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Why are sweet potatoes better than regular potatoes?

by (20787)
Updated about 13 hours ago
Created January 13, 2011 at 5:30 AM

Why are sweet potatoes supposed to be so much better than regular potatoes? So far, the only significant thing I see is that sweet potatoes have a lot more vitamin A, but since I already get megatons of vitamin A from other foods, I'd really rather have less vitamin A than more. And the only other benefit I can see is that sweet potatoes are not a nightshade. But besides that one thing, I am confused why sweet potatoes are supposed to be so much better. I was expecting to see some kind of giant nutrient difference between the two, so I was surprised not to find much. Am I missing something? Is it just the colored antioxidant thing or is there more?

Edited to add: Also, looks like regular potatoes might be higher in iron, magnesium, and potassium.

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195 · June 30, 2012 at 2:10 PM

In the UK the orange sweet potatoes I buy have 5.7g per 100g - that's pretty much standard in the supermarket here.

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2153 · October 14, 2011 at 10:19 PM

How do you cook those purple potatoes? I've had some and they were awful! I think they must need a little more attention than regular sweet potatoes?

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5132 · October 14, 2011 at 7:07 PM

THat's incorrect. The orange sweet potatoes (yams) have the least amoutn of sugar. Per 100g, it barely has any sugar as a matter of fact: 0.5g. That's one of the reason why yams are safe starches.

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1634 · September 03, 2011 at 3:15 PM

Note that the more common orange fleshed sweet potato (in US and UK) is fairly high in sugars. Oh and this is an interesting read regarding some folks having problems with sweet taters. http://perfecthealthdiet.com/?p=1848

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1634 · January 15, 2011 at 6:32 PM

Anyone found a good site to help find out what type of potatoes you have? Most that I buy in the UK are labelled "Potatoes" only. Sometimes "baking potatoes" or some other type labelling.

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39821 · January 14, 2011 at 7:29 PM

Yeah I mean in the general Potato Realm, you probably want, for the same number of carbs, more starch (and thus more glucose) instead of more fructose.

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22913 · January 14, 2011 at 12:06 PM

the vitamins are spread throughout the "meat" of the potato. the toxins aren't... ill take slightly less vitamins for SIGNIFICANT less toxins all day long!

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480 · January 14, 2011 at 11:39 AM

Interesting! I read in Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions (obviously not Paleo, but anyway.. :) that the peel should always be left on white potatoes because all of the vitamins are right underneath it.

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22913 · January 14, 2011 at 10:03 AM

cauliflower is white too. remind them of that. Color is not the important thing, nutrients are.

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22913 · January 14, 2011 at 10:02 AM

I tried some purple standard potatoes (purple inside and out) from the farmers market... were nothing like the okinowans, were terribad.

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22913 · January 14, 2011 at 10:01 AM

starch does not equal fructose. it converts to glucose only. your phrasing seems to imply otherwise, however, sweet potatoes do contain very minimal fructose, less than even I worry about.

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22913 · January 14, 2011 at 9:58 AM

@Pelinor: common american misdefined name. over here thanks to our lazy govt. among other things, we call Beta Carotene: Vitamin A, even tho its only a precursor and converted poorly. same thing we do with ALA:EPA:DHA.

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78 · January 14, 2011 at 7:04 AM

No vegetable contain vitamin A, it is contained from animals. Paul.

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1023 · January 14, 2011 at 4:38 AM

I eat both, and I've yet to come across anything to show that sweet potatoes are much different. I think they're both healthy. Stephen Guynet has a bunch of posts about healthy indigenous people subsisting on potatoes. http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com

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24523 · January 14, 2011 at 3:40 AM

Good answer! I just wish someone would release a handy anti-nutrient ranking sheet.

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1973 · January 14, 2011 at 3:38 AM

I see no difference in the magnesium content on ND

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1146 · January 13, 2011 at 9:58 PM

Sweet potatoes also give me stomach pains and nasty gas. Potatoes, on the other hand, I could handle.

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22913 · January 13, 2011 at 6:09 PM

As you can see on the charts, some of the skins are low in glycoalkanoids, not something I'd risk, many of us that are clearly gluten intolerant, used to eat gluten with no "apparent" discomfort... People have died from glycoalkanoids, the US goby tightly regulates it now.

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20787 · January 13, 2011 at 4:59 PM

To be honest, I wanted to try some of those the first time I saw em just because they are so beautiful inside!

