A-Z of super foods: Yams

A-Z of super foods: Yams


Native to America, there is a lot more to them than sweet thanksgiving pies. Whether you're trying to cut out carbs, lose weight or build muscle, this tasty tuber will help you to stay lean and healthy. 


The sweet potato originated in Central America and is believed to be around 5,000 years old. There are about 5,000 varieties sweet potatoes although we only tend to see the orange types in the UK. Strictly speaking, sweet potatoes are a cousin of yams, from a different plant family, and you can also eat the leaves and shoots.

Sweet potatoes have become very popular in recent years, with sales increasing between 50%  and 100% in some UK supermarkets. British-grown sweet potatoes are now available, and many people successfully grow them at home.  Their peak season is between October and March but  you can buy sweet potatoes all year round.


Sweet potatoes are quite rightly considered a superfood. They’re loaded with betacarotene which is a powerful antioxidant and a precursor to vitamin A. These nutrients are highly beneficial for your immune system, eyes, bones, skin and reproductive health.  In fact, they’re a staple of the Okinawa diet which apparently may help you live to 100!

They’re also rich in fibre, vitamins C and B6 and potassium. Fibre, in particularly, helps to control appetite, burn fat and build muscle. Because they’re so high in vitamins you can count them as one of your five-a-day. Being a starchy vegetable means they also make a great post workout meal.


Nutritionally superior to standard potatoes, baked sweet potatoes also have 7 times the sugar content. No wonder they taste so good! However, boiling gives sweet potatoes a lower glycemic index value.

Sweet potatoes also contain around one-and-a-half times the vitamin C content than potatoes and more calories. They also provide 400% of your daily requirement of vitamin A. However, white potatoes are arguably more versatile in cooking.


Sweet potatoes can be cooked in several ways:

  • Boiled/steamed – this retains most of the antioxidant properties of sweet potatoes.  Add to a pan of boiling water or steamer and cook for 10 – 12 minutes.
  • Roasted- possibly the easiest and tastiest method. Toss chopped sweet potatoes in oil and bake for 30 – 40 mins at 200 degrees.

There’s no reason not to experiment with methods and flavours. Try grated, mashed and chipped. Add them to pancakes, muffins and soups. Try these 7 healthy sweet potato recipes for bodybuilders.  They will satisfy your carb carvings without ruining your healthy intentions for 2016.   

The Author

Kath Webb

Kath is a contributing writer for PayasUgym. Football, running, weight training, yoga and walking are her forte, along with cooking tasty, nutritious food - with a regular batch of cake chucked in.


Tom D.
10 February 2016

Tom D.

I have swapped sweet potatoes in for regular potatoes in almost every meal except when I fancy mash - like Craig I can't say I'm a fan of them mashed but any other way they're great.

craig t.
8 February 2016

craig t.

Personally I can't stand mashed sweet potato on top of anything. I guess it's back to childhood when we have never even heard of sweet potatoes. They are nice as wedges and soup, but that's it.

Matthew C.
7 February 2016

Matthew C.

Sweet potato soup is my favourite thing to do with them. And, like Roger, I also use them as mash topping but tend to do half standard potato too.

Roger B.
6 February 2016

Roger B.

yum - or do I mean yam? I've used these as a replacement for a mash topping on a shepherd's pie and they are delicious.

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