It seems that it was only yesterday sweet potatoes came in and became the newest health craze. Suddenly, sweet potato fries were offered as a healthier alternative to regular french fries in almost every restaurant. But are sweet potatoes healthier than regular potatoes?
Sweet potatoes are healthier than regular potatoes due to their higher levels of antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin C, fiber and beta-carotene. Sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic index which helps lower blood sugar spikes. Sweet potatoes contain less calories which are more beneficial for weight loss.
In this article, I’ll discuss why sweet potatoes are healthier than regular potatoes and provide you with a comparison of their nutritional composition. I’ll also provide you with some healthy ways you can cook sweet potatoes.
Why Sweet Potatoes Are Healthier Than Regular Potatoes
Sweet potatoes and regular potatoes are very similar in terms of calories, protein, fat, and cholesterol. However, sweet potatoes have a few nutritional advantages over regular potatoes, making them a better choice for health-conscious consumers.
Nutrient Comparison of Sweet Potatoes and Potatoes
The following table is a side-by-side comparison of the raw sweet potato and potato with skin and flesh:
Raw (100 g)
Raw (100 g)
|Protein||1.57 g||2.05 g|
|Carbohydrates||17.5 g||20.1 g|
|Fiber||3.0 g||2.1 g|
|Fat||0.05 g||0.09 g|
|Vitamin A||14,200 IU||2 IU|
|Beta-carotene||8,510 mcg||1 mcg|
|Vitamin C||19.2 mg||17.2 mg|
|Vitamin B6||0.20 mg||0.29 mg|
|Vitamin B9 (Folate)||11 mcg||15 mcg|
|Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)||0.07 mg||0.08 mg|
|Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)||0.06 mg||0.03 mg|
|Vitamin B3 (Niacin)||0.55 mg||1.06 mg|
|Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid)||0.8 mg||0.2 mg|
|Magnesium||25 mg||23 mg|
|Phosphorous||47 mg||57 mg|
|Potassium||337 mg||425 mg|
|Iron||0.61 mg||0.81 mg|
|Copper||0.15 mg||0.11 mg|
|Calcium||30 mg||12 mg|
|Zinc||0.3 mg||0.3 mg|
|Manganese||0.25 mg||0.15 mg|
Sweet Potatoes Have More Antioxidants Like Vitamin A
Beta-carotene is a compound present in sweet potatoes giving it its orange color. The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A. As you can see in the table above, sweet potatoes contain 8,510 mcg and regular potatoes 1 mcg.
Vitamin A is a powerful antioxidant that can help reduce cellular damage by controlling the negative effects of free radicals 5. An increased number of vitamin A has been shown to fight and prevent cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States 6.
Vitamin A also helps:
- Eye health
- Cognitive function
- Cancer protection
- Skin protection
A medium-sized baked sweet potato contains 438% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A. Compare this to a regular potato, which contributes 0% of the recommended daily intake. This alone is a very strong reason to go for a sweet potato instead of a regular potato.
Sweet Potatoes Have More Vitamin C
Vitamin C is probably known more for its immune system benefits. High blood levels of vitamin C may be an indication of overall health. Vitamin C helps more than just the immune system. It helps protect the following:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Eye health
- Blood pressure
- Prevent iron deficiency
A study released in 2012 found vitamin C supplementation reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The researchers noted increased vitamin C intake, supplementation and higher blood levels of vitamin C are associated with lower blood pressure 7.
Sweet Potatoes Have Fewer Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap over the past couple of decades. The truth is, carbohydrates have many health benefits and are essential to a healthy diet 8. If you’re not eating enough carbohydrates, then that’s going to be an issue.
The problem, though, is that most Americans are eating too many unhealthy carbs. An overabundance of unhealthy carbs can also be problematic as it can lead to diabetes 9. Unhealthy carbohydrates include the following:
- Added sugars.
- Refined grains which have been stripped of their fiber, vitamins and minerals.
