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Volume III
August 30, 2013

Weekly Home / Cook'n & Eat'n

Is it a Sweet Potato or a Yam?

By Alice Osborne

In one of my very favorite magazines, MaryJanesFarm, I found some good information:

First: Is it a sweet potato or a yam? I dunno. But here's what I learned: Even though sweet potatoes and yams are frequently confused with one another, these two starchy staples aren't even related botanically. You're kidding!

"Sweet potatoes are members of the morning glory family. Their skin color ranges fro white to yellow, red, purple, or brown. And their flesh ranges from white to yellow, orange, or orange-red.

"Yams are closely related to lilies and grasses, and there are over 600 varieties. [Alice: Dang. No wonder it's so confusing.] But since 95% of yams are grown in Africa, it's almost a given that anything you find here in the U.S. is a sweet potato. The difference comes among varieties.

"Sweet potatoes are classified as either firm or soft (when cooked, 'firm' potatoes remain firm, while 'soft' varieties become soft and moist). Since there's a need to distinguish between the two on grocery store shelves, soft varieties are labeled as yams."

This is good stuff to know because if you're wanting to keep a close watch on your blood sugar, you'll choose a sweet potato over a Russet spud any day. And now you know, in our U.S. grocery stores, you can choose freely-there are likely no yams on display.

Second: Did you know zucchini bread can be savory as well as sweet? I guess I don't get out much, but I didn't know this. And I was excited to learn it, because honestly, traditional sweet zucchini bread is a little boring—a noble effort at using up all that overgrown abundant plant this time of year, true, but it's so, well, boring. (I apologize in advance if I've ruffled any feathers with this opinion.)

But before I go on about a savory zucchini bread, let's look at why bother with zucchini at all. This lowly, often maligned vegetable is a health powerhouse, that's why! One cup of zucchini has 36 calories and 10% of the RDA of dietary fiber, which aids in digestion, prevents constipation, maintains low blood sugar and curbs overeating.

But wait, there's more. This dietary fiber helps lower cholesterol by attaching itself to bile acids that the liver makes from cholesterol for digesting fat.

Furthermore, the high levels of vitamin C and vitamin A prevent cholesterol from oxidizing in the body's blood vessels, thus hampering the onset of atherosclerosis.

And how about cancer prevention? Zucchini is vegetable of choice. Zucchini's high fiber content helps prevent carcinogenic toxins from settling in the colon. Moreover, zucchini's vitamins C and A, as well as folate, act as powerful antioxidants that fight oxidative stress that can lead to many different types of cancer.

Then there's prostate health. Studies show that the phytonutrients in zucchini protect against prostate enlargement and deterioration.

And because it is so high in vitamins C and A, zucchini is also an effective anti-inflammatory food. Along with zucchini's copper, these vitamins deter the development of many hyper-inflammatory disorders, including asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

But the story gets better. Consider heart attack and stroke prevention. A one cup serving of zucchini contains over 10% of the RDA of magnesium, a mineral proven to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Zucchini also provides folate, a vitamin needed to break down the dangerous amino acid homocysteine, which, if levels in the body shoot up, can contribute to heart attack and stroke.

Add potassium to zucchini's large amounts of magnesium, and you have help in lowering blood pressure. And they help alleviate the stress on the body's circulatory system.

Finally, zucchini is high in manganese, a trace mineral and essential nutrient. One cup of zucchini contains 19% of the RDA of manganese, which helps the body metabolize protein and carbohydrates. Zucchini's manganese is responsible for protecting mitochondria against oxidative stress. Finally, manganese is essential for the production of proline, an amino acid that allows collagen to form, thus allowing for healthy skin and proper wound-healing.

OK, with the science and nutrition lesson over, let's get back to this savory quick bread.

When MaryJanesFarm shared a recipe for a different twist on this proverbial quick bread, you can bet I copied it into my Cook'n Recipe Organizer. I tried it out for our Saturday night supper, paring it with bean and veggie soup, and the combination was terrific. So as a break from boring, here's a zucchini bread recipe you don't want to miss:

Savory Zucchini Bread

A tasty and welcome change from traditional sweet zucchini bread!

Yield: 1 loaf

Serving size: 5
Calories per serving: 197

2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small zucchini grated (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup sun-dried tomato, diced
1/4 cup fresh oregano minced (dried will work fine)
1/4 cup feta cheese crumbled
1 egg
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, zucchini, tomatoes, oregano, and feta. In a small bowl, combine egg and milk. Add to the dry mixture and stir just until combined. Spoon batter into a well buttered loaf pan and place in oven. Bake 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in middle of loaf comes out clean. Remember, ovens vary, so watch closely to avoid burning.

Recipe formatted with the Cook'n Recipe Software from DVO Enterprises.

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Alice Osborne
Weekly Newsletter Contributer since 2006

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