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By Ashlie McDiarmid

Step aside russet potatoes: sweet potatoes are the new craze

It used to be that sweet potatoes were served mostly around holidays, with turkey or ham. But now that their health benefits are getting more attention, sweet potatoes are making their way into all types of dishes.

A smart place to find tasty sweet potato recipes is Pinterest. A great but unorthodox dish to try is a sweet potato, kale and sausage bake with a white cheese sauce. The sauce is optional, but if used in moderation it acts as a binder to the other ingredients without smothering them in fatty dairy. This recipe does seem odd, but it is worth a try. The sweetness of the sweet potato paired with smoky sausage and bite of the kale is delicious, perfect for a chilly fall or winter night.

There aren’t too many foods out there that a sweet potato won’t pair well with. Many restaurants now offer sweet potato fries or sweet potato skins. Sweets can be used in desserts, vegetarian dishes, paired with quinoa and served up at breakfast. The taste alone is enough to get excited about, but all the nutritional benefits are a big bonus.

It might make a shorter list to determine what vitamins and minerals are lacking in a sweet potato. Their nutritional properties are vast. They contain the vitamins B6, C and D. Vitamins B6 and C help keep away illnesses like flus and colds, and degenerative heart diseases. Vitamin C also helps the body with recovery, promotes youthfulness by producing collagen, helps the bones and teeth stay healthy and even aids in digestion. Vitamin D also strengthens the immune system, bones, teeth and skin.

Sweet potatoes also have an extensive mineral content with iron, magnesium and potassium. Iron aids the body in a healthy production of white blood cells, helps with stress and aids the immune system. Magnesium helps the blood and bones and also helps keep stress at bay. Potassium, known for helping the muscles, aids the kidneys. as well.

The iconic orange color also is an indicator that sweet potatoes contain a healthy amount of carotenoids; one is called beta carotene. These contain powerful antioxidants that help prevent aging and lower the risk of cancer.

The russet and other potatoes may be a little cheaper than the sweet potato, but it is well worth the extra pennies to add some variety to your diet. The body will say thank you, the meal will say thank you and guests will say thank you. Sweet potatoes, front and center, are a guaranteed crowdpleaser.

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