A staple at our holiday dinner table, these maple bacon sweet potatoes are deliciously mapley and baconey. The first time I made these, Scott was still talking about them two weeks later! If you ever need a recipe to take to an autumn or winter potluck, this is your recipe.
Sweet potatoes (the oranges ones, as used in this recipe) are very high in beta-carotene, hence the orange colour. While often thought of for its connection to vitamin A, beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant that can help protect your cells from free radicals and oxidative stress. A study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that sweet potatoes have very strong anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and antidiabetic properties, and sweet potato extract has been shown to reduce nerve and brain tissue inflammation throughout the body. Talk about a health food! (1, 2)
But is it Vitamin A?
While beta-carotene is often considered synonymous with vitamin A, this is not the case. Beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A. The body must convert beta-carotene to retinol (vitamin A) for the body to be able to use it as vitamin A. And the conversion rate is not great. It can vary significantly, but generally no more than 3% of ingested beta-carotene is absorbed by the body and the conversion rate of what is absorbed is 28:1 beta-carotene to retinol.
For those with autoimmune issues, thyroid issues, and digestive issues, this conversion process can be significantly compromised to the point where it may not be occurring at any meaningful level. The best way to ensure adequate intake of vitamin A is to consume foods high in preformed vitamin A (retinol), which can only be found in animal food sources, such as offal, egg yolks, or cod liver oil. But don’t let that take away from the other great benefits of consuming sweet potatoes! (3)
How to Get the Best Bang for Your Beta-Carotene Buck
Steaming or baking the sweet potato creates the greatest level of bioavailability (the ability of a nutrient to be used by the body) of all the delicious nutrients found in a sweet potato. It is best to avoid boiling your sweet potatoes as this destroys the nutrients. Because beta-carotene is fat-soluble, you will get the best absorption by eating sweet potatoes with a healthy serving of fat. (4)
After following my “secret” steps for perfect bacon, I had a pound of delicious strips crisped to perfection. It took some serious self control not to eat the entire pound right off the pan myself. I used the fat from the bacon to add an extra dimension of flavour to the Prosciutto-Wrapped Broccolini. What was left over went right into these maple bacon sweet potatoes, along with a healthy helping of lard for good measure!
This is mashed sweet potatoes kicked up a notch (or two)! I hope you love it as much as we did!
Maple Bacon Sweet Potatoes
- 8 cups chopped sweet potato
- 1 pound bacon
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 3-4 tbsp bacon fat, duck fat, or lard
- salt, to taste
- ground cinnamon to taste
- Steam sweet potato until soft. Mash by hand or puree in a food processor. I personally prefer hand-mashed as it has better texture.
- Add bacon, maple syrup, fat, salt, and cinnamon and stir to combine.
- Transfer mixture to an oven-safe serving dish and bake for 15-20 minutes at 325F.
- Serve and enjoy!