Your Baby Will Love Sweet Potatoes!
Sweet potatoes are at the top of the list when it comes to first foods to introduce to your baby. The nutritional value of sweet potatoes is outstanding! And the sweet taste of the sweet potato makes it super easy to introduce to your baby even when they are as young as four or five months old. First of all, sweet potatoes are high in beta carotene as well as the ultra-important electrolyte mineral potassium! Sweet potatoes also contain a good levels of Vitamin E, calcium and folate. Plus…Bonus! Due to their high fiber content, sweet potatoes help support a healthy digestive tract and promote regular bowel movements for your baby. Note: fortified baby rice cereals can tend to constipate your baby; sweet potatoes won’t have that effect! Hooray!
Highlighted Nutritional Importance of Sweet Potatoes
(nutrients and benefits found in one medium, cooked sweet potato):
- Vitamin A – supports baby’s immune system, skin, eyes, and bones
- Vitamin C – supports baby’s immune system, mucous membranes and respiratory system
- Pantothenic Acid – this is a B vitamin that supports the immune system, healthy hormone production and basic metabolic functions of the body
- Niacin – this is another B vitamin that supports energy production in the body
- Folate – this is another B vitamin that supports brain and nervous system health
- Potassium- this is an electrolyte mineral that supports healthy cardiovascular function and kidney function
- Magnesium – this is a mineral necessary to the body’s bone and skeletal health, and ultra-important in regulating energy production inside the cell
- Calcium – another mineral that regulate bone growth and skeletal development, and plays a critical role in some hormone production
- Sodium – this is another electrolyte mineral that similar to potassium is needed to regulate cardiovascular function and water balance in the kidneys
- Iron – is a blood-building nutrient and enhances the oxygen carrying capacity of red blood cells
- Sweet potatoes also contain trace amounts of copper, selenium, manganese and zinc…all good minerals for baby’s health!
Don’t Sweat the Semantics on This One
Yams and sweet potatoes are actually, kinda, sorta, the same thing – nutritionally speaking. In the U.S., the terms are used interchangeably for the same vegetable. But, actually, the word “yam” originates from Africa, and a yam is technically a tuber. Sweet potatoes are in fact root vegetables and grow smaller than their yam cousins. In the U.S., the difference between yams and sweet potatoes lies primarily in the labeling, the color, the texture and the marketing. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Whether you buy a yam or a sweet potato, they are similar in terms of taste and nutrition. Just keep in mind, the darker orange-ish red the skin and the flesh of your sweet potato or yam, the more nutrients it will contain!
How to Select and Store Sweet Potatoes for Baby Food
According to the Environmental Working Group’s website, sweet potatoes are one of the 15 foods least contaminated with pesticides (“Clean 15!”) so purchasing organic is up to you based on cost and availability. When selecting sweet potatoes for making homemade baby food, be sure to select those that are unbruised and do not contain any brown or soft spots. Please keep sweet potatoes in a cool, dark, dry area for up to two weeks. It is actually best to NOT refrigerate sweet potatoes. And, as with most cooked foods, they may be kept refrigerated for 2 to 3 days after being cooked. Sweet potatoes – once cooked – actually freeze quite well.
Sweet Potato Recipes