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We should all be grateful that yams have been filling our Thanksgiving tables for so many years.  Who knows? Maybe on that first Thanksgiving table, yams were laid out for the feast.  If they weren’t, they should have been, and they ought to be hanging out on your table this year as well (and frankly, all year ‘round).  Don’t think that just because your grandma or your great-aunt Pearl smothered their yams in butter, sugar and marshmallows that that’s all there is to these beauties.  You can make your yams just as delicious with half the fat and calories, while still getting the most nutrients your sweet potatoes have to offer.  It’s not hard—in fact, it maybe the easiest dish you make this year.

We don’t recommend sweet potatoes just because they’re a “supposed to be there” food for Thanksgiving tables.  We recommend them because they’re amazingly healthy and they taste so great!  Maybe you cringe at the taste of Brussels sprouts and beets, but most people smile when offered a yam; and they’re lucky because so many of the foods we love don’t bring much to the table nutritionally.  Yams, though, are chock-full of beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage from free radicals and heavy metals.  Yams are amazingly high in vitamin A and are one of the best natural sources for this vitamin (and they have more potassium than bananas!).  If you want to retain the highest levels of these health-giving qualities, there are a couple of things you should know: always steam or boil them and cook them with a little fat.

The fat is necessary for optimum absorption of beta carotene, but it doesn’t take much—only 3 to 5 grams of fat/meal.  For instance, in one recipe of Healthy Mashed Sweet Potatoes, 1 tablespoon of olive oil is called for; with just this small amount of olive oil, each serving (for a total of four servings) contained 3.5 grams of fat.  As for your cooking method, steaming and boiling are the best ways to retain the most benefits nutritionally.  Studies have shown that steaming sweet potatoes is the best way to preserve their anthocyanins (an antioxidant), and boiling has shown more positive effects on blood sugar levels (lower glycemic index or GI value) than roasting.  Fortunately for you, there are plenty of recipes that utilize this method and include enough healthy fats to really help your body make the most of this food.  Here are a few:

 

Chili-Spiced Mashed Sweet Potatoes

 

Sweet Potato and Spinach Quesadillos

 

Sweet Potato Pudding

 

Sweet Potato and Ginger Soup

 

Lamb and Sweet Potato Curry Stew

 

Healthy Mashed Sweet Potatoes http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=recipe&dbid=94

Heavy on the yams, we say!  Fill the table with them, fill your belly with them, eat them all year ’round!  And let us know what you think of the recipes we’ve included–how did they work out for you?