Avoiding Carbs? The Benefits of Sweet Potato
Sweet potato vs white potato – think you know potatoes? Find out how a few little-known potato facts might surprise you!
The battle between the health content of the standard white potato and the sweet potato has raged for years. You might think they’re the same in all but color and texture.
Nope. They aren’t even in the same family…how did that little fact slip by?
Central and South America are the original birthplace of potatoes thousands of years ago and have steadily gained popularity worldwide. They are considered a strong crop, resilient to weather and requiring very little upkeep.
The Reigning Champ
When it comes to white potatoes, there are almost 4,000 different kinds. Botanically classified in the Solanaceae family – along with nightshade, eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers – they naturally produce a poison called solanine.
The leaves and stems are inedible and if you cut into a white potato and the meat has a green tinge, it shouldn’t be consumed.
Statistically, in North America, most of the potatoes grown will end up as French fries, potato chips, and even tator tots. The main potato grown in the United States is the Russet variety because it is large which makes it easier – and more cost efficient – to use for such snacks.
White potatoes are higher in starch and it takes longer for your body to digest them because they have a slightly sticky consistency.
Though an excellent source of energy if prepared without the frying process, it is the toppings that are the real issue with white potatoes.
People in North America consume an average of 110 pounds of potatoes annually.
The most common condiment used on fries and tater tots is ketchup, which is extremely high in sugar and preservatives. Other toppings vary but are typically no better for you. Processed chili, cheese, and even gravy negate any nutritional value of the potato itself.
Baked potatoes are nutritious as is and are usually ordered in place of fries as a “healthier alternative” – until it is smothered in butter, sour cream, cheese, and bacon.
Sweet Potato vs White Potato Meet The Contender
Sweet potatoes are part of the Convolvulaceae family just like morning glory vines. Not only can you eat the leaves, they are delicious and nutritious. With almost 5,000 different types of sweet potatoes, there is no shortage of variety depending on where you live.
When you think of a sweet potato, you likely think of the most available variety that is soft when cooked and bright orange on the inside.
The benefit of sweet potatoes and the condiment/topping issue is that not much is dumped on top because the sweeter flavor isn’t usually compatible. Butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and possibly sea salt make up the bulk of additives to prepared sweet potatoes.
Pound per Pound
Overall, the nutritional content of the both varieties potatoes are similar if eaten without all the extras. They both leave you feeling full and provide an excellent fuel source that is used slowly and efficiently by the body. They are rich in antioxidants, contain a naturally occurring compound similar to Valium, and boost serotonin production.
They are similar in caloric content, carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. Both are naturally fat-free before anything is added in the cooking or consuming process.
Sweet potatoes – with almost seven times more sugar content – help to curb cravings for sweets.
Where they truly shine is their vitamin content, particularly vitamin A.
In the benefits of sweet potato vs white potato debate, if looking solely at this nutritional marker – the sweet potato is the clear winner. It has about 20,000 times more vitamin A than a white potato. That’s 400% of your recommended daily value!
Vitamin A deficiency is linked to more than half a million deaths worldwide in undeveloped countries. Most of those deaths are pregnant women and small children.
A Potato of a Different Color
Researchers with Texas A&M are working on developing potatoes that are smaller, have more flavor, and provide more nutritional content than the white potato. Considered a “gourmet” product, they hope the new varieties appeal to the younger generation who might enjoy the unique appearance and healthier option without balking at the higher price point.
Yellow, orange, purple, and other color combinations are some of the initial results in the designer potato study.
The white potato isn’t going anywhere as long as the fast food chains place their orders for the fryer…but consider cutting back on the toppings. Add some benefits of sweet potato sometimes to mix it up and when those rainbow designer spuds hit the market…don’t be afraid to try them!
Some baked sweet potato fries with a sprinkle of sea salt sounds fantastic. Happy eating!