All potatoes in all shapes, sizes, colors, and cooking methods have carbohydrates, raise blood sugar, and add Calories. But, are sweet potatoes “better” than white potatoes, and can we fit this midwestern-staple into a healthy lifestyle? While we know that potatoes raise blood sugar, it is important to remember that this starchy vegetable also carries important fiber, vitamins and minerals.
So, let’s start with sweet potatoes. There are lots of obvious benefits from sweet potatoes: they have fiber, which may help to stabilize blood sugar and keep us feeling full, and are high in cancer-fighting antioxidants carotene, or vitamin A (which give them the orange color) and vitamin C. The fiber content and vibrant color of sweet potatoes have led to the assumption that they must be healthier than the colorless, white counterparts; however, let’s not sell one of our favorite side dishes short!
Interestingly enough, the nutrient content of white potatoes is not much different from sweet potatoes. The biggest difference is that sweet potatoes have significantly higher amounts of vitamin A and C. When it comes to the other nutrients, though, the differences are negligible and we can see that all potatoes are high-fiber (with skins left intact), fat-free, protein-containing vegetable!
Nutrition Information for 1 cup:
Protein: 5 g
Fat: 0 g
Carbohydrate: 38 g (a little higher, but carbs from fiber and resistant starch are not digested and don’t count. And remember, we do need these healthy carbs!)
Fiber: 3 g
Resistant starch: 33 g (for blood sugar stabilization)
Sugar: 1.3 g
Protein: 2 g
Fat: 0 g
Carbohydrate: 26 g
Fiber: 4 g (for blood sugar stabilization)
Resistant starch: 16 g
Sugar: 5.4 g (why these taste sweeter)
So, yes, there are less carbs and just a little bit more fiber in the sweet potatoes; but there is more resistant starch and protein in white potatoes; which is also positive! There are little differences; but, in the grand scheme of things: the differences are not significant, variety is good, and all potatoes can be part of a healthy diet. Remember, though, that the fiber is mostly found in the skins of potatoes, so avoid peeling your spuds! Cooking methods and potato-toppers, rather than the potatoes themselves, are where we get into trouble with weight and blood sugar management.
Frying and sautéing are high-fat cooking methods that add lots of empty Calories. Stick to grilling, baking, broiling, or roasting for lower fat side dishes and consider skimping on the sour cream, butter, cheese, marshmallows, brown sugar, and syrup toppings!