Sweet potatoes: eat on the bright side
As we head into winter, Australians are being encouraged to eat on the bright side – naturally boosting mood, energy and mental performance with sweet potatoes.
According to research from McCrindle, more than 50 percent of Aussies say they experience increased difficulty waking up in the morning in winter compared to the warmer months. The same report found 47 percent of us have an increased tendency to overeat in winter; more than two in five experience a craving for carbs and sweet foods.
Enter the Australian sweet potato, a naturally sweet-tasting carbohydrate – the brain’s preferred fuel source. This makes it a healthy and nutritious addition to any meal.
Get supercharged, people
Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian and founder of Gut Started, Marika Day, well knows the appeal of the sweet potato as part of a healthy, balanced diet. As part of this, she’s launched Australian Sweet Potatoes’ #GetSupercharged campaign.
“The sweet potato is an incredibly versatile food,” Day says. “You can use it in sweet and savoury dishes and snacks at any time of day. It’s a carbohydrate-rich vegetable which can fuel you throughout the day, whether you’re a young mum, have a demanding office job or train seven times a week – it won’t give you that 3pm slump.”
Sweet potatoes also give you a solid serve of fibre, especially if you leave the skin on. Plus they offer a host of vitamins and minerals that make it a top choice for busy people.
Life’s sweeter with sweet potatoes
The nutritional profile of this root vegetable is a strong one. Nearly a third of the recommended dietary intake (RDI) of vitamin B5 is found in half a cooked sweet potato. Vitamin B5 is needed for mental performance and to combat tiredness.
Half a cooked sweet potato also provides 15 percent of your RDI for vitamin B3. This is important for psychological wellbeing, energy and the reduction of fatigue.
Sweet potatoes are also a surprisingly rich source of vitamin C. One 150g serve provides you with more than 100 percent of your vitamin C RDI.
“Vitamin C is important for immunity year-round, but it’s also an antioxidant, which means it’s good for overall health, collagen formation and the absorption of iron,” Day explains.
An easy, tasty way to increase your veg intake
Eating sweet potatoes is a delicious and very simple way to help increase your overall vegetable intake. This is a pretty good tip, given that Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows 96 percent of us don’t eat the recommended five serves of vegetables every day.
“As a general rule, the brighter the vegetable’s colour, the more antioxidants and nutrients it contains,” Day says. “You should try to have a variety of different colours on your plate.”
To help with a sweet potato serving size of 150g, Day recommends using a measuring cup, or more simply, your fist. One 150g serving of sweet potato equates to about the size of a clenched average hand. And while you can bake, fry, boil or steam them, Day’s favourite time-saving trick is to steam sweet potatoes by pricking them with a fork and placing them in a dish with water in the microwave for a couple of minutes.
Apart from an easy evening meal, Day also advises eating sweet potatoes before and after a workout. “If you’re active, the type of carbs found in sweet potatoes are really important for energy for your workouts, especially high-intensity interval-style training,” she says. “Ideally, eat some before training, and then again after to replenish glycogen stores.”