Something Different
Week of May 1, 2006 

Sweet Potatoes For Summer

By Dana Jacobi for the
American Institute for Cancer Research

In the course of a year, Americans eat ten times as many potatoes, pound-wise, as they do sweet potatoes. No question, potatoes taste good and have some nutritional benefits.

But sweet potatoes beat them hands-down in total nutrition, especially when you consider they are loaded with carotenoids, a phytochemical that helps fight many different types of cancer. Sweet potatoes also provide 35 grams of complex carbs compared to the white potato’s 51 grams of the simpler carbs that are more likely to spike blood sugar. And yet a baked sweet potato, also commonly called a yam, satisfies our sweet tooth like no white potato could.

So why, like the comedian Rodney Dangerfield, do sweet potatoes get so little respect compared to their white cousins? Most likely, it’s due to a lack of imagination or being stuck in old habits.   Except for those who live or grew up in the deep South, most folks think of sweet potato dishes only during the winter holidays usually, as pur?ed or glazed yams, or sweet potato pie. 

More recently, imaginative chefs are using them in muffins, pancakes and even biscuits. But that still doesn’t cover the culinary waterfront. Sweet potatoes can also be used in dips, casseroles, salads and stir-fries, and to replace russets as “French fries.” For a cool treat on a hot day, try a chilled soup using sweet potatoes, coconut milk and a bit of Thai chili paste.

For summer, sweet potatoes can be grilled, boiled, or microwaved, so you do not need to turn on the oven. Use them to make a spicy potato salad like this one.

Spiced Sweet Potatoes with Black Beans and Pineapple

2 medium (1 1/2 lbs.) sweet potatoes, peeled and
   chopped into bite-size pieces
1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
2/3 cup fresh pineapple, thinly sliced and cut in 1/2-inch strips
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
3 Tbsp. orange juice
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. freshly-grated orange zest
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. canola oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Steam sweet potatoes in a steamer or microwave until tender but not soft.  While still hot, transfer them to a mixing bowl.  Stir in the beans, pineapple, onion and jalapeno.

In a small bowl, combine the orange juice, sugar, zest, chili powder, cumin and cinnamon.  Whisk in the oil, then season to taste with salt and pepper.  Drizzle over the sweet potato mixture while gently tossing.  Set aside for about 30 minutes for flavors to meld.

Just before serving, gently toss to redistribute dressing.

Makes 5 cups or 10 servings. Per serving: 100 calories, 2 g. total fat (0 g. saturated fat), 41 g. carbohydrate, 5 g. protein, 7 g. dietary fiber, 238 mg. sodium.

“Something Different” is written for the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) by Dana Jacobi, author of The Joy of Soy and recipe creator for AICR’s Stopping Cancer Before It Starts.

# # #

AICR’s Nutrition Hotline is a free service that allows you to ask a registered dietitian questions about diet, nutrition and cancer.  Access it on-line at or by phone (1-800-843-8114) 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday-Friday.  AICR is the only major cancer charity focused exclusively on the link between diet, nutrition and cancer. It provides  education programs that help Americans learn to make changes for lower cancer risk. AICR also supports innovative research in cancer prevention and treatment at universities, hospitals and research centers.  It has provided more than $78 million for research in diet, nutrition and cancer.  AICR’s Web address is

All active news articles