Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sweet Potatoes vs. Yams

My clients are always asking me what the difference between a sweet potato and a yam are. Here is a quick explanation below with a delicious recipe to try!

In the United States, the term "yam" is usually mistakenly used to label orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. Yams—thick, white tubers with little flavor—are actually not related to sweet potatoes at all. Sweet potatoes originated in South America and come in dozens of varieties; the orange-fleshed ones in question are only eaten in the United States. Yams, on the other hand, are rarely available in the United States, though they are popular in South and Central America, the West Indies, many Pacific islands, and parts of Asia and Africa. Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes have a rich, sweet flavor; yams are particularly bland, starchy vegetables that are best used as a background for more flavorful accompaniments. Sweet potatoes typically have a smooth skin, while the skin of yams is rough and somewhat shaggy.

In the supermarket, you will generally see what is technically a sweet potato labeled as a yam. You are unlikely to find a true yam at your average supermarket, although they are slowly making their way to some, so if you are shopping for sweet potatoes, you should be safe putting a "yam" in your cart. When recipes call for yams as substitutes, most are referring to red-skinned, orange-fleshed sweet potatoes that have been labeled as yams—not the white-fleshed, bland tuber.

Difference in Health Benefits:

Sweet potatoes are relatively low in calories and have no fat. They are rich in beta-carotene , having five times the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A in one sweet potato, as well as loaded with potassium. These nutrients help to protect against heart attack and stroke. The potassium helps maintain fluid and electrolyte balance in the body cells, as well as normal heart function and blood pressure.

Wild Mexican "yams" which are related to the sweet potato, seem to have anti-weight-gain, anti-cancer, and anti-aging properties. True yams do not contain as much Vitamin A and C as sweet potatoes.

Information above adapted from: http://www.bonappetit.com

Sweet Potato Wedges


3-4 sweet potatoes or yams

1/2 teaspoon coconut oil

1 tablespoon maple syrup

a few generous dashes of cinnamon, cumin and nutmeg

sea salt to taste

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash potatoes and remove blemish spots and dried ends. Slice into thin sticks and place in large bowl. Drizzle on remaining ingredients and toss to distribute evenly. Spread coated potatoes in single layer on cookie sheet and bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven, flip slices and bake another 10-20 minutes or until tender and browned (cooking time will vary depending on thickness of potato slices and stove). Serve hot & enjoy!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

One (Beautiful) Word for Jetlag = Ashwagandha

Say that word 3 times. Isn't it so pretty?! I am not one for supplements, but this one stole my heart as soon as I heard it's lovely name. I'm lucky it did, because it's brought me a host of benefits, including jet lag relief on my recent trip to California.

About Ashwagandha: Ashawagandha, also known as the Indian ginseng, originated in India and Northern America. When I mentioned this name to one of my yoga students about how it helped me with my jet lag, she emailed me the next day saying that she was trying to google whatever she remembered of the name but all that came up was an African Prince-HAHA! The name was actually derived from Withania somnifera which is a Sanskrit name.

Ashawagandha is a shrub that has yellowish -green flowers. It is regarded as an adaptogen (a type of herb said to strengthen your resistance to stress while enhancing your energy). Often used to boost the immune system after an illness, ashwagandha is also included in formulations that aim to treat these conditions:

  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • inflammation
  • fatigue
  • gastrointestinal disorders
  • skin infections
  • insomnia and other sleeping disorders
  • anxiety, depression (nervous system ailments)
  • epilepsy
  • ...and supposedly it helps with jet lag! At least it helped me. I made sure to take it 2-3 times throughout the day before I left, during my traveling, and throughout the 1st day at my destination. Then, I did the same on my last day of my trip, traveling back, and 1st day back at home. It worked wonders! Now keep in mind, when I travel on planes I make sure that I pack healthy food and snacks (peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, bananas, apples, trail mixes, lara bars, etc.) and stay VERY well hydrated. Herbal teas in the airport terminal, a glass of water every time the drink cart strolls by me, and a comfy neck pillow to doze off so that I'm not skipping much sleep is also part of my travel plan. Once I arrive at my destination I make sure to bask in the sunlight (when applicable) to help allow my body to adjust and recharge. This is always a great opportunity for me to sit in the sun, drink some more water, and journal about my travels. Also, ashwagandha is a great supplement to take during the winter months since it helps keep our immune system strong. This is also helpful when traveling because we all know how yucky that germ infested dry air is on a long flight! Yick-

    How to take it: Ashwagandha can be taken in powdered form, dried root, capsules or tablets. Recommended dose is between 1 to 2 capsules everyday, available mostly in health drugstores. There’s no side effects reported in taking ashwagandha in various forms as pills, tablets, or capsules. Although large doses might result in irritation to the mucus walls or perhaps gastrointestinal problems. Make sure to take it with food. This herb should not be used with any other medicinal sedatives. Pregnant, breastfeeding or nursing moms should not take this herb as well with children.

    Although ashwagandha is an all-natural supplement that includes lots of possible advantages to one’s over-all health and wellbeing, it is advised to consult a doctor prior to taking it or ANY other herbal supplements.

    Friday, November 4, 2011

    Tuesday, November 1, 2011

    Apple Sunflower Seed Sandwich

    Peanut butter and jelly…you have some competition.

    2 slices of your favorite bread (I love Ezekiel)
    ½ of your favorite crisp apple, sliced fine
    swipe of sunflower seed butter
    swipe of apple butter (or your favorite preserve, fig is my fav!)
    sprinkle of fresh ground cinnamon

    Slather on both apple (or preserves) and sunflower seed butter and arrange apple slices on top of one bread slice. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Press bread together and take a bite. Yum!

    Benefits of Sunflower Seed Butter:
    Sunflower seed butter is one of the alternatives available to the very popular American lunch staple, peanut butter. It is made with oil and ground sunflower seeds. This spreadable food item is rich in unsaturated fats and is an excellent source of many vitamins (especially B), minerals (magnesium, phosphorus) and healthy fats, and is a vegetarian protein food source.