In one corner, the potato; in the other, the sweet potato. Some people swear that sweet potatoes a are key to weight loss and better health, while others claim the plain old white potato can be a part of a healthy diet, too.
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The debate rages on, so let’s get to the “root” of this issue and find out which of these tubers is best for your health.
For starters, sweet potatoes and potatoes are not exactly vegetables. A potato is a tuber, which is actually an enlarged underground stem. Sweet potatoes and yams are tuber roots, which is why they don’t have “eyes,” or buds, on the outer surface. Potatoes are stems, while sweet potatoes are roots.
Interested in how potatoes and sweet potatoes stack up against one another, nutrition-wise?
Fibre is an important part of a healthy diet. There are two types of fibre: soluble, which dissolves in water, and insoluble. Soluble fibre has been shown to lower cholesterol levels and help regulate blood sugar. Insoluble fibre is good for digestion, as it helps move materials through your digestive system and prevents constipation. Fibre also has been shown to play an important role in weight loss. Eating plenty of fibre helps keep you feeling full and satisfied and slows digestion. Potatoes and sweet potatoes have both types of fibre, but more insoluble than soluble.
- Potatoes: 3-4g of dietary fiber
- Sweet Potatoes: 4-5g of dietary fiber
- Conclusion: It’s a tie! Potatoes and sweet potatoes have similar fiber content, with sweet potatoes having a tiny one-gram edge over potatoes.
Carbohydrates are needed for energy, and foods with starches and natural sugars get broken down into glucose in the body to fuel your activities throughout the day. While too many carbohydrates in the form of processed foods with added sugars can cause the pounds to pile on, good carbohydrates, like those found in potatoes and sweet potatoes, can be a smart part of a healthy diet. People who are concerned with blood sugar, like diabetics and prediabetics, may want to avoid starchy foods, but for everyone else a potato or sweet potato is a good source of carbohydrates for energy. The Glycemic Index (GI) offers information on how foods affect blood sugar, so anyone looking to avoid blood sugar spikes should stick to foods with a lower GI.
- Potatoes: Glycemic Index 111
- Sweet Potatoes: Glycemic Index 70
- Conclusion: Sweet potatoes for the win if you need to control your blood sugar, or are adhering to a low GI diet.
Vitamin C is an important nutrient that we can’t manufacture in our bodies, so it has to come from dietary sources. Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant in our bodies, fighting free radical damage that can lead to illness and aging. Vitamin C is needed for collagen production, it supports the immune system by stimulating the production and function of white blood cells, and studies have found vitamin C to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. Both potatoes and sweet potatoes will add more vitamin C to your diet.
- Potatoes: 20% RDV (11.4 mg)
- Sweet Potatoes: 4% RDV (2.4 mg)
- Conclusion: Potatoes are the big winner when it comes to Vitamin C; they contain five times the amount of this essential nutrient than what’s in sweet potatoes.
Vitamin A is important for healthy vision, immune function, red blood cell production, growth and development. Vitamin A is known as the anti-infective vitamin, and it is needed for the immune system to function on multiple levels. First, it maintains the integrity of the skin, airways, digestive tract and urinary tract that is the body’s first line of defense; then vitamin A is needed for white blood cells to develop. Adequate vitamin A is important to keep you well.
- Potatoes: <1% (7 IU)
- Sweet Potatoes: 473% (14,187 IU)
- Conclusion: Sweet potatoes not only beat out potatoes as a dietary source of vitamin A, they beat out most other foods as well.
Minerals come from the soil, but end up in the plant food and animals we eat. Minerals are needed for almost every function in the body; iron transports oxygen through the blood and is needed for energy metabolism, potassium is an electrolyte that keeps cell membranes functioning, manganese is needed for the metabolism of carbohydrates and for wound healing, and phosphorus helps maintain the body’s pH. To keep the body properly functioning, essential minerals need to come from our diet.
- Potatoes: Potassium 10%; Iron 9%; Manganese 6%; Phosphorus 9%
- Sweet Potatoes: Potassium 7%; Iron 7.5%; Manganese 11%; Phosphorus 7%
- Conclusion: It’s a tie! Both potatoes and sweet potatoes offer a variety of beneficial essential minerals that will help keep the body healthy and strong.
Both potatoes and sweet potatoes can be a part of a healthy diet, providing beneficial fibre, vitamins and minerals. The only reason to limit potatoes is if you need to avoid foods higher on the Glycemic Index, in which case the sweet potato offers a lower glycemic load and will help keep blood sugar from surging. From the vision-protection properties of the sweet potato to the immune protecting properties of the regular potato, eating these tubers should be at the “root” of a healthy diet.