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20787 · January 13, 2011 at 4:58 PM

Ironcially, I have eaten green and even sprouting regular potatoes many times with zero apparent side effects. Plus I always ate the skins and my mother absolutely loves the skins. You can't convince her not to eat em! Never knew until recently they were supposed to be poisonous, LOL!

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20787 · January 13, 2011 at 4:55 PM

Yeah, that's what I was saying, doesn't seem to be a clear winner if you ask me.

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20787 · January 13, 2011 at 4:53 PM

The differences in amount seemed really rather minor to me. LIke who cares if a sweet potato has one percent more of something. Those numbers vary depending on growing conditions anyway. PLus regular potatoes have more magnesium, which is something I tend to lack in my diet, whereas vit A is typically plentiful in a paleo diet and so additional sources may not even be wanted.

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22913 · January 13, 2011 at 3:41 PM

Known as Okinowan sweet, Hawaiian sweet, purple sweet. Depends on what market I'm in. Should be white skinned and purple geode look inside.

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2065 · January 13, 2011 at 2:51 PM

Just wanted to add I'm another who eats regular potatoes and feel awesome eating them. I was eating a lot of sweet potatoes and they didn't necessarily make me feel bad, but the super sweet taste started getting to me. I think potatoes are a better vehicle for duck fat and lard as well :)

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56596 · January 13, 2011 at 1:48 PM

Sweet potatoes give my a stomach ache.

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22913 · January 13, 2011 at 1:19 PM

Fungal infections, lectins etc.. I would encourage you to still peel your sweet potatoes

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1304 · January 13, 2011 at 8:21 AM

Big bonus with sweet potatoes: you don't need to peel them...

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20787 · January 13, 2011 at 7:32 AM

Yeah, sweet potatoes taste so much sweeter, it's hard to believe they supposedly have similar carb content and a slightly lower glycemic index compared to regular taters.

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2759 · January 13, 2011 at 7:05 AM

I like the taste of sweet potatoes better though I still like the subtle variations of flavor of different kinds of regular potatoes. Doesn't really answer your question, though.

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20787 · January 13, 2011 at 6:24 AM

What bad experiences did you have?

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56596 · January 13, 2011 at 5:59 AM

Chris Masterjohn and I eat normal potatoes. We both had bad experiences with sweet potatoes and we feel awesome on normal potatoes!

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2261 · January 13, 2011 at 5:35 AM

Anxiously waiting for an answer to this.

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11 Answers

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22913 · January 13, 2011 at 1:18 PM

I eat both. White Potatoes require more prep.

Glycoalkaloids are why you can't eat white potatoes raw. It's why green white potatoes are scary. Absolutely always peel your white potatoes.

why-are-sweet-potatoes-better-than-regular-potatoes?

Sweet potatoes(not yams, yams have their own prep) don't have glycoalkaloids, and could be eaten raw, tho digestion might be an issue. To be fair tho trypsin inhibitors are found in sweet potatoes and make them unwise to eat raw, cooking deactivates the enzyme

You also have Nightshadeswhich are acommon enough allergy to have each person test for themselves. Again white potatoes but not sweet potatoes. There is supposed to e a lower lectin amount as well.

I still peelthe sweet potatoes as the lectins it does have and any fungal attack or anything from the ground will be mostly contained in the skin.

why-are-sweet-potatoes-better-than-regular-potatoes? This is my current potato of choice, slightly better nutrient profile, and more anthocyanins(antioxidant) than blueberries! why-are-sweet-potatoes-better-than-regular-potatoes?

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2153 · October 14, 2011 at 10:19 PM

How do you cook those purple potatoes? I've had some and they were awful! I think they must need a little more attention than regular sweet potatoes?

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1634 · January 15, 2011 at 6:32 PM

Anyone found a good site to help find out what type of potatoes you have? Most that I buy in the UK are labelled "Potatoes" only. Sometimes "baking potatoes" or some other type labelling.

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22913 · January 14, 2011 at 12:06 PM

the vitamins are spread throughout the "meat" of the potato. the toxins aren't... ill take slightly less vitamins for SIGNIFICANT less toxins all day long!

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480 · January 14, 2011 at 11:39 AM

Interesting! I read in Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions (obviously not Paleo, but anyway.. :) that the peel should always be left on white potatoes because all of the vitamins are right underneath it.

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22913 · January 13, 2011 at 6:09 PM

As you can see on the charts, some of the skins are low in glycoalkanoids, not something I'd risk, many of us that are clearly gluten intolerant, used to eat gluten with no "apparent" discomfort... People have died from glycoalkanoids, the US goby tightly regulates it now.

