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Veggie Bites for Teens: Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoPeople have been eating sweet potatoes for more than 10,000 years. Their long-lived appeal is probably not just because they are attractive -- sweet potato insides can be orange, yellow, or even white. It's more likely because of the obvious -- their sweet taste.

Other less obvious benefits from the common sweet potato could make you a fan, too, if you aren't already. Sweet potatoes are good for:

Improved skin. The vitamin C in sweet potatoes is important for your skin and promotes healing.

Boost in energy. Iron in sweet potatoes helps provide you energy.

Comfortable fullness for only 103 calories. You can thank the fiber for that sated feeling.

Stronger muscles. Potassium in sweet potatoes helps build muscle and keep your heart working.

Easier breathing during exercise. Beta-carotene, a free-radical destroyer, can reduce asthma symptoms from exercise.

Defense against disease. Beta-carotene may help prevent cancer and heart disease later. Plus, vitamin B6 in sweet potatoes helps fight off many diseases, too.

Teen-Appealing Ways to Eat Sweet Potatoes

You can microwave a sweet potato in almost no time, then season it (try cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice), and you've got a perfect after-school snack. A tasty and filling sweet potato will tide you over until dinner and give you the energy you need for homework or other activities.

Preparation makes all the difference, though. Just say no to sweet potato fries when you're eating out (they're still deep-fried). Also say no to Aunt Lulu's traditional Thanksgiving sweet potato casserole, baked with sticks of butter, scoops of brown sugar, and topped with marshmallows. Don't let anyone tell you that sweet potato pie is a "healthy" dessert, either. It has 340 calories and 17 grams of fat. You'll have to run for at least 30 minutes to work off those calories.

Where to Find Sweet Potatoes

The produce section of the supermarket will have piles of sweet potatoes next to the white potatoes. Ask your parents to buy a bunch and keep them around for snacks, lunches, or dinnertime side dishes. Canned or jarred sweet potatoes are also available, but watch out -- sometimes they're "candied" or packed in sugary syrups -- so read labels. 

Fun Sweet Potato Fact

Technically, sweet potatoes and yams are not the same thing. In the U.S., you'll likely see vegetables labeled "yams" in the store that are just a different variety of sweet potato. Some varieties of sweet potato stay firm when cooked while others become soft and moist, similar to cooked yams. The confusion started when yam-eating Africans were forced to come to North America to work as slaves. The slaves called the soft sweet potatoes nyami, the Senegalese word for yam. Nyami became yam in English, but true yams are rarely found in American stores.

Feeling bold? Take the Vegetable Challenge.

Ready for another veggie bite? Try Broccoli, Carrots, Edamame, or Kale.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Daniel Brennan, MD on December 23, 2013