Recently, at the Sedbergh Cycle Festival, a lady approached the Bakes and Balls stand and glanced at the products on offer. Her eyes stopped at the ‘Sweet Potato and Ginger Bakes’. Her hand reached out to the samples and then paused. I encouraged her to try, but she looked up at me and defiantly declared, “I like sweet potato, but no – that’s not right!”

What’s not right, I thought? I am delighted that she likes sweet potato – so do I! I love sweet potato mash and my wife does a marvellous roast sweet potato with our Sunday lunch. Was it the combination of sweet potato and ginger or simply using it in a cake? To me, it makes perfect sense – sweet potato has a natural sweetness and a texture that lends itself perfectly to being used in a bake. The sugars in a sweet potato have a low glycaemic index which is great for diabetics and means they have little impact on the blood sugar levels.

However, the benefits don’t stop there. To start with, one sweet potato contains 35% of your daily dose of Vitamin C and a full dose of Vitamin A. That means that as well as helping to cure your cold, it also helps your immune system and helps prevent heart, lung and kidney problems. Sweet potatoes are high in fibre. We all know that fibre helps to keep you regular, but in addition, it helps to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Rich in antioxidants (especially polyphenols and Vitamin C) the sweet potato could help your body in the fight against cancer and aging. For someone who has just had a TIA (a mini-stroke) the fact that there is more potassium in sweet potatoes than in bananas came as a surprise. The high potassium levels can also help to reduce muscle cramps and help your guts in digesting food. I would not recommend, however, that the sweet potato and ginger bakes are placed under the eyes before eating! Apparently, sweet potatoes (in particular the purple variety) have anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce the look of puffiness beneath the eyes. I have not tested this out, however, so please do not quote me on this – I would much rather eat them!

Combining sweet potato with ginger makes for a really exciting set of flavours, but then there are the additional benefits of using fresh ginger. The Chinese and Indians have been using ginger to treat a variety of ailments for the last 4,700 years! The key ingredient is gingerol – the oily resin contained in the root. Gingerol acts as a powerful antioxidant and anti- inflammatory. Along with garlic and onions, ginger has the ability to reduce blood-clotting and can therefore help to reduce the chance of strokes and heart disease.

Ginger also contains other antioxidants, including beta-carotene, which the body converts to Vitamin A. I am sure that you will have heard of antioxidants but how many of you understand what they are. In layman’s terms (and having failed O-level Chemistry, I consider myself a layman) antioxidants protect the body by preventing the body from ‘free-radicals’ which cause damage to the cells. Effectively, what they do is stop the free-radicals from causing oxidisation of the cells and therefore reduce the chance of developing chronic illness such as cancer and heart disease.

Considering that these bakes contain no additional sugars; are free from gluten and nuts and contain coconut oil and a range of seeds this really is a healthy alternative worth trying.