Stoker red
  • Sunnyside
  • Vardaman
  • Willowleaf

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WHITE/GOLD VARIETIES

  • Amish white bunch
  • Batas
  • Boniato
  • Brinkley white
  • Bunch porto rico
  • Creamsicle
  • Crystal white
  • Dingess
  • Frazier
  • Hannah
  • Hayman
  • Ivis white cream
  • Jersey
  • Jubilee
  • Maynard
  • Millard Cooper
  • Nancy Hall
  • O’Henry
  • Old Brazil
  • Old fashioned Southern queen
  • Pelican Processor
  • Picadita Poplar Root
  • Sumor
  • Theodore Meece
  • White delight (pictured above)
  • White hamon
  • White jewel
  • White queen
  • White triumph
  • Whitestar
  • Yamiamo
  • Yellow jersey

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PINK/PURPLE/MULTI-COLORED VARIETIES
  • Amish bush porto rico
  • Bettys
  • Caiapo
  • Dingress Connecticut bloom
  • Dingess pink tint
  • Japanese (pictured above)
  • Jeanie
  • Korean purple
  • Laceleaf
  • Magoffin
  • Memphis
  • Murasaki
  • Nugget
  • Okinawa purple
  • Okinawan
  • Oriental
  • Purple
  • Red Japanese
  • Ringleys porto rico
  • Rose centennial
  • Satsuma
  • Speckled purple
  • Stokes purple
  • Violetta
  • Wakenda

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A YAM AND A SWEET POTATO

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Who else is guilty of using yams and sweet potatoes interchangeably, because I for sure am! Depending on the varieties you compare, they may appear, taste, feel and cook the exact same way! However, you will soon learn that the two roots are actually not at all as similar as they seem to be.

Originally grown in Africa and Asia, yams are tubers of tropical plants that are related to lilies and grasses. In concision, sweet potatoes are more popular in America and other Western cultures while yams are more common in Asian, African and Latin American countries. (8)

Even though yams still come in a wide array of varieties that have similar colors as those of the sweet potato breeds, they usually have white flesh covered in a dark brown skin. They much higher-maintenance to raise and are drier and tougher in texture. Sweet potatoes boast more nutrition, but yams boast more sweet flavor. (9, 10)

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION

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So now that we’ve covered the anatomical basics of the sweet potato, let’s cover why it is so valued in terms of health and nutrition. Sweet potatoes are an extremely rich source of plenty of micronutrients. One medium sweet potato, if baked, would contain the following:

  • 438% of the average RDA of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene
  • 37% of the average RDA of vitamin C
  • 28% of the average RDA of manganese
  • 15% of the average RDAs of vitamin B6, potassium and fiber
  • 10% of the average RDA of panthothenic acid
  • 9% of the average RDA of copper
  • 8% of the average RDAs of niacin and magnesium
  • 7% of the average RDA of riboflavin
  • 6% of the average RDA of phosphorus
  • 4% of the average RDAs of calcium, vitamin E, and iron
  • 3% of the average RDA of vitamin K
  • 2% of the average RDA of folate, sodium, and zinc

In terms of macronutrients, the same amount of sweet potato would clock in with 102-103 calories, 94.8 calories coming from carbs, 1.4 coming from fat and 6.4 coming from protein. A medium baked sweet potato holds about 24 grams of carbohydrates, 3.8 being fiber, 8 being starch and 7.4 being sugars; less than 1 gram of fat, and 2.3 grams of protein. However, these macronutrients vary depending on the variety. The more orange the flesh of the sweet potato, the higher amount of vitamin A it contains, for example.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest scored the sweet potato as the number one most nutritious food in the world. Many other websites glorify sweet potatoes as extremely nutrient-dense vegetables that boasts many health benefits, such as those listed below. (11, 12)

  1. Strengthening of eyesight (13)**
  2. Regulation of blood sugar and LDL-cholesterol (14)**
  3. High levels of antioxidants that protect against cancer (15)***
  4. High levels of carotenoids that protect against kidney, breast and stomach cancers (16)
  5. Possible effects reducing blood glucose in diabetes (17)
  6. Resistant starches that imitate fiber for a healthy gut; levels increase when sweet potato is colder (18)
  • ** – These studies were conducted using the Caiapo sweet potato.
  • *** – These studies were conducted using the purple sweet potato.