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20787 · January 13, 2011 at 4:58 PM

Ironcially, I have eaten green and even sprouting regular potatoes many times with zero apparent side effects. Plus I always ate the skins and my mother absolutely loves the skins. You can't convince her not to eat em! Never knew until recently they were supposed to be poisonous, LOL!

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9647 · January 13, 2011 at 9:39 AM

Alright, let's stack them up side-by-side.

Potato. Family: Solanaceae (Nightshades). Genus: Solanum. Origin: South America.

Toxic things inside: I think that the original fuss with potatoes may have been the lectins. The site paleodiet.com, whose author Don Wiss famously removed his link to Free The Animal amid the great potato uproar (the relevant two posts from Richard are here and here) links to an article in the BMJ, the British Medical Journal, that includes potatoes among the likely sources of dangerous dietary lectins. By the way, about the potato uproar: it should be noted that Wiss's objection to potatoes in Richard's post was not in defense of sweet potatoes as opposed to regular potatoes, but in defense of fruit as opposed to tubers: the fruit is designed to be eaten, but the tubers are not. But I would presume that Wiss would object to the special dangers that potatoes have as members of the nightshade family, for arthritis and so on.

Now, the nightshade issue aside, the other big offender in the case of potatoes is glycoalkaloids. This is what Stephan points to as a bigger offender than the lectins in the second post of his potato series (here; you can also get to parts one and three of the series easily), drawing on this study. But with the varieties available in the United States you don't really have to worry about this if you're not eating a zillion potatoes a week. (The nasty stuff is in fact in the skin, so it helps to peel.)

Advantages: complete proteins, lots of nice nutrients, etc.

Sweet Potato. Family: Convolvulaceae. Genus: Ipomoea. Origin: South America. (How did we all come to think otherwise?)

Toxic things inside: I don't know as much about this. Stephan says: "sweet potatoes contain goitrogens, oxalic acid, and protease inhibitors."

Yam. Family: Dioscoreaceae. Genus: Dioscorea. Origin: Africa and Asia. Sweet Potatoes are sometimes called yams in the United States. But apparently if you call a sweet potato a yam on your packaging then you also have to call it a sweet potato. I don't know anything about these guys, but if you're looking for an old-world tuber that is often mistaken with sweet potatoes, then go for yams.

The balance. I like this comment from Stephan:

We can measure the nutrient and toxin content of a food, and debate the health effects of each of its constituents until we're out of breath. But in the end, we still won't have a very accurate prediction of the health effects of that food. The question we need to answer is this one: has this food sustained healthy traditional cultures?

I still think it could be too limited as a method, but the real question is: do we have any other choice? Anyhow, Stephan has used this method in a number of posts and has come to the conclusion that both potatoes and sweet potatoes are healthy in moderation. With preparation, or the right preparation, the benefits can outweigh the disadvantages (which may not even be such great disadvantages, if the human body can handle small doses of the poisons these plants contain). As for whether "goitrogens, oxalic acid, and protease inhibitors" are worse than lectins or glycoalkaloids in the amounts in which they are found in the two foods, I have no idea. Potatoes seem to have a little more protein than sweet potatoes, and I don't think that sweet potatoes have the "complete proteins." But since most of us are not really eating potatoes for protein, this probably isn't an issue. For us the greater potassium and magnesium in potatoes might be more relevant. If you're looking for a food from the paleolithic era rather than from the neolithic era, neither one can help you.

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24523 · January 14, 2011 at 3:40 AM

Good answer! I just wish someone would release a handy anti-nutrient ranking sheet.

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20787 · January 13, 2011 at 4:55 PM

Yeah, that's what I was saying, doesn't seem to be a clear winner if you ask me.

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1973 · January 13, 2011 at 9:05 AM

Well looking at a basic nutrition data comparison between

Sweet potatoes have slightly better protein quality, with more lysine.

Potatoes seem to have a superior n3:n6 balance (43:13 vs 60:4)

Minerals are a tossup.

Sweet potatoes have roughly 5x the amount of sugar, but a little more fiber and about half the starch.

Vitamin wise sweet potatoes have:

  • Much more A
  • 2x the C
  • Vitamin E (potatoes have none)
  • A touch more K
  • More thiamine, niacin, riboflavin and pantothenic acid
  • Less folate
  • More betaine

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1973 · January 14, 2011 at 3:38 AM

I see no difference in the magnesium content on ND

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20787 · January 13, 2011 at 4:53 PM

The differences in amount seemed really rather minor to me. LIke who cares if a sweet potato has one percent more of something. Those numbers vary depending on growing conditions anyway. PLus regular potatoes have more magnesium, which is something I tend to lack in my diet, whereas vit A is typically plentiful in a paleo diet and so additional sources may not even be wanted.

