Though they can both be part of a healthy diet, sweet potatoes are generally healthier than regular potatoes, partly because of their incredibly high vitamin A content.
Sweet potatoes are also lower on the glycemic index, meaning that they are less likely than regular potatoes to make your blood sugar spike.
Sweet potatoes also contain more antioxidants, including vitamins A and C, than regular potatoes.
Potatoes and sweet potatoes may share a name, but they actually come from very different plant families. Here’s what you need to know about the health differences between potatoes and sweet potatoes and the best ways to eat them.
The nutritional content of potatoes and sweet potatoes
Both potatoes and sweet potatoes are rich in nutrients, including many different vitamins and minerals. Here’s how they compare in their nutritional content:
Which one is healthier?
While both types of potatoes can be a healthy part of your diet, sweet potatoes are higher in nutrients like vitamin A that may offer extra benefits for your overall health.
There are many similarities between potatoes and sweet potatoes. They have roughly the same amount of calories, carbohydrates, and protein — and they are both good sources of vitamin B6, magnesium, and potassium.
Plus, both potatoes and sweet potatoes also contain resistant starch, a type of starch that is digested more slowly and has many health benefits.
Still, there are a few key differences that give sweet potatoes the edge when it comes to your health. Here’s why:
Sweet potatoes are lower on the glycemic index
An important area where potatoes and sweet potatoes differ is in their glycemic index (GI), a scale from 0 to 100 that rates how quickly a food will cause your blood sugar to rise.
A boiled potato has a high GI around 78, while a boiled sweet potato has an intermediate GI of 63. This means that potatoes break down more quickly into sugar in your digestive tract, causing your blood sugar to spike.
These measures are important because eating foods with a generally lower glycemic index may help lower your blood sugar and manage your weight.
Sweet potatoes have more antioxidants
Many of the nutrients in potatoes and sweet potatoes contain compounds that act asantioxidants, which protect the cells in your body against oxidative stress. This is important because oxidative stress is linked to heart disease, cancer, and brain diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Sweet potatoes have higher levels of key vitamins that act as antioxidants, including vitamin A and vitamin C. Sweet potatoes also contain antioxidant plant pigments that aren’t present in regular potatoes – for example, orange sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene and purple sweet potatoes have more anthocyanins.
How to fit both types of potatoes into a healthy diet
In general, most preparation methods for potatoes and sweet potatoes are healthy, including baking, microwaving, boiling, or steaming, says Adelia C. Bovell-Benjamin, Ph.D., a professor of food and nutritional sciences at Tuskegee University. All of these methods preserve much of the nutritional value of both types of potatoes, says Bovell-Benjamin.
Eating potatoes with the skin on may also provide extra nutrients like fiber, iron, and potassium, but for sweet potatoes, the skin may be too tough to eat.
Frying any type of food is generally a less healthy option, as it adds extra calories and fat, but for potatoes, frying may be especially bad. A 2017 study found that, while eating potatoes has no negative health effects, eating fried potatoes at least twice a week more than doubled the risk of death.
Both potatoes and sweet potatoes are healthy foods that can fit well into most diets. However, if you are looking for extra health benefits like regulating blood sugar and more vitamin A and antioxidants, sweet potatoes are a better option. There are many healthy ways you can cook potatoes and sweet potatoes, but try to avoid fried potatoes as much as possible.
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