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I Yam Impressed: How one food can help you lose weight, stay fit and fight disease

“Sonia, what is that?”

It was the second morning in a week I’d walked past my Korean-born colleague’s cubicle to find her hunched over a foil-wrapped, reddish tube-shaped object, munching away.  It was obviously some type of potato, I could see that.  But it was the way she was eating it, more than anything else, that piqued my interest.  Totally naked (the potato, not Sonia), in medallion-shaped slices, and savoring each bite the way one typically sees reserved only for, say, a Krispy Kreme doughnut.

Damn, that must be one hell of a potato, I had already started thinking, when she answered:  “It’s a roasted Korean yam.  So good.  We eat them for breakfast all the time.  Want to try a piece?”

Why, yes, Sonia, don’t mind if do.  You’re a peach.  Before sundown, I’d driven 3 miles out of my way after work, to the nearest Asian supermarket in search of some..

Korean Sweet Yams at my local Asian supermarket. What a bargain!

…and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Have you ever stood over your kitchen sink holding a plain roasted potato in one hand like a Dairy Queen dipped cone, devouring it down to the nub?  No?  Just me?  OK.  Well, you will.  I like to think I’ve been around a sweet potato or two in my lifetime, but these Korean yams are in a whole different ball park.  When roasted, the flesh takes on a velvety, butter-rich texture unlike any other variety I’ve tasted.  And the flavor.  I can’t even describe it.  Plus, imagine that you are down to your last $5.00 and can only buy a single food to sustain and satisfy you every day for a week straight.  And not just any food, but one ranked highest among ALL vegetables (and probably all food, period)?   Where else, I ask, are you going to get all this…

A yam for every day of the week, all for $4.81. Are you kidding me?

…for just $4.81?

Online you can now find tons of credible research extolling the health virtues of the Japanese Sweet Potato or Korean yam (also known as “goguma”), which forms the cornerstone of the diets belonging to the globe’s longest-lived populations, like the Okinawans in Japan.  As this is a fitness post, let’s get straight to brass tacks about how this specific food can support your efforts to get and stay fit:

  • Cheap source of highest-quality, low-glycemic carbs, plus a host of other nutritional bennies.  Full of antioxidants like Vitamins A, C and E. (Christelyn knows what I’m talking about…if you missed it earlier, check out her sweet potato pie recipe HERE…)
  • Low calorie.  One Korean Yam = approximately 115 calories (could vary by weight)
  • Portable pre- or post-workout snack (just be sure to combine with some protein, like raw almonds), that can be thrown in a gym bag and enjoyed at room temperature.  I pack these for my long days in Yoga Teacher Training on the weekend, and they not only keep my hunger at bay, but fool my taste buds into thinking I’m eating something “sweet,” thus keeping me away from the Georgetown Cupcake shop down the street.
  • Substantial enough to stand alone as a one-dish meal.  Try it in the recipe below, which I adapted from Tal Ronnen’s The Conscious Cook.  You will not be disappointed.  (The miso dressing alone will make you want to jump up and slap someone.  But don’t.  Because that’s just rude.)

Green Bean and Sweet Potato Salad w/Miso Dressing

Green Bean and Sweet Potato Salad w/Miso Dressing


  •  2 tablespoons yellow miso paste
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon light agave nectar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 shallot, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup safflower oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives


  • 1 and 1/2 cups baby arugula (sub watercress, or other nutritious greens)
  • 1 Korean Yam yam, pre-roasted on stovetop or in oven for 1 hour, and sliced into rounds
  • 8 ounces green beans, blanched in boiling water for 1 minute

Blend all dressing ingredients (except chives) in a food processor or blender until smooth.  Fold in chives.  Coat the remaining salad ingredients with the dressing, and serve.

Tip:  I roast my Korean yams stovetop with this handy little pot I picked up for $8 at my local Asian grocery store…

From my local Korean grocer: pot for roasting yams (top view)

…bottom view (note the slits on the bottom, where all the dry steam magic happens)

Searched under everything I could think of, but couldn’t find a source for these online (Really, Amazon?), so for those of you who don’t live near a well-stocked Asian supermarket, I’m sorry I can’t help you out.  Truly.  Because for $8 this is the best thing since sliced bread, and I’ve been rocking it nonstop to roast EVERYTHING.  (For some reason, results are so much better over the oven.)  And since I can’t read the Korean on the box it came in (below), I can’t even track back to the manufacturer.  If you live in the DC area, you can find it at the H Mart on 12015 Georgia Avenue, Wheaton, MD 20902.

Otherwise, good luck in your local area, and report back if and when you find it…!

Sweet Potato Roaster - Box

Box it came in. Good luck finding it at your local Asian grocery store. (Field trip!)

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