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Sweet Potatoes and Maple Syrup: A Healthy Pairing

Sweet Potatoes and Maple Syrup: A Healthy Pairing

For many of us, sweet potatoes are a once-a-year decadent marshmallow-laden addition to an already overwhelming Thanksgiving menu. But there is no need to feel guilty about eating these hearty and healthy root vegetables and no need to limit them to the holidays. They can be an everyday treat and healthy upgrade to regular potatoes.  And adding maple syrup can boost nutrition and flavor.

What's the difference between sweet potatoes and yams?

In the United States, chances are, whether you are buying something called a sweet potato or something called a yam, you are buying a sweet potato, of which there are more than 400 varieties.

The name "yam" was given to a thicker skinned, moist, sweeter, orange-fleshed variety in the mid 20th century to distinguish it from the yellow, less sweet variety which predominated in the market at that time. The word "yam" comes from the African "nyami" which are true yams and are not grown at all in the United States.

Sweet potatoes are native to Central America and have been cultivated for over 10,000 years. Christopher Columbus introduced them to Europe and from there they spread to the rest of the world.

An excellent source of vitamins A, C and B6, sweet potatoes are also a great source of fiber. In addition, because of their sweet flavor, adding them to your diet can help prevent sugar cravings.

Some varieties of sweet potato are sweeter than others. Using the moist, orange-fleshed variety often marketed as "yams," reduces the need to add sweeteners to recipes.  But a hint of maple syrup can add lots of flavor and some great minerals. 

Health Benefits of Maple Syrup

According to a researcher at the University of Rhode Island maple syrup has more than 20 antioxidant compounds that may have anti-cancer, anti-bacterial and anti-diabetic properties.  The researchers believe that because the sap is just under the bark which is exposed to sunlight, maple syrup contains phenolics, the anti-oxidants also found in olive oil and berries. 

It has long been understood that pure maple syrup is rich in minerals and an excellent source of manganese and zinc. Manganese is a trace mineral with a long list of health benefits, including maintaining healthy bones and nerves, synthesizing cholesterol, maintaining normal blood sugar levels and promoting healthy thyroid function.

Zinc is an anti-oxidant and also has heart protective qualities that can slow the progression of atherosclerosis. Both minerals support the immune system.

Maple syrup is unique to the northeast region of North America. Canada is the biggest producer and the United States is the biggest consumer although production is only one-fifth what it was 100 years ago.

The process of making maple syrup comes from a tradition of the North American Indians, who made incisions into trees with their tomahawks and condensed it into syrup either by plunging hot stones into the sap causing excess water to evaporate, or by freezing the sap and removing the frozen water layer.

Many consumers don't opt for pure maple syrup because of its more expensive price tag and settle for "maple flavored syrup" or "pancake syrup" which is often full of high fructose corn syrup.  As with any concentrated sweetener, pure maple syrup should be used sparingly, so it's definitely better to splurge on the best quality if you can afford it. 

The following simple recipe from The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American by Jeff Smith, combines sweet potatoes with the richness of pure maple syrup for a traditional Thanksgiving dish you can enjoy all year. 

Maple Candied Sweet Potatoes

• 5 medium sweet potatoes (a.k.a. yams)
• ½ cup real maple syrup
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 1 teaspoon organic sea salt
• ¼ cup apple cider

Boil the sweet potatoes in their skins until nearly cooked through. Cool slightly, peel, slice and place in a baking dish. Bring maple syrup, butter, salt and apple cider to a boil and pour over the sweet potatoes. Bake at 300 degrees, uncovered for about 1 hour, basting 2 or 3 times, until the potatoes are glazed and the syrup has thickened a bit.

Enjoy! And Happy Thanksgiving!

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.

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Dietary Lectins as Disease Causing Toxicants

See this link: There is not much out there on this subject.

Joint Pain and Difference Between Sweet Potatoes and Yams

As you can see from the links below, none of potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams are the same plant. Potatoes and sweet potatoes are more similar to each other because they differ in family level, yams are less similar to them because yams differ from them above order level. I have never eaten a sweet potato or a yam and my question is, if a person avoids nightshades for some reason, should he or she avoid yams ? Plants from solanaceae family, potatoes, tomatoes, capsicum peppers, eggplants, groundcherries cause me joint pains, the first groundcerrhy I've eaten caused the biggest joint pains I've ever had in my life. I assume that since yams are quite different, I may eat them without problems, do you have experience or knowledge about it ?

Nightshade plants have chitin-binding lectins

Nightshade plants all have chitin-bind lectins that will attack your joints. Sweet Potatoes are not nightshades and do not have chitin-binding lectins.

You should have no problem eating sweet potatoes. See this:

Groundcherry is related to the tomato and would therefore likely have chitin-binding lectins. Thanks for the heads-up on the Groundcherry plant.

Other plants that have chitin-binding lectins include: cucumbers, squash (particularly winter squash), rice (both brown and white rice), wheat, barley, and rye.

Grains that do NOT have chitin-binding lectins include: corn, millet, and gluten free oats.

Gluten free oats are oats that have been grown on a field that is dedicated to oats with no crop rotation with wheat and also harvested and processed with dedicated equipment that has not been used on wheat.


Is There A Source About Lectins And What They Bind ?

Thanks, I will try some sweet potatoes or yams when I find them here in Turkey.

I've been searching for a source of knowledge about lectins in foods and what they bind in google and bing but I could not find one yet except Dietary Lectins as Disease Causing Toxicants by Rabia Hamid and Akbar Masood which includes only some of the foods and it doesn't include yams but I'll assume yams are at least as good as sweet potatoes.

I also found a book called Handbook of Plant Lectins but that's sold for more than 140 GBPs. If there's an economic source of knowledge about lectins and things they bind, I'd like to know.

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Sayer Ji
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