Japanese Purple Sweet Potato

Many people see Paleo as a specifically low-carb diet, but if you are active and metabolically healthy, it doesn’t need to be. In fact, I can argue that it shouldn’t be.  The bottom line is – no matter who you are, you need to fuel your activity.   Yes you can do this with ketones bodies for the most part, but you also need glycogen made from glucose/starch.  This is especially true after a hard workout where your muscles have expended most of their glycogen stores.

Afraid of Carbs?

Thanks to bestpaleorecipes.com for the sweet pic.

My sense is that many people starting off on a Paleo diet tend to be worried about carbs – but there is nothing about Paleo that NEED be low carb.  In fact, some hunter-gatherer groups do very well on a high carb diet (read: Katavins.) Far more important than focusing on your macronutrient ratios is to focus on eating healthy, nutritionally-dense, non-inflammatory foods. That’s why one of the best “refinement” tips I can offer anyone who is active and on a Paleo diet is to add sweet potato/yams into the mix. Ever since I’ve added glucose-heavy (as opposed to fructose which starts a chain of reactions in the liver that could lead to metabolic derrangement) and nutritious sweet potatoes, I’ve felt better, stronger, and had better recovery post workout.  Plus, they are freaking delicious, and are easy to make and store.

Easy Cooking

To make sweet potato oven fries, simply skin (to remove potential gut irritants), slice, and bake in a pan at 400 degrees for 20-25min. In my neck of the woods in Japan, the main sweet potato is what Robb Wolf likes to call the “birthday cake” potato. It has purple skin, pale-yellow flesh, and is pretty darn sweet (hence the nickname).  I have a sneaking suspicion that I am starting to develop a sweet (potato) tooth and have wanted to try some of the less-sweet varieties for a while now.  Unfortunately, I could never find any in the market.

There are a wide variety of sweet potatoes grown in Asia, though there was one in particular that I hoped to try before I left Japan - the mysterious Okinawan Purple Sweet Potato.  The Okinawan potato’s flesh is literally purple, as it is rich in the same antioxidants as blueberries.  How cool is that?  Unfortunately, they don’t sell it here (or so I thought).

Last week, I came home with my normal batch of sweet potatoes from the farmer’s baskets at the local supermarket, only to find a pleasant surprise in the mix. When I cut into one of the bags of sweet potato, I found purple staring me in the face.  I checked the label again, to make sure I didn’t miss something, but they were marked simply as “sweet potato”.  I had hit the sweet potato jack-pot!  A single, glorious bag of Okinawan purple sweet potatoes had dropped into my lap.  I fired up the oven, sliced-and-diced the potatoes, and made the fries.  Here’s how they turned out:

When I realized that something was strange.

Skin-removed.

“If it bleeds, we can kill it.”

When I cut into them, they started leaking a white-substance. No idea why.

In the pan, ready to go into the oven.

25 minutes later, they've turned a deep purple.

A little freaky eating a purple potato, but also delicious.

I LOVED these sweet potatoes.  The flavor was much more subtle and “potato-y” than in-your-face sweet.  Also, I didn’t feel the compulsive need to eat the entire batch in one sitting (a good thing).  Add to that the plethora of anti-oxidants, and I wouldn’t mind making these my main-sweet potato option.  If only I could find them again!  Does anyone know if you can get these back in the states? (fingers crossed)

In summary, I highly recommend giving sweet potatoes (and the purple variety in particular) a try in your diet. It should help with PWO recovery, and is a nice source of healthy, gut-friendly carbs in your diet.  (Sweet potatoes are also a prebiotic for healthy gut flora!) Also, be sure to check out this website for some Purple Sweet Potato recipes (from Hawaii).

-Stay healthy everybody