It is important to note that sweet potatoes come with some adversities. Overconsumption of sweet potatoes can lead to an oxalate overload. Oxalates are naturally-occurring strong acids in many foods that can trigger many unwanted symptoms for those with sensitivities, as well as dangerous diseases such as urine infection, calcium malabsorption and kidney stones. (19, 20)

Another fact that is even more important is to never, ever consume moldy–let alone expired–sweet potato.

STORAGE

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Oftentimes, people have difficulty knowing where to keep sweet potatoes in their home. Some argue that sweet potatoes should be preserved in only one or two ways, whereas others counter that the form of the sweet potato will determine its storage method. But assuming that your sweet potatoes are raw and have been purchased from a grocery store and have not been home-harvested, there is only one ideal way to keep sweet potatoes in order to preserve them best. Sweet potatoes should ideally be stored in a cool, dry and dark area for up two weeks. When refrigerated, raw sweet potatoes will encounter the fridge’s air contaminants that will make the sweet potatoes expire faster, hence altering their flavors, textures and cell composition. (21) Be sure to keep raw sweet potatoes in any container, whether a tupperware, bag, box or glass jar that allows for air to circulate towards the sweet potatoes. (22)

Cooked sweet potatoes, however, can be stored in a variety of methods. Sweet potatoes that have been cooked until soft should be refrigerated in well-sealed wrappers or containers, whereas dehydrated sweet potatoes should also be tightly sealed, but kept in the pantry rather than the fridge. (23, 24)

It is usually very easy to tell if a sweet potato has gone bad. When a sweet potato is expired, it may have sprouts growing on the surface, brown and/or black speckles, a softer texture, white or blue fuzz, natural liquids oozing out from the skin or a combination of everything listed. To double check, cut the inside of the sweet potato to seek any dark-colored spots, which mean that you should discard your sweet potato. (25)

COOKING

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Most cooking methods work well with sweet potatoes. The versatility of sweet potatoes allows them to be frequently used in various dishes and cuisines. They can also mask other typical recipes as a healthier alternative. Here are some of the most common ways sweet potatoes are prepared, how they result from these cooking methods and how they differ from each other:

  • Steaming: An extremely healthy and hassle-free cooking method, steaming yields perfectly-prepared sweet potatoes that have a creamy flesh but a firm texture and shape. It will take usually 7-20 minutes depending on how finely you chop your sweet potatoes or if you choose to keep them whole.
  • Boiling: Similarly to steaming, boiling sweet potatoes is one of the best ways to preserve the most nutrients in a sweet potato–possibly even more than steaming and roasting! (26) Usually makes sweet potatoes very soft, sweet and tender yet does not affect their shape unless you choose to cut them. The skin will usually come off the sweet potato very easily, so you won’t have to peel the sweet potato contrary to popular belief. Again, time will differ depending on how large or small the sweet potatoes are.
  • Roasting: As one of the most popular methods of cooking sweet potatoes, roasting sweet potatoes are traditionally used for large dinner parties or holiday feasts, more often than not for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Most recipes for roasting chopped or sliced sweet potatoes call for coconut oil, olive oil, and a variety of spices, salt and sugar, but you can also roast a sweet potato plain. Roasted sweet potatoes are very warm, creamy, soft and tender–whole sweet potatoes usually end up with an easily peelable skin and a mushier flesh than if you were to boil or steam a sweet potato.
  • Grilling: Who doesn’t love those blackened, crispy grill marks on sweet potatoes? It is best to grill sweet potatoes that have been sliced, chopped or cut in wedges, slices, disks or even cubes rather than leaving them whole. It will usually take a total of 20-30 minutes to finish cooking sweet potatoes completely, including flipping them routinely. Grilled sweet potatoes are firm and crunchy on the outside but soft and warm on the inside. Season sweet potatoes with herbs, slices, salt and pepper, and/or even a little oil for optimal taste and flavor.
  • Sauteing: It is extremely common to add sweet potatoes in a stir-fry. Sauteed sweet potatoes are not as soft as steamed or boiled sweet potatoes, and hold a very firm shape. Oftentimes, cooks will add water to their pan to help the sweet potato cook completely, and this process will take around 10 minutes. If cooking sweet potatoes with other vegetables, you may have to cook the sweet potato separately or before you add in the other ingredients if you don’t want to accidentally bite into a raw sweet potato!
  • Baking: Hands down my favorite way to cook sweet potatoes, baking results in creamy, fluffy and warm sweet potatoes whose skins fall off almost instantly. More often than not, make sure you poke holes on each side to allow the hot air to cook the flesh thoroughly. If not using a tray, cover the sweet potatoes in aluminum foil completely as the sweet potatoes will leak natural juices while baking.
  • Broiling: The difference between baking and broiling is that the temperature set for broiling sweet potatoes is much higher, time to cook is a lot shorter, and the sweet potatoes usually turn out blacker, crispier, more charred and more tender depending on the way you cut them. The flavor is generally more savory like pumpkin, which is great if you prefer your sweet potatoes with that umami taste.
  • Frying: Frying sweet potatoes is the standard way to create sweet potato wedges or fries. The result of the fries depend on how the sweet potatoes are cut, but they are usually soft on the inside and tender and firm on the outside with a set shape. With that being said, frying–specifically deep-frying–your sweet potatoes is not a very healthy cooking method, especially if using excess oils, salts and additives.
  • Microwaving: Most people will use a microwave if they want to cut a lot of time from baking or steaming sweet potatoes. Depending on how long you microwave a sweet potato, it will end up tasting warm, soft and/or chewy in texture. Unlike baking, the skin usually sticks to the sweet potato, hence making it harder to peel afterwards. Over-microwaving your sweet potatoes will result in dryer and/or burnt sweet potato tips.
  • Dehydrating: Often used for sweet potato chips and dog treats, dehydrated sweet potato slices are extremely paper-thin and have a much chewier, harder texture than if one were to use any of the other cooking methods above. It can take up to 22 hours to completely dehydrate sweet potatoes, so broiling or baking thinly sliced sweet potato is ideal if you are pressed for time.
  • Fermenting: I personally have never tried fermenting anything, let alone sweet potatoes, but there are many recipes that involve fermenting both cooked and raw sweet potato. Anything fermented is served cold and generally tastes both sweet, spicy and slightly sour. A very acquired combination of tastes, fermented sweet potatoes are probably very healthy to consume, but raw sweet potato should be eaten in moderation.
  • In baked goods: Pureed and cooked sweet potato is a great way to substitute butter and oil as a low fat alternative in a baked recipe as you would use pumpkin, applesauce and banana. Sweet potatoes are extremely moist, light and mild in flavor, but they do make the pastries very soft and fluffy.

Below are five lists of several ways that sweet potatoes are used frequently.

