Potatoes are one of the most common and popular root vegetables. Then, you have the sweet potato, which doesn’t enjoy quite the same popularity. But, lots of people opt for sweet potatoes these days because it is considered a healthy alternative to regular potatoes. But, are sweet potatoes healthier than regular potatoes? Learn more about this great debate — sweet potatoes vs regular potatoes — and which might be the best choice for you.
Potatoes are a hugely popular vegetable. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. In the U.S. alone, people consume an average of 55 pounds of potatoes a year.1
And, it’s no surprise, regular potatoes and sweet potatoes taste great with all kinds of different ingredients and cooking methods. These hearty vegetables grow in all sorts of climates and are very nutrient-dense. This makes them a staple food all over the world.2
As you’ll see below, each one can be a part of a healthy diet.
Sweet Potato Health Profile
Sweet potatoes are a starchy root vegetable that contain many important minerals and vitamins. For example, a medium-sized, baked sweet potato with the skin on contains very little fat and a variety of nutrients, like:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B63
All of these nutrients may offer lots of potential health benefits, like:
- Fiber that helps support digestive health.
- High levels of beta-carotene can help support vision and aspects of vision health.
- Vitamin A may help support the immune system.4
Regular Potato Health Profile
Regular white potatoes also offer up important nutrients. An unpeeled, baked potato contains:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B65
Eating regular potatoes cooked with limited oil and served with fresh ingredients may provide some important potential health benefits as well:
- Potatoes are one of the most filling foods you can eat, which may help fight hunger and curb overeating.6,7
- The resistant starch in potatoes can help support healthy stomach bacteria.8
- Potatoes are a gluten-free food, which can make them a filling substitute for wheat pasta.9
A Side By Side Comparison: Sweet Potatoes Vs White Potatoes
As you can see, when it comes to sweet potatoes vs regular potatoes, they actually share a lot in common. They are both nutritious and offer a variety of important minerals and vitamins. So, what makes them different?
Key Nutritional Differences
For starters, sweet potatoes and regular potatoes aren’t actually related. Sweet potatoes are part of the morning glory family, and potatoes are from the nightshade family. In this sense, a regular potato is more closely related to eggplant than a sweet potato.10
Generally, sweet potatoes have fewer calories and carbs than regular potatoes. They also contain more vitamin A than a regular potato, plus high levels of vitamin C and plant-based fiber.11
Purple And Orange Make A Difference
It may seem obvious, but color is one of the key differences between regular potatoes and sweet potatoes. The orange and purple color of sweet potatoes comes from phytonutrients. These beneficial plant compounds, also known as antioxidants, can help the body fight off free radicals and defend against illness.12
This is why many experts suggest that you try to eat a wide variety of bright colors. Colorful vegetables, like sweet potatoes, provide more antioxidants than white, regular potatoes.13
The Glycemic Index
White potatoes have a high glycemic load. This means that specific carbohydrates in potatoes may cause blood sugar levels to spike. This can leave you feeling hungry shortly after a meal and lead to excess eating.14
Sweet potatoes also score high on the glycemic index, but one difference is that people don’t tend to overeat sweet potatoes the same way they do with regular potatoes.15
In The Great Debate, Preparation Matters
When it comes to sweet potatoes vs white potatoes, the sweet potato may be a slightly healthier option. But, the real deciding factor comes down to preparation. Don’t let a substitution of sweet potato fries fool you into thinking you’re eating healthy. Fried sweet potatoes can contain high levels of calorie content, fat, and sodium.16
What’s important is how you prepare your regular and sweet potato. As soon as that potato gets dropped in hot oil or covered with sour cream and bacon, it can do more harm than good. Ingredients and the cooking process are often why potatoes become unhealthy – not the potato itself.17
Get The Most From Your Regular And Sweet Potatoes
Fortunately, you can easily make your regular or sweet potatoes healthy. These are a few tips and ideas to help you get the most from your potatoes and sweet potatoes without unwanted side effects.
Eat Potatoes With Other Foods
Potatoes go great alongside lots of other food. You can roast them and serve them with a piece of salmon or mash them to accompany your roast chicken. Plus, eating potatoes with other foods, especially those high in protein, may help offset their high glycemic count.18
Skip The Unhealthy Additives
Resist the temptation to slather your potatoes with all that cheddar cheese and butter. For example, you can make a delicious and healthy potato salad by swapping that mayonnaise and sour cream for extra virgin olive oil and greek yogurt. Using light and healthy ingredients in your potato dishes can help ensure you get those nutrients without the unhealthy bits.19
Potatoes Can Be As Healthy As You Make Them
So, are sweet potatoes healthier than regular potatoes? For the most part, yes. Sweet potatoes have extra vitamin A and antioxidants. Plus, they have less impact on insulin and blood sugar levels. This gives them a bit of a nutritional edge over regular potatoes.
But, sweet potatoes should be prepared in a healthy way. Like many things in the kitchen, how you eat can be just as important as what you eat. Skip the fatty stuff, like cheese, bacon, and deep frying. Instead, use small amounts of oil and serve your potatoes – sweet and regular – alongside nutritious vegetables. This way, regular potatoes and sweet potatoes can both be part of a balanced diet.
Note: As always, speak to a doctor before making any changes to your diet.
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