Potatoes

Some people will tell you not to eat potatoes because they are full of starch. While others will tell you sweet potatoes are the ultimate superfood and you should eat them every day! The discussion about which type of potato is the healthiest has been going on for a long time and will probably continue for a while yet. To help you navigate this conflicting information, this blog is a potato mini-guide, telling you more about white and sweet potatoes and why you can easily include both in your diet.

Potatoes and sweet potatoes might share the same name but are entirely unrelated. White potato is in the family called ‘Solanaceae’, related to tomatoes, peppers, and aubergines. There are 4,000 known varieties of potatoes.

Sweet potato is in the family called ‘Convolvulaceae’, related to morning glory, vines, shrubs and herbs. There are as many as 5,000 known varieties around the world. Both the white potato and the sweet potato came from South America and have since spread out to the rest of the world.

In your supermarket or farmers’ market you can find regular potatoes in shades of brown, yellow, red, with white or yellow flesh. Sweet potatoes typically have brown skin, with orange, purple, yellow, or red flesh.

It’s well known that potatoes and sweet potatoes contain carbohydrates — some would even say a lot! And with many people favouring low-carb diets, it’s not surprising ­­the message to avoid potatoes is out there.  In 2010, Chris Voigt, who was the executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission, decided to prove a point against all anti-carb diets. He committed to a bit of an absurd experiment: he ate only potatoes for 60 days.

He ate 20 potatoes a day, about 2,300 calories. He avoided gravy, butter, and sour cream and the only added flavour was salt and pepper and a little oil for cooking. On day 60, he had lost 1 ½ stone (9.5 kg), his cholesterol level was down by 60 points, and his triglycerides and blood glucose had improved. So, this publicity stunt served its purpose, showing that while potatoes are high in carbohydrates, it’s not invariably a bad thing. Of course, while this potato diet was a fascinating experiment, it’s not recommended, as there are lots of nutrients we need that potatoes don’t give us!

Comparing potatoes and sweet potatoes, the winner in the Vitamin A category is definitely the sweet potato. Overall, the regular potato has 9 ‘wins’, and the sweet potato has 6 ‘wins’. But in fact, almost all the nutritional information is very close, making it practically a draw between them

 Regular Potato (100g)Sweet Potato (100g)
Total calories77 kcal86 kcal
Fat0.1g0.1g
Carbohydrates18.4g20.1g
Proteins2g1.6g
(% of recommended daily intake)  
Vitamin A0%284%
Vitamin C14%22%
Vitamin K2%25
Thiamine5%5%
Riboflavin2%4%
Niacin5%3%
Vitamin B615%10%
Folate4%3%
Calcium1%3%
Iron4%3%
Magnesium6%6%
Phosphorous6%5%
Potassium12%10%
Copper5%8%
Manganese8%13%

Another key indicator, the Glycaemic Index (GI) measures how quickly a food converts to glucose. Foods with a GI of 70 or higher cause a more rapid increase in blood sugar, a medium GI would be 56-69 and a low GI 55 or less. The way you cook potatoes and sweet potatoes makes a big GI difference. For example, a boiled sweet potato has a low GI of 41-50. Roasting or baking will increase that score to 79-94.

A boiled regular potato has a GI of 80-89 and baking or roasting increases the score to 111. The regular potato scores because of its higher starch content. So, if you are concerned about the impact of potatoes on your blood sugar, choose to boil over any other cooking method.

Potatoes and sweet potatoes are highly nutritious, but unfortunately, they are often ‘made’ less healthy by the way they are prepared.  For example, potatoes get turned into chips, which are often deep fried. Mashed potatoes may be mixed with butter and cream and baked potatoes can be topped with a variety of high-calorie ingredients. In America particularly, sweet potato is often made into a pie or (believe it or not!) combined with sugar and marshmallows.

A healthier way to prepare both kinds of potatoes is to boil, steam or bake them, leaving the skin of for more fibre, rather than frying or roasting them. You can serve them with fresh herbs or spices instead of cheese, butter, or cream.

  1. Both regular potatoes and sweet potatoes give you energy, fill you up, and therefore leave you satiated for a long time.
  2. Eating a sweet potato will often satisfy sugar cravings, especially if you bake it.
  3. Consuming potatoes and sweet potatoes will provide you with fibre which might help you prevent heart disease by keeping cholesterol in check.
  4. Sweet potatoes, especially the red and purple ones, are rich in antioxidants which help fight cell damage in your body.

There are many great benefits of eating potatoes and sweet potatoes. Try to explore the types of potatoes and sweet potatoes that are available. If you’re at a farmers’ market, look for unusual and colourful new varieties and try them out. You can even try to grow some in your garden!

We’d love to hear your favourite healthy potatoe receipes, share them in the comments or over in our Motivationfish community on Facebook, we’d love to see you there!

Comments

CHRISTINE O'MAY says

Brilliant info... Knew some of this but not all....So clear and timeous as I was considering returning to eating potatoes
only the other day. Thanks so much.

Replies

ADMIN says

Fab! I'm glad it helped! Enjoy the potatoes!

Replies

PATRICIA says

I enjoy both types of potato as skin on fries cooked in an air fryer with a tbsp of olive oil (for 2 portions). is that healthier than trad chips, or not really?

Replies

ADMIN says

Definitely! A lot healthier and only 2 ingredients that you have put together yourself :-) Do you recommend an air fryer?

Replies

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