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2581 · January 13, 2011 at 10:26 PM

I don't like the taste of sweet potatoes. Potatoes go well with many condiments, sweet potatoes do not.

As for the whole thing about it being healthier than potatoes, that makes little sense and I think it is based on some things like potatoes being a nightshade, being called "white" potatoes (so it reminds people of white flour and grains), and being so starchy so people think it is so much like grains.

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22913 · January 14, 2011 at 10:03 AM

cauliflower is white too. remind them of that. Color is not the important thing, nutrients are.

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60 · November 13, 2012 at 9:58 PM

Long live potatoes.

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30 · August 21, 2012 at 2:10 PM

"I don't like the taste of sweet potatoes." The taste can be improved by fermenting them.

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39821 · January 13, 2011 at 6:34 PM

I'm going to switch off between purple standard potatoes and various types of sweet potato. I have not yet been able to source purple sweet potatoes in my area.

From my experience of just a couple of days, I can say without hesitation that a greater amount of starch, and thus a lesser amount of fructose is highly desirable if one wishes to more toward restoring their natural level of appetite. As such, standard potatoes would likely be the better choice if weight loss is your primary goal currently.

Either one of these options will inflate one's appetite far less than an equivalent amount of carbohydrates consumed in the form of fruit.

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195 · June 30, 2012 at 2:10 PM

In the UK the orange sweet potatoes I buy have 5.7g per 100g - that's pretty much standard in the supermarket here.

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5132 · October 14, 2011 at 7:07 PM

THat's incorrect. The orange sweet potatoes (yams) have the least amoutn of sugar. Per 100g, it barely has any sugar as a matter of fact: 0.5g. That's one of the reason why yams are safe starches.

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1634 · September 03, 2011 at 3:15 PM

Note that the more common orange fleshed sweet potato (in US and UK) is fairly high in sugars. Oh and this is an interesting read regarding some folks having problems with sweet taters. http://perfecthealthdiet.com/?p=1848

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39821 · January 14, 2011 at 7:29 PM

Yeah I mean in the general Potato Realm, you probably want, for the same number of carbs, more starch (and thus more glucose) instead of more fructose.

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22913 · January 14, 2011 at 10:02 AM

I tried some purple standard potatoes (purple inside and out) from the farmers market... were nothing like the okinowans, were terribad.

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22913 · January 14, 2011 at 10:01 AM

starch does not equal fructose. it converts to glucose only. your phrasing seems to imply otherwise, however, sweet potatoes do contain very minimal fructose, less than even I worry about.

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4181 · January 13, 2011 at 1:58 PM

Stephen, did I miss the name of that potato? Is that a white sweet potato? I saw some that looked like this at the farmers market last week and almost bought some but wasn't sure if the preparation is the same so I skipped it then forgot to google it!

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20787 · January 13, 2011 at 4:59 PM

To be honest, I wanted to try some of those the first time I saw em just because they are so beautiful inside!

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22913 · January 13, 2011 at 3:41 PM

Known as Okinowan sweet, Hawaiian sweet, purple sweet. Depends on what market I'm in. Should be white skinned and purple geode look inside.

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250 · June 11, 2013 at 5:50 PM

I prefer sweet potatoes because of their place on the glycemic index and the insulin response that place predicts. The numbers I've seen have put the sweet potato at a 39 on the glycemic index; while a white potato clocks in at over 50. That's a noteworthy difference. Layer onto that the fact that sweet potatoes do happen to be higher in nutrients and antioxidants, and you've got a pretty compelling argument to lean toward the consumption of them over white potatoes.

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0 · June 11, 2013 at 9:35 AM

Certain people are making a whole livelihood out of food, aren't they. All this worry about what to eat... Anti-nutrients, lectins, oxalic acid, n3 /n6 ratios ,etc, etc. Don't worry, I am sure if you are eating real foods and have healthy gut fauna then the food will be processed by your body and used for the best.

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511 · February 16, 2013 at 5:51 PM

I thought Robb W. recently 'revisited' this topic on one of his podcasts. I just tried to find it and couldn't. If I recall correctly he said that the white potatoes really are pretty close to sweet potatoes in nutrient value, white does have a higher glycemic hit, and he is concerned that white potatoes are easier to binge eat than sweet potatoes. Ultimately (again if I recall correctly) he felt they were ok in moderation but as always you had to take into account your goals, lifestyle, activity level, current metabolic state, and tinker with them to see how you react to them.

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