Health Secrets – Friend for All Seasons

My son was off to university, embarking on his first
adventure into the world.

My heart was pumping with anxiety, with worries about how he
was going to survive without me, his mother.

I tried to get him excited about nutritious food, enlighten
him about the secrets of health, and prove
to him in every possible way that some foods have far
superior nutritional worth than others.

To get his attention and to persuade him that my words of
wisdom were worth hearing I tried to appeal to his
philosophical views…

“When it comes to livelihood you know well that friendship
is what makes life sweet. When it comes to vitality I want
you to know that a sweet potato with its bright orange
flesh, and its luscious sweet taste, could be your friend
for all seasons.”

“It has an extraordinary power to protect you from illness.
It holds high amounts of beneficial substances to detoxify
your body and boost your immune system. It is a gem, worth
getting to know, and it is a friend never to depart with.”

He looked at me with a blank face. To justify my brief
speech, and keep his attention away from the TV I cleared my
throat and continued with authority:

“This modest looking orange flesh root is full of beta-
carotene (vitamin A) and rich in vitamin C. It is the best
low fat source of vitamin E, which benefits cardiovascular
health and also the skin, soothing inflammatory conditions
such as eczema or psoriasis and generally improves the

“Sweet potato also contains protein, and a number of
valuable minerals including calcium, magnesium, potassium,
and phosphorous. These help to build strong bones, teeth and
healthy blood cells as well as support the nervous system,
heart, and kidney. Its high iron content is beneficial for
preventing, and alleviating iron-deficiency anaemia.”

“And I know what you’re thinking…yes it is technically
possible to live on sweet potatoes.”

I look at my son’s face. His blank expression had been
swapped with a puzzled gaze. He was not saying anything, so
I took it as kind of ‘yes’ and carried on.

“Its other health benefits are to cleanse,
and sooth the digestive system, so it may be an ideal food
to eat after any digestive upsets of any kind. The high
antioxidant levels in this magic vegetable make it
protective against the risk of cancer, heart disease and
strokes. It promotes good circulation and is beneficial to
ulcers. The darker the orange colour the more antioxidants
it contains.”

“The sweet potato also has high levels of folic acid which
protect an unborn baby from spinal bifida. The folic acid
also strengthens the nervous system and the blood cells of
both child and mother. Bearing all of these benefits in
mind, you must admit that one of the secrets of good
is simply to have a sweet potato a day?”

My son had reached the limit of his intake. He shook his
head and said with bored rebellion

“Ok, this magical vegetable has all the goodness that the
planet of earth can offer a poor student, but what are you
getting at? Folic acid? Heart disease? Psoriasis? What has
any of this got to do with me? I know you are into
Personal Development like good health and
stuff like that, but not me, mom”

I took his questions as a sign of interest, and carried on
with my full enthusiasm.

“This wonderful vegetable, with all its incredible wealth,
and with its delicious sweet flavour, is easy to prepare,
always a treat to palate, and beautifully compliments most
dishes. It is utterly delicious baked or roasted. Just heat
the oven to 200C, cut it in half, put in on a baking tray,
drizzle with a little olive oil, season with salt and pepper
and bake for 20 minutes.”

“You can play with it in many simple ways to vary the

    As a whole baked, just top it with a handful of cheese, or crème fraiche
    Toss it in olive oil, crushed garlic and thyme before roasting ·Make a scrumptious sweet potato mash by blending it with a chopped red chilli which has been sautéed for a couple of minutes in a little olive oil ·Alternatively peel and cut the sweet potato into chips, toss with grated parmesan, a pinch of mustard, and couple of spoons of olive oil, and roast until golden brown
    Make it a complete vegetarian dish. Peel and chop one sweet potato into little cubes. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan; add a pinch of turmeric to the oil
    Chop one small red onion finely, add to the oil, stir for a couple of minutes, then add the sweet potato to the pan. Let it fry for ten minutes, until soft. Drain, a can of chick peas, and add to the pan with couple of tablespoons of ready made pasta sauce. To give it a twist, add some chopped coriander for an Asian flavour
    Or simply turn a plain simple couscous or a Quinoa into an interesting, tasty dish by adding any left-overs of your sweet potato dishes to them

“Regardless of how you prepare this delightful vegetable, it
looks pretty on any plate, and beautifully compliments any
grilled, roasted or baked chicken, fish, or beef dish.”

“When it comes to eating habits I say a sweet potato, would
easily makes your day any day. You can always devour in it
with pleasure. Whether is cold and gloomy, or hot and sunny.
It is never boring, always rewarding, always satisfying. And
with only 87 calories per 100g.”

“Also it releases carbohydrates slowly into your system,
which results in being energized without producing the mood
swings or cravings normally associated with simple
carbohydrates such as white bread or pasta. This makes it a
great alternative to less nutritious carbohydrates.”

“This is a great health secret. This is the
food you can enjoy with no guilt and reap all the
health benefits…

Yes there was a long silence after my exhausting speech. I
could see he was trying hard, real hard…perhaps not to
offend me…with his verdict:

“Mum I don’t exactly know how you expect me to memorise
recipes as you list them off like an excited sweet potato
advertising rep, or how you expect me to know what quinoa
is. You fed me this so called magic food for a long time,
and I ate it, but it does not mean that I liked it. I
mean….It’s weird.”

“And also, I’m not exactly a master chef, so I can’t spend
all my time working out how to cook freaky stuff. I need to
have a life…..I need to socialize to enhance the quality of
my life which means going out as often as possible which
means I won’t have time to cook. Students live on fast food,
who am I to buck the trend? I mean I might raid supermarkets
late at night to get the reduced food, but that means I
can’t really plan what I’m going to eat.”

“Beside I need to attend couple of lectures if you want me
to come back with some kind of paper in my hand. I’m afraid
to say that I just will not have time to cook. The fact I
have never heard anybody dying from living on junk food, the
fact there is more in life than worrying about what I put in
my mouth, means I’m afraid I just don’t care.”

I looked at him with despair, and disbelief…. How does it
come that my son with all his intelligence, all his
knowledge of the latest computers and … gigs… and stuff… all
his… when it comes to understanding, and appreciating the
power of wholesome food on his well being, can be as
ignorant as I become when it comes to understanding the

I cringed with anger, and frustration. I scowled

“Ignorance is a curse. You are going to make friends to
enhance your social life, but you need more than ever to
make friends with miracle foods, to enhance your well being
for the years to come.”

He looked at the bag of sweet potatoes I had in my hands

“They taste good with marshmallows” I tried in vain.

His pity turned to a smile and he took the bag. Young people
are so easy to connect with sometimes, but only if you play
their game… And I am tired of playing games.