BREAKFAST DISHES THAT USE SWEET POTATO

  • (Banana) Bread
  • Cereal
  • English muffins
  • Frittata
  • Hash browns
  • Huevos rancheros
  • Juice
  • Muesli
  • Oatmeal
  • Omelet
  • Pancakes
  • Pastries
  • Poached eggs
  • Potato cakes
  • Quiche
  • Sausage gravy
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Smoothies
  • Toast
  • Waffles
  • Yogurt parfaits

ENTREE DISHES THAT USE SWEET POTATO

  • Bakes
  • Boats
  • Braised dishes
  • Breading
  • Brown sugar marshmallow sweet potatoes
  • Buddha bowls
  • Burgers
  • Burritos
  • Candied sweet potato
  • Casserole
  • Chili
  • Curry
  • Dumplings
  • Enchiladas
  • Empanadas
  • Falafels
  • Fettuccine
  • Flautas
  • Fried rice
  • Gratin
  • Gnocchi
  • Gnudi
  • Hashes
  • Hasselback sweet potatoes
  • Japchae (uses sweet potato noodles)
  • Jerky
  • Lasagna
  • Lettuce cups
  • Linguine
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Meatballs
  • Meatloaf
  • Noodles
  • Nuggets
  • Pad Thai
  • Patties
  • Pho
  • Pizza
  • Poutine
  • Puree
  • Quesadilla
  • Ramen
  • Ratatouille
  • Ravioli
  • Risotto
  • Salad
  • Sandwich
  • Shepherd’s pie
  • Slaw
  • Smashed sweet potatoes
  • Skewers
  • Skillet dishes
  • Soups
  • Spaghetti
  • Stir-fries
  • Stuffed sweet potatoes
  • Stuffing
  • Sushi rolls
  • Tacos
  • Tamales
  • Terrine
  • Turnovers
  • Twice-baked sweet potatoes
  • Tostadas
  • Vegetable roasts
  • Wraps

CONDIMENT/DESSERT/SIDE/SNACK DISHES THAT USE SWEET POTATO

  • Bars
  • Blondies
  • Bread pudding
  • Brownies
  • Buns
  • Butter
  • Cake
  • Candy
  • Caramel
  • Cheesecake
  • Chips
  • Chocolate
  • Cinnamon rolls
  • Cookies
  • Crackers
  • Cupcakes
  • Dips
  • Dressing
  • Flatbread
  • Flour
  • Fries
  • Fritters
  • Frosting
  • Frozen yogurt
  • Fudge
  • Guacamole
  • Glutinous rice
  • Hummus
  • Ice cream
  • Jam
  • Mash
  • Mochi
  • Moon cake
  • Muffins
  • Nachos
  • Nougat
  • Peanut sauce
  • Pie
  • Popsicles
  • Pudding
  • Roll cake
  • Salsa
  • Souffle
  • Sticky buns
  • Strudel
  • Syrup
  • Taitai
  • Tarts
  • Tater tots
  • Tempura
  • Wedges

Can sweet potatoes be eaten raw? Contrary to popular belief, only regular potatoes are toxic when eaten raw–sweet potatoes can actually be enjoyed uncooked, but in moderation. Raw sweet potatoes have a higher protein and resistant starch content, both of which have been proven beneficial for weight loss, combating diabetes, insulin regulation, preventing constipation, speeding up the metabolism, and fighting against heart disease. (10, 27) Consuming too much raw sweet potato will guarantee gas and indigestion because its trypsin content contains a lot of enzyme inhibitors that prevent stable food processing. (28)

MY FAVORITE RECIPES

I’m not entirely sure if you can see who I follow on my homepage, but if not, then you should know that I follow AH-LAT of blogs. There’s usually +200 unread e-mails in my inbox, all of which are the latest posts from my favorite bloggers because to me, there’s nothing wrong with too much inspiration! I’ve molded my own, personal style by now, but I just love opening my mind to different themes, personalities and lifestyles via websites.

But anyways, below I’ve linked my most recently updated list of my favorite sweet potato recipes, both from my blog and from other blogs that I highly recommend you check out after you read this post! Be prepared for a sweet potato food porn bonanza people, as I am sure it’s the very section you’ve been looking forward to for this entire post!

SUPERFITBABE SWEET POTATO FAVORITES

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  • BEST EXCUSE to Netflix here–but imma skip the chill because I’ll be too busy eating.
  • Dessert in a flash. Sorry that I stole your carriage, Cinderella.
  • When in doubt, go simple.

