Sweet Potatoes and White Potatoes: For those obsessed with superfoods and carb phobic.

To begin, what are sweet potatoes and white potatoes? They are tubers that are originated in central and south America, that have now spread worldwide. Believe it or not, even though they are both called potatoes, they are not related. White potatoes come from the same family as the tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and there are 4000 known types. You cannot eat their leaves because they are poisonous, also when they turn green or when they are eaten raw can cause the same effect. On the other hand, sweet potatoes belong to the morning glory family. There are 5000 known varieties and their leaves are edible and nutritious.

First, let’s go to the myths that villainized these tubers and then my opinion about it:

  • There are in the mid-high range in the Glycemic index (GI), which is not the best because nutrient that have high GI tend to increase the sugar level in the blood bringing insulin levels up, making you “gain fat, No Bueno”.
  • Both of these tubers are “high in carbohydrates”
  • High sugar levels

Now, if you just read that part you must be thinking “they are not good, they are high in carbs, I knew it, potatoes make you fat, bla bla bla” wrong, there is more to the story. Below I will start to debunk these myths, and why you should include them on your diet.

Note: I may get a bit excited writing this and use some sarcasm, do not take anything personal. I am just very passionate about potatoes, everything comes from a place of love, I promise.

Glycemic index (GI) theory: According to researches, sweet potatoes and potatoes are in the mid-high range in the glycemic index which causes the sugar and insulin levels to spike. Food in the lower end of the glycemic index are better for weight loss. Sure, this all sounds like it makes sense why potatoes should be avoided. However, total amount of calories consumed is a lot more important than the GI. Also, if we go by GI, quinoa wouldn’t be as highly suggested as it is in many diets because it is even higher in the GI than both potatoes. Also, using GI alone to justify how “good or bad” an aliment is, is like using BMI (Body Mass Index) alone for body references. According to the BMI, The Rock being 6,4” tall and weighting 260lb is morbidly obese, and is he really?

We are too quick to judge, yes research shows that they are in the mid-high range, but it does not mention that sugar levels are affected beyond just the glycemic index of food. They are altered by cooking methods, activity levels, sleep quality, gut bacteria, etc.

“Ok, so you are saying that is not only the GI, but we have to look at nutrients. But they are so high in CARBS and CARBS MAKE YOU FAT”

If you think that way, then you have to go a read my other article talking about carbs “THE MAGIC OF CARBOHYDRATES If you are smart enough, your opinion will hopefully change. Tubers DO contain high amount of carbs, I give you that. However, most of those carbs are resistant starch and fiber, which the body will not digest and promote great benefits to your digestive system (read till the end to see).

“Ok GI does not matter because they are high in nutrients and most of the carbs are not even digested by the body and they help with the digestive system. So, we are getting nutrients and not that many carbs, but what about sugar, there is sugar in potatoes”

Is it? There are only 2gr of sugar in a medium potato and 7.4gr of sugar in a medium sweet potato, yes there is more sugar in a sweet potato, but isn’t that why one is called sweet and the other one just potato? Another interesting fact about these tubers is that these ranges can change depending on factors such as cooking and storage. Long story short, if a white potato is storage for a long time in a cool environment, the glucose level in the potato will increase almost to the point of a sweet potato. Also, if you bake a sweet potato whole, the sugar levels in it will remain somewhat the same, but if you boil it or cut it, the sugar levels will drop.

“Ok, so GI in potatoes does not matter, all the carbs are not digested, and they are actually beneficial, sugars levels are nothing to worry about, but which one is better? Sweet potato, I mean isn’t it a “Superfood”?

They are both amazing:

  • They pretty much have similar amount of calories (they differ by 40-60 calories), “OMG, WHAT 50 calories?” Come on, you can burn 50 calories going to the door to pick up your McDonald’s order.
  • Similar amount of carbs
  • Similar amount of nutrients

The only thing in which sweet potato is far superior than a potato is the amount of Vitamin A. Other than that, they are pretty similar. In fact, they complement each other because even though they pretty much share some of the same nutrients and vitamins, some nutrients and vitamins are higher in one than the other.

If you still do not believe me that potatoes should be a part of your diet, then go ask Chris Bumstead if eating potatoes in his bodybuilding 14 week preparation to the Olympia, prevented him from becoming Mr Olympia classic physique champ in 2019 and 2020.

There are a ton of benefits with these tubers:

  • They are both full of vitamins and nutrients.
  • They reduce appetite.
  • Help with the blood glucose control. 

Some of the starches found in potatoes are called resistant starch and we can also find fiber. The body ferments some of the resistant starch and fiber from potatoes in the gut to create short chain fatty acids that:

  • Keep you full longer.
  • Reduce Inflammation.
  • Stimulate blood flow to the colon.
  • Decrease colon risk cancer.
  • They regulate neurotransmitters that are often called the feel-good chemicals. Making you happier after you eat them.
  • The high amount of resistant starch prevents potatoes from being digested as a high processed carb food would.

Now that I have hopefully changed your mind. I can say that most of the time is not the tuber alone, but the way you cook it. Adding gallons of oil, deep frying it, putting creams, sauces, will not help. If you deep fry celery and eat it, just because you are eating celery, does not make it “healthy”. Also, what you eat it with, make a huge difference. For example, if you cut a sweet potato in Julianne, bake it and eat it with KFC chicken, then what is the point?

How much should you eat? Around 1-2 handful per meal. However, needless to say this can vary depending on your level of activity and profession. If you are a marathon runner or a construction worker that is lying concrete all day long, then you may need more. On the other hand, if you work at an office and are not very active or you are a smaller person, then you need less.

There is not such a thing as fattening food, at the end of the day it all comes down to:

  • How we prepare it
  • Quantity
  • What do we pair them with
  • Processed vs unprocessed
  • Nutrient density
  • How food satiate us
  • Balance between food types
  • Total caloric intake

External references 

[Infographic] Sweet potatoes vs. potatoes: Which are really healthier? (2020, March 4). Retrieved from https://www.precisionnutrition.com/sweet-potatoes-vs-potatoes-infographic?utm_source=marketingcloud&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=020220-L1-PotatosvsSweetPotatos

Harvard Health Publishing. (n.d.). Glycemic index for 60 foods. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/glycemic-index-and-glycemic-load-for-100-foods

Sweet vs. regular potatoes: Which potatoes are REALLY healthier? (2019, September 6). Retrieved from https://www.precisionnutrition.com/regular-vs-sweet-potatoes