Feb 20, 2018 8:00 AM

A white, an orange, and a purple sweet potato.
A white, an orange, and a purple sweet potato.

Thank goodness sweet potatoes are not just for the holidays. These sweet, creamy vegetables are packed with powerful cancer-fighting nutrients and make a lovely canvas for other healthy foods like chopped herbs, nuts, or veggies. Research shows eating a variety of plant-based foods may lower your risk of cancer.

Sweet potatoes come in white, orange, or purple varieties. The bright color of orange sweet potatoes means they are high in compounds called carotenoids. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, lab studies have shown carotenoids function as antioxidants and aid in controlling cell growth, which could mean they help reduce cancer risk. In human studies, eating more foods with carotenoids is linked with lower risk of some cancers. (You may see orange sweet potatoes labeled as yams in the grocery store, but this is a misnomer—yams are actually a larger root vegetable not often sold in the United States.)

Purple sweet potatoes are especially high in anthocyanins and have been shown to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Sweet potatoes also have other health benefits, like vitamin C and potassium, which helps control blood pressure.

There are many ways to add more sweet potatoes to your regular meals:

  • Bake three, eat one, and store the rest in an airtight container for leftovers the next day.
  • Add pureed sweet potatoes to soups or stews.
  • Put cubed sweet potatoes in stir fries.
  • Roast them in the oven with chopped herbs, chopped nuts, or a sprinkle of cinnamon.

This simple but delicious recipe was created by Susan Massey for the Linda B. and Robert B. Wiggins Wellness and Integrative Health Center. The healthy fat in olive oil makes beta-carotene a little easier for the body to absorb. 

Oven-Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet potato fries

Serves 4–6

  • 4 orange sweet potatoes, scrubbed, peeled, and cut into thick fries
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 375° F. Place a piece of parchment paper on a rimmed baking sheet.
  2. Toss fries with olive oil in a large bowl. Spread fries on baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Bake 10 minutes, then turn fries and bake another 10 minutes. Test with a fork; if not tender, turn over fries again and bake another 5–10 minutes. If desired, use plain low-fat yogurt as a dipping sauce.

cancer prevention nutrition recipe

Cancer touches all of us.

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