When it comes to natural starches and fitness, the debate over which potato is best continues. Today we’ll settle it.
For some time in the fitness and dieting world, there’s been a war, sweet potato vs. potato. Potato vs. sweet potato. It turns out the right potato might have more to do with your goals than you think. Today, we’ll dive into questions like:
- How many carbs are in a sweet potato?
- Are sweet potatoes healthy? (you might be surprised by our answer!)
- Are sweet potatoes a vegetable?
Let’s get to it!
Sweet Potato Trends
We seem to go through waves with popular foods. Sometimes even foods like Kale that have been around forever become hot topics. Lately, it’s been all about the sweet potato. The standard issue potato has taken a backseat and the sweet potato has been soaking up the spotlight.
In fact, the sweet potato has been deemed a “superfood” and has in many ways earned that title. They’re packed with vitamin A and beta-carotene, and provide a rich source of complex carbohydrates with a low glycemic index rating (meaning they don’t spike your blood sugar).
From healthy eaters, to body builders, to flavor enthusiasts, this clean starch is popular and easy on the taste buds. Sweet potato nutrients are some of the best you can find especially in a delicious package. And the slight edge in protein in sweet potato makes it a strong contestant for king of the spuds.
But there’s something we need to all recognize – both sweet potatoes and regular potatoes can have fantastic health benefits. And they both have their pros and cons. There are carbs in a sweet potato. There are baked potato carbs. With any starches, it’s important to remember that the healthiest time to consume these is immediately post workout—and only in strict moderation otherwise if you’re