Roots and Tubers
Plentiful and easy on the budget, root and tuberous vegetables—from potatoes to beets to parsnips to sunchokes—fill many of the bins in the supermarket year round. Many, like the potato and sweet potato, are so popular that they turn up often on the dinner plate—and that’s a bonus for vegetarians and nonvegetarians alike: roots and tubers generally offer few calories, no fat, some fiber, but many nutrients, depending on the vegetable.
Americans—and other nationalities, too—have a love affair with the potato, a starchy tuber that lends itself to frying, sautéing, baking, roasting, boiling, and steaming. Indeed, one source estimates that Americans consume about 140 pounds of potatoes each year. For potato facts and trivia, visit The Potato Information Site.
You may be interested to know that there was actually a potato magazine, published between 1917 and 1925. If you want to learn more about the romance and history of the potato, visit its virtual museum.
Potatoes do supply some nutrients and fiber if you eat the potato skin. But while potatoes—which now come in numerous shapes and colors, some as small as thimbles and others darkly purple—are undeniably delicious, they are also an easily digested starch that may result in a rapid rise in blood sugar.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, potatoes and refined carbohydrates may play a role in the onset of Type-2 diabetes. So while you may love potatoes, especially if they are oozing butter and sour cream, you should eat potatoes sparingly, and more often substitute the sweet for the white potato.
A root often confused with the yam, a sweet potato is rich in vitamins A and C and, despite its sweet flavor, low in calories. According to the CDC, it is one of the most nutritious vegetables available. When shopping for sweet potatoes, select blemish-free ones and store them in the refrigerator, as they spoil rapidly at room temperature. Note that yams are tropical tubers native to Africa and Asia, and popular in African, Central and South American, and Caribbean cooking; true yams are not often sold in American markets.
Like the potato, the sweet potato is a multifaceted vegetable that may be cooked in many different ways. Baking it and eating it out of the skin is the easiest preparation. But the sweet potato may just as well be steamed, sliced and fried or baked, shredded raw before cooking, and whipped.