- White flour
- White rice
- White bread
- Sweet deserts
- Cereal with added sugar.
Refined carbohydrates are digested quickly and have a high GI index. This raises blood sugar and causes spikes. Keep reading the next section to learn more about The GI index.
If you suspect you’re eating too many carbs, here’s some good news, a potato isn’t a refined, unhealthy carbohydrate. In addition, a medium-sized baked sweet potato contains 23.6 grams (0.83 oz) of carbs, while a medium-sized baked regular potato contains 36.6 grams (1.29 oz).
A lower volume of carbs can make sweet potatoes a healthy choice for you as they can help you balance out the number of carbs on your plate.
Find out how potato and rice nutritional values compared in my article, Potato vs. Rice Nutrition: Which is Better?
Sweet Potatoes are Lower on the Glycemic Index
The Glycemic Index (GI) is a scale that measures how fast a particular food raises (or spikes!) your blood sugar levels 10. As you may know, blood sugar spikes can lead to complications with your heart, kidneys, eyes, and nerves 11.
In general, you should try avoiding eating high-GI foods. Foods on the GI scale are categorized as:
- Low-GI foods: under 55
- Medium-GI foods: 55-70
- High-GI foods: over 70
How blood sugars levels are affected:
- Foods with a glycemic index over 70 cause a more quicker spike in blood sugar levels.
- Foods with a glycemic index 55 to 70 cause a moderate spike in blood sugar levels.
- Foods with a glycemic index under 55 cause a slow spike in blood sugar levels.
A boiled sweet potato has a GI of 63, making it a medium-GI food. A regular potato has a GI of 78, putting it well above the high-GI food threshold.
If you’re looking to regulate your blood sugar levels, then sweet potatoes are a smarter dietary choice because of their lower GI.
To lower the GI even more, baking sweet potatoes results in a higher GI than boiling does because of how the starches gelatinize during cooking.
- Boiled sweet potatoes have a GI of 44. Baked sweet potatoes have a GI of 94.
- Boiled regular potatoes have a GI of 54. Baked regular potatoes have a GI of 73.
In addition, consider eating the boiled potato cold than hot. A study published in the Journal of the Diabetic Association found boiled potatoes eaten cold had a GI score of 56. When eaten hot the boiled potato had a GI score of 89 12.
To achieve the lowest glycemic number possible, eat a cold, boiled sweet potato.
Find out how Russet potatoes compared to red potatoes in my article, Red Potatoes vs Russet Potatoes: The Differences.
Sweet Potatoes Have More Calcium
Sweet potatoes provide 30 grams of calcium. Calcium is important for the heart and blood pressure. Harvard Health reports calcium helps maintain blood pressure by helping in the controlling of the relaxing and tightening of blood vessels 13.
Calcium also helps the following:
- Helps muscles function properly.
- Improve nerve function.
- Build and maintain strong bones.
Sweet Potatoes Have More Fiber
Sweet potatoes provide 3.0 grams compared to 2.1 for regular potatoes. Many of the carbohydrates in potatoes are mostly fiber and starch. These types of carbs help you stay healthy and lean. The fiber doesn’t get digested.
Instead, it gets fermented in the gut and produces short chain fatty acids 14. Short chain fatty acids and fiber may help with the following:
- Helps you feel full longer.
- Stimulate blood flow to the colon.
- Increases nutrient absorption.
- Decrease inflammation.
- Decrease the risk of colon cancer.
- Fuels healthy gut bacteria.
Find out how Russet compared to Yukon Gold Potatoes in my latest article, Yukon Gold Potato vs Russet Potato: What’s The Difference?
Are Regular Potatoes Healthy?
Although sweet potatoes win out due to higher levels of antioxidants, vitamin A, fiber, lesser cholesterol and lower GI, there are some areas in which regular potatoes offer you higher nutritional value.
Regular potatoes are healthy due to their B vitamins and minerals. They provide a good number of vitamin C, B6, thiamin, niacin, potassium and iron.
