From playing lead to supporting role, the potato or the batata has always had a special place on our dining tables. A blank canvas, just waiting to get decked up, aloo in any form has always been a comfort food extraordinaire. However, in recent times this Portuguese-import has earned a bad rep for itself in the world of health and nutrition. Blame its high-glycemic index, which in turn is responsible for causing your blood sugar levels to skyrocket.
Enter sweet potato, mistaken to be a distant cousin to the potato, this veggie has its roots in the morning glory plant family, [potato falls under Solanum (nightshade) tuberosum family]. Considered to be a healthier alternative, the sweet potato has gone on to steal the spotlight and how. But is the sweet potato’s claim to fame justified?
We spoke to Kejal Sheth, Nutritionist, Weight Management Expert and Founder of Nutrivity.in to find out if it is times up for the humble potato, and here’s what we found:
A comparison on the nutrition scale
When we compared the nutrition between the two (using the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Composition Databases as reference), we came up with a table like the one below.
On the left, we have a 100-gram serving of a baked white potato with skin, while on the right we have the same-sized baked sweet potato with skin.
|White Potato||Sweet Potato|
|Calories||93 calories||90 calories|
|Carbs||21 gm||21 gm|
|Sugar||1 gm||6 gm|
|Fibre||2.2 gm||3.3 gm|
|Vitamin A||1 IU||19,218 IU|
|Vitamin C||9.6 mg||20 mg|
|Folate||28 mcg||6 mcg|
|Protein||2.5 gm||2 gm|
|Fat||0.1 gm||0.2 gm|
|Iron||1.1 mg||0.7 mg|
|Potassium||535 mg||435 mg|
|Magnesium||28 mg||27 mg|
However, sweet potatoes, as the name suggests, have high sugar content. The latter also displays a high potassium content, as well as higher amounts of vitamins A and C, and fibre.
White or regular potatoes have slightly higher calories compared to sweet potatoes. But, they have more iron, potassium, magnesium, folate as well as protein. With all these nutrients, is it any surprise that Lord of the Ring trilogy’s Sam Gamgee was looking for potatoes during the journey to Mordor?
Who is healthier?
The health benefits of both varieties go beyond what most people realise. In May 2013, a study— ‘White vegetables: A Forgotten Source of Nutrients’—published by Advances in Nutrition, an International Review Journal stated that all ‘white’ vegetables, including potatoes, are actually nutritious.
“When cooked and eaten right, white potatoes can help reduce the risk of heart disease, prevent the formation of kidney stones, facilitate digestion and protect against cancer,” informs Seth. She further adds, “They also help maintain the body’s fluid balance, thereby preventing bloating.” However, eating potatoes every day is probably not a good idea since studies have linked the over-consumption of the tuber to diabetes and hypertension due to its high glycemic index.
Where potatoes fall short, sweet potatoes make up for the loss since they have a low GI, which means they can help one stay full for longer and maintain a constant blood sugar level. Diabetics, this is your cue! Besides, they are also rich in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that the body converts into vitamin A, essential for good hair, radiant skin, sharp vision and good immunity, explains Seth.
While sweet potatoes have fewer calories and can help aid weight loss, they are high in substances known as oxalate that binds minerals in the digestive system and prevents the body from absorbing them, therefore should be avoided by people suffering from kidney stones.
Tips for Cooking Sweet and White Potatoes:
- Both potatoes are best enjoyed when cooked with their skin rich in vitamins and fibres, says Seth.
- No matter how tempting, ditch deep-frying and instead opt for a grill, suggests Seth. This will help lower the calorie and fat content, making sure you get to enjoy crispy potatoes minus the guilt.
- When roasting potatoes, both white and sweet, parboil them first to get a perfect crisp. Seth adds, “Potatoes when added to boiling water cook unevenly. If, on the other hand, you place potatoes in a pot of cold water, the water and the potatoes will heat up together, ensuring that the potatoes cook evenly inside-out.”
- You could also turn to your oven to get crisp potatoes. The trick being—“While placing potatoes or sweet potatoes in an oven, make sure to prick them with a fork so that there is enough place for moisture to escape,” says Seth.
- Frozen and processed potato products are best avoided. Not only are they loaded with salt, preservatives and fat, but they also do you no good other than feeding you with empty calories.