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  • Sweet potato……..with cereal? Yes, please!
  • And you can’t skip my personal take on the classic Thanksgiving heartbreaker.
  • An empty nut butter jar will never go to waste with one of my all-time favorites.

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OTHER SWEET POTATO FAVORITES

  • Have your cookie dough and NOT get salmonella with this amazing protein cookie dough that is Paleo-friendly and contains one of my FAVORITE sweet potato varieties!
  • When you can make sweet potato taste like popcorn, you know you’ve done something right.
  • Breakfast is served with this amazingly creative yet extremely easy sweet potato hack!
  • Peanut butter and sweet potatoes for dinner? Don’t mind if I do…

Well my lovely companions, that concludes this exhaustively extensive guide to probably one of my favorite gifts from Mother Nature, one that I obviously treasure more than humans. I hope that you have learned a lot from this post and feel like such a wise owl because you now know almost everything there is about a sweet potato, where its grown, what its nutrients are and what you can do with them in food! If you want me to attempt another kind of post just like this, be sure to comment down below what kind of fruit/vegetable/grain/nut/seed/other food item that you want to learn more about! Also, do NOT forget to comment below whether or not you used to mistaken a sweet potato for a yam as well as YOUR favorite sweet potato recipe so that we can all exchange different delicacies and cherish sweet potatoes all together! ❤

Have you always called a sweet potato a yam? What is your favorite sweet potato recipe?


8 thoughts on “The superfitbabe Guide to Sweet Potatoes (Varieties, Health Benefits + Recipe Ideas)

  1. OMG I love this article!! I’m a fellow sweet potato addict and I loved what I learned in this article!! So funny because I recently did a post (https://thenograiner.squarespace.com/lifestyle/Title/9/28/year) on how much I love sweet potatoes and my 4 favorite ways to make them and didn’t know I could find someone who loved them as much as I do!!! Thanks for all the information, it’s CRAZY how many types of them there are!!! So interesting. they’re truly the best food and I’m glad I found someone who agrees! Love your blog by the way and TOTALLY agree with how there can never be enough inspiration in the blogging community. It’s truly so inspirational and motivating to be a part of!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Amylou! So happy to hear that you’re a sweet potato lover just like I am. Thank you so much for the kind support sweetie! ❤
      I did get a chance to read your sweet potato page, and gosh, talk about recipe INSPIRATION! I have to try making your avocado sweet potato toast one day. Sweet potatoes are truly so wonderful in every way.
      Yes, I was absolutely shocked when I saw the LONG list of varieties. I was so baffled as to how I'd be able to copy them all down in alphabetical order, let alone even find out EVERY single variety because there is constantly new research and breeding of crops being done right now. Thank you again for this lovely comment. I also love your blog and I hope that we can be friends in this lovely community! 🙂

      Like

  2. BRILLIANT IDEA to make a full guide to sweet potatoes! And thanks for the shoutout. I should do something like that on my blog as well – I love the idea 🙂 Thanks for sharing all these amazing sweet potato recipes. I could definitely use more of this in my life!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hehe, thanks so so much Cindy! Your comments always make me smile. And I could not pass up an opportunity to share one of my favorite recipes of yours! I would LOVE to see what guide you create! And you can never get enough sweet potato recipe inspiration indeed! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh My Gosh. This has to be the best researched blog post ever. I had no idea there were sooooooooooo many types of sweet potato and you could use them in so many ways!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I had NO IDEA you could do all this with a sweet potato. I could spend days whipping all this up, and I certainly intend to! Also- I have always wondered the difference between the yam and sweet potato- so thanks for sharing that!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Me neither, and I thought I knew it so well! I knew that sweet potatoes and yams were different but I didn’t realize that they aren’t related at all! And I LOVED all of the recipes I found online from my fellow bloggers–please check them out when you can! 😀
      Thank you so much for the support Mack! I’m so happy you loved this post! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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