While the benefits of regular potatoes over sweet potatoes in these categories are generally very low, it still shows regular potatoes aren’t all that dissimilar from sweet potatoes.
While sweet potatoes do have a nutritional advantage over regular potatoes, it’s not significant enough to warrant ditching regular potatoes for good.
Find out how purple sweet potatoes and purple yams compared to each other in my article, Purple Sweet Potato vs Purple Yam: What’s The Difference?
Regular Potatoes Have More B Vitamins
The B vitamins provided by regular potatoes include the following:
- B1 (thiamin)
- B2 (riboflavin)
- B3 (niacin)
- B9 (folate)
B vitamins help support the following:
- Energy levels.
- Cardiovascular disease.
- Brain function.
- Nerve function.
- Red blood cells.
A lack of B vitamins has been associated with oxidative stress and neural inflammation. In a study released in 2018 32 healthy adults were given B vitamin supplementation for six months. The results indicated preliminary evidence B vitamin supplementation reduced oxidative stress and inflammation 15.
Find out how potatoes compared to bread for nutrients and benefits in my article, Potatoes vs Bread: Which is Better? A Complete Comparison.
Regular Potatoes Have More Potassium
Regular potatoes provide 425 mg of potassium. It helps the body get rid of excess sodium reducing fluid build-up. These help keep systolic and diastolic blood pressure lower 16.
According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and high blood pressure 17.
The more potassium, the more sodium your body will lose. Consuming too much sodium or not enough potassium throws off the delicate balance the kidneys need to remove the excess water 18.
Find out how white sweet potatoes compared to sweet potatoes in my article, White Sweet Potato vs. Sweet Potato: What’s The Difference?
Healthiest Ways To Cook Sweet Potatoes and Potatoes
It is important to keep in mind that both sweet potatoes and regular potatoes can be deeply unhealthy if you choose to deep fry them. They’re also not going to be very healthful if you’re going to mash them with heavy cream and loads of butter.
In other words, there’s no use in choosing the healthier vegetable if you’re going to cook it in an unhealthy way. The method of preparation is almost as important as the nutritional composition of the ingredients that you use.
Here are a few ways you can cook sweet potatoes to ensure you’re getting the most of the health benefits, while also ensuring the cooked potato is tasty enough that you won’t be put off by it:
- Keep the skin on for added fiber.
- Boil, steam, or microwave your sweet potatoes for a lesser impact on blood sugar.
- Bake sweet potatoes with seasonings and just a little bit of olive oil.
- Top your sweet potatoes with healthy toppings like lean protein (beans, white-meat poultry without the skin) and herbs instead of loading them up with cream or butter.
Half of the fiber from a sweet potato or regular potato is in the skin. Consider leaving the skin on and actually eating it. Prior to cooking the potato, make sure to wash the skin well to remove any dirt.
If you follow these directions, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to fit sweet potatoes (or regular potatoes, for that matter) into a healthy diet. Just remember being mindful of your portions, as over-eating can result in other health risks.
If you’re interested about how sweet potatoes held up against pumpkin for health and nutrition, check out my article, Pumpkin vs Sweet Potato: A Complete Comparison.
Wrapping Up The Potatoes
Sweet potatoes have some significant advantages that make them healthier than regular potatoes, like a substantially higher level of vitamin A, fewer carbs, and a lower glycemic index.
However, both sweet potatoes and regular potatoes are nutritionally similar in many ways, so you can include both in a healthy diet with no problems.
The best way to ensure the sweet potatoes on your plate are healthy is by adjusting how you cook them. Avoid deep frying or cooking them with loads of oil and keep the skin on when you eat them.
Find out if Russet potatoes and Idaho potatoes are the same in my article, Idaho vs Russet Potatoes – Are They The Same? Let’s Compare
Read Next – More Potato vs Food Articles!
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- USDA: Sweet potato, raw, unprepared
- USDA: Potatoes, flesh and skin, raw
- Nutrition Value: Potatoes, raw, flesh and skin
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