Wednesday, January 5, 2011

You say "potato"...I say "sweet potato!"

Image from
You may have heard through the grapevine that sweet potatoes are better for your health than regular potatoes, "but why?" you may ask. Although not a single thought besides "YUM" crossed my mind while I scarfed down a big baked one at lunch today, a full belly and a guilt-free conscience later, I found myself questioning this tuber's superior makeup over a plain old Yukon Gold or Idaho. I have long been a proponent of the sweet potato over the regular, for purely sensory reasons:  the color is vibrant, the sweetness is unmatched, and they make for incredible fries (especially with a spicy mayo dip like the one you can find at the downtown Detroit restaurant Traffic Jam & Snug, the site of the beginning of this love affair of mine). Although these characteristics (color, taste, etc.) may not seem to be connected to the nutrient makeup of the vegetable, they are directly connected to it, judging by the actual vitamin and mineral content reported by my go-to website for nutrition facts, NutritionData.

Let's take a closer look...

We will compare a medium regular potato to a large sweet potato, as sweet potatoes are smaller by nature (or, perhaps, because the US needs to maintain its status as the largest exporter of potato products--french fries, chips, flour--worldwide...). Anyway, these servings equal to about 180 grams, or just under 1 cup of potato. So, comparatively, both varieties of potato contain the same caloric ratio of carbohydrate (92%) to fat (6%) to protein (7%) and, therefore, provide the same amount of calories per serving (160 calories). But, that is where the similarities end.

Alright, here comes the big answer...

Sweet potatoes pack in more fiber (6 grams versus 4 grams) causing a higher fullness factor, a lower glycemic load (15 versus 17) keeping your blood sugar levels more stable, are strongly anti-inflammatory (versus the moderate inflammation caused by a regular potato), and provide over two times the vitamin C content (59% versus 28%) and a whopping 692% of the recommended daily value of vitamin A, while the potato lacks this vitamin altogether. Unfortunately, there is a flip side which I alluded to earlier regarding the taste. Although its natural sugars make for a great alternative to the sugar that makes your favorite cookies taste so darn good, the sweetness does not come without a price, as each serving contains 12 grams of sugar (10 grams more than a regular potato). Likewise, the sodium content is higher, as well.

So, there you go. The nutritional breakdown of two seemingly similar vegetables with shockingly different nutritional makeups. You decide which one to reach for on the baked potato bar next time but, if you go for the sweet ones, you can rest in peace (full and orange) knowing that you have countered inflammation and done your eyesight a favor all in one. I don't know about you, but I'm sticking with my sweet ones!

Learn more about the potato and how the US rakes in more than $180 million each year on its products here.

1 comment:

Gloria said...

i love sweet potato fries! i didn't know they have more fiber and nutrients! very good to know. thanks! :)