Super Food of the Week: Sweet Potatoes
This is my absolutely favorite vegetable! When most people think of sweet potatoes they usually channel images of Thanksgiving dinners and sweet potato pies, but this vegetable can be added to the menu throughout the year. There is often much confusion between sweet potatoes and yams, but in actuality a yam is a sweet potato. The sweet potato has a yellow or orange flesh and the skin can either be white, yellow, orange, red or purple. Not only do sweet potatoes taste like dessert, there are also a number of health and hair friendly benefits that comes from the consumption of this root vegetable. As a sweet source of nutrition, sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A, as well as a good source of vitamin C, B6, manganese, copper, dietary fiber, potassium and iron. These nutrients not only support a healthy and thriving body, they also support healthy and thriving hair.
Sweet potatoes contain unique root storage proteins that have been shown to have significant antioxidant capacities. In addition to these, vitamins A and C help to eliminate free radicals associated with conditions like atherosclerosis, diabetic heart disease, and colon cancer. Since these nutrients are also anti-inflammatory, sweet potatoes may also be helpful in reducing the severity of inflammatory conditions such as asthma, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Also, a recent study found that if you or someone you love is a smoker, or if you are frequently exposed to secondhand smoke adding vitamin A rich foods, like sweet potatoes, may save your life. The researchers of this study believe that vitamin A's protective effects may help protect smokers or people exposed to second hand smoke against emphysema or help those that already have the condition.
Sweet potatoes can also help decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke, thanks to vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 is needed to convert homocystine, an interim product created during an important chemical process in cells called methylation, into other benign (not threatening to health) molecules. High homocystine levels are associated with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, so having a little extra vitamin B6 on tap is a good idea.
In addition to tasty desserts, sweet potatoes can be prepared in a variety of ways. If you purchase organically grown sweet potatoes, you can eat the entire tuber, flesh and skin. However, if you buy conventionally grown sweet potatoes you should peel them before eating since the skin could have been treated with dye or wax; if prepared whole then peel just after cooking or avoid eating the skin. Some of my favorite serving ideas include baked sweet potatoes (topped with Splenda Brown Sugar and cinnamon), mashed sweet potatoes, and baked sweet potato fries. Other ideas I've come across include pureed cooked sweet potatoes with bananas, light or sugar free maple syrup and cinnamon topped with walnuts. Another serving suggestion included steaming cubed sweet potatoes, tofu and broccoli, mixing in raisins and curried vinaigrette dressing. Of course there is always good old sweet potato pie (with healthier modifications made) to nourish your entire body and your sweet tooth.
Question: "I really want to tone up my body but I don't want to appear too bulky or masculine. What is the best way to do this as far as a workout routine?"
Answer: Unless you put yourself in a rigorous strength-training program typically women will not bulk up. I should point out there are certain genetic and body type factors that make women appear more muscular than others. If there is concern about appearing too bulky or masculine there are a few things that you can do. You can try using lighter weights with more sets (about 2-3) and repetitions (15-20) to incorporate more muscle endurance to your training. You can also go weight free and use your own body weight to strength train and tone by doing push ups, lunges, squats, triceps dips and pull-ups. Two other very popular methods are Pilates and yoga. Both are known for their excellent muscle toning abilities and are very popular among dancers and many celebrities (like Madonna). You can try adding yoga and Pilates classes into your routine. If you're weight lifting and you would like to do yoga or Pilates you might want to substitute a day or two of weight lifting for the classes to avoid over training. I would also recommend changing one element of your workout routine at a time to avoid over-training and overuse injuries (in other words instead of revamping your entire routine only change one thing at a time). Also you should maintain a regular cardiovascular training schedule. If you're carrying extra fat then you won't be able to see your muscle tone, so the cardiovascular training will help you burn the extra calories to cut down the fat. There are cardio programs that do incorporate muscle toning such as ZUMBA Fitness classes and cardio kickboxing. Remember to stretch thoroughly after every workout. Stretching helps to prevent injuries, knots in muscles, and some experts believe that stretching can prevent excess muscle soreness. Also be sure to maintain a healthy and balanced diet to ensure your body is getting all the nutrients it needs to achieve and maintain a healthy body.
If you have a question or topic that you would like to have answered as part of the Fit Tip of the Week Series feel free to find me on the CN community forum.
Until next week, stay happy and healthy!