Sweet potatoes have now become a part of our diet and, in fact, it is amazing how many healthy (and unhealthy) recipes have been created with this nutrient-rich veggie as their main ingredient. Sweet potato wedges, sweet potato cupcakes and burgers, but also soups, salads, or even a sweet potato bread are just a few examples. As you understand, I like working with this ingredient a lot, as well as creating countless flavorful recipes with it; especially after I found out how nutrient-dense it is.
I also see that many people who follow a healthy lifestyle eat sweet potatoes a lot more often than regular potatoes and, as it seems, this is becoming a trend. It is something that got my attention and so, I started looking for their differences and similarities. My questions are the following:
1. Are their differences so great?
2. Should we actually avoid potatoes or not?
I think that the photo I prepared for you says a lot on its own, but let’s take a look at this information in a little more detail:
1. Their caloric differences are very small, since a boiled potato of 100 g has 75 calories and a boiled sweet potato has 90 calories. What you have to be careful of when consuming potatoes, is the way they are cooked. As I imagine, you already know that fried potatoes are the ones that you’d better avoid and not include in your nutrition plan often. In case you choose to consume fried sweet potatoes, the fact that they have a few more nutrients does not automatically make them healthy. We should pay more attention to the way of cooking, especially if we want to follow a healthy eating plan we should choose steaming or alternatively baking as cooking methods!
2. Both kinds of potatoes are a good source of fiber, which is necessary both for the normal bowel function and for making us feel full for longer. We should consume at least 25-30 g fiber daily, which we can mainly get from fruits and vegetables, as well as from foods that contain complex carbs like bulgur, buckwheat, wheat, and whole-wheat products. (You can find out more about fiber, here.)
3. But, let’s talk about some of their differences…The sweet potato is a good source of vitamin C since it contains 21% of the recommended daily intake (RDI), while the regular potato contains only 11% of the vitamin C RDI. Vitamin C -as you already know- is essential for boosting our immune system, for our body’s normal function, it acts as an antioxidant, it helps in the production of collagen and in the absorption of iron by the body.
4. Sweet potato contains more manganese than the regular potato, which is also an essential mineral for our body with antioxidant properties, and which seems to play an important part in the blood sugar regulation.
5. Moreover, sweet potato is higher in vitamin A (83% RDI), while potato does not contain any vitamin A at all. The particular vitamin also acts as an antioxidant and it protects the body from free radicals, it boosts vision, the skin’s health, the normal bone growth, and reproduction.
6. Regarding carbs, fats, and the potato’s or sweet potato’s protein content, the differences between the two are very small as well. Both potato and sweet potato are starchy foods and they contain 18 and 20 g carbs in 100 g, respectively. Regular potato simply has a higher glycemic index than sweet potato, and this practically means that it causes blood sugar levels to spike. Sweet potato, due to its lower glycemic index, helps in keeping blood sugar levels more stable and for this reason, we feel full for longer.
Therefore, both kinds of potatoes can be part of a balanced nutrition plan; it’s just that the sweet potato has some more benefits. The problem that I believe a lot of people have is 1. consuming the right quantity, 2. making proper food combinations – for instance, many people accompany potatoes with bread – and 3. as I mentioned previously, the cooking method… You can have both potato and sweet potato in your diet, just make sure you consume them the right way.
This article was written in collaboration with Kitchen Lab’s Sports Nutritionist Anna Maria Volanaki, MSc, BDA, SENr.