Sweet Potatoes for Breakfast
For those skeptics our there, just hear me out for a second. Sweet potato may not jump to mind as a traditional breakfast food option. But really, it makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Sweet potatoes basically taste like dessert, but they are quite versatile and pair with both sweet and savory.
When going paleo, low-carb, or gluten-free or giving up grains altogether, breakfast beyond smoothies can be tricky to navigate. Fortunately, sweet potato bread, muffins, pancakes, and even savory loaded sweet potatoes and patties are all a thing.
But what about a nice warm bowl of oatmeal? Can anything really stand in for that breakfast stand-by? Maybe not entirely. But we can get pretty close: enter sweet potato mash.
While sweet potatoes clearly are not a direct substitute taste-wise, they do provide a similar consistency and the same warming comfort a hot bowl of oatmeal serves up on a cold winter morning. And if you throw them in the food processor for just a few seconds with the skins on, you’ll wind up with a smooth yet slightly chunky consistency similar to oats with the bits of skins mixed in.
They’re sweet but not overly sweet, provide a solid dose of real food nutrition to start the day, and can take a variety of toppings and add-ins just as well as the best bowl of oatmeal. I like to top mine with blueberries, chopped pecans, a generous sprinkle of cinnamon, and a bit of unsweetened coconut. But really, as with oatmeal, the sky’s the limit.
Sweet potato mash also works perfectly as a side dish, with or without the toppings. And of course it can stand in for a healthy dessert alternative!
Sweet potato health benefits
But first, the benefits. Sweet potatoes are chock full of carotenoids, which are full of potent health benefits due to their rich phytochemical concentrations. My favorite: cancer risk reduction. Increased intake of carotenoids has been associated with reduced risk of multiple types of cancer. Interestingly, they might also help protect us from harmful UV sun rays. Research has found that supplementing sunblock with daily intake of carotenoids before (and during) sun exposure can help reduce the rate of sunburn and sun damage, likely because it slows the absorption of UV rays.
Sweet potatoes have also got you covered on the Vitamin A front: one cup provides over 200% of the recommended daily intake, as well as 50% of your Vitamin C and Manganese, making them an excellent immunity-boosting staple. They also provide a substantial amount of the B vitamins and biotin, plus copper, pantothenic acid, potassium, phosphorous, and fiber.
Not only are they high in antioxidants, but they are contain anti-inflammatory benefits. Studies show a reduction in inflammation in nerve and brain tissue following sweet potato consumption. The phytonutrients prevent demyelination caused by excess fibrinogen, which has implications for diseases like multiple sclerosis. The research so far backs it up – I won’t argue with that!
In spite of their relatively high GI rating, sweet potatoes have been show to actually improve blood sugar regulation, even in people with Type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, another class of nutrients found in sweet potatoes called glycosides have been shown to contain antibacterial and anti fungal properties.
The Upshot: Nailing the Breakfast Game
While research into all of these potential health benefits is ongoing, the upshot is clear: eat your sweet potatoes!
In order to maximize the bioavailability of the nutrients (aka how efficiently your body absorbs the nutrients), adding a little fat to your meal is a good idea. Sweet potato and avocado is one of my favorite combos.
But you can easily add just a little olive oil to a dish, or to keep it sweet, I like to add coconut oil. For those who aren’t fans of the coconut flavor, unrefined coconut oil has no coconut flavor.
Sweet Potato Mash
A paleo, grain-free, gluten-free alternative to breakfast oats.
- 2-4 sweet potatoes depending on size
- 1 tbsp coconut oil refined or unrefined
- Toppings of choice. My favorites include: pecans, walnuts, unsweetened shredded coconut, cacao nibs, blueberries, dried fruit, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, warming spices, a drizzle of honey or maple syrup for a touch of added sweetness if desired.
Pierce the sweet potatoes a few times with a nice and bake at 400F for 35-50 minutes (depending on size; they should be soft when fully cooked).
Place the sweet potatoes in a food processor, add the coconut oil, and blend until thoroughly mashed. Option: scoop the insides from the skin and mash with a fork.
Scoop into a bowl, add toppings as desired, and eat up!