Learn how this brightly colored veggie can add essential nutrients and rich flavor to your holiday dinner spread.

The New World. This was the name given to North and South America long ago, in the days of Christopher Columbus and Francisco Pizarro. The land was rumored to contain vast stores of gold, silver and gems, but what the early explorers found proved to be even more useful: sweet potatoes.

As a member of the morning-glory family, the plant likely appeared as a flowering potato vine to the brave voyagers. The sweet potato was not, however, a wild plant, and required cultivation by the Incas.

The sweet potato traveled over land and sea, making its way to Europe and quickly becoming an expensive, rare delicacy. And it’s no wonder; 1 cup of cubed sweet potatoes contains just 114 calories but packs a whopping 377 percent of your daily intake of vitamin A. Not to mention fat is practically nonexistent in the sweet potato root, making it a healthy, guilt-free snack option.

Other health benefits of the sweet potato include 52 percent of the Daily Recommended Intake, or DRI, of vitamin C, as well as 50 percent DRI of manganese.

Not all sweet potatoes are orange in color; in fact, sweet potatoes can also have purple flesh. No matter the color, all sweet potatoes deliver fantastic health benefits to the body. The root vegetable, or tuber, contains free-radical-killing antioxidants, which may also assist in blood sugar regulation.

Although we associate the sweet potato with holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, its beneficial to add the sweet root to your diet throughout the year, and they can easily be found year-round.

Did you know?

Sweet potatoes are not the same as yams. Many people in the U.S. use the terms interchangeably, as both vegetables have similar size and color. Yams are native to Africa and Asia, and can grow larger than the average potato. It’s safe to assume that most vegetables labeled as yams in the United States are, in fact, sweet potatoes.

Need a Superfood recipe? Try one of these:

Sweet potato chili

Sweet potato harvest

Creamy carrot and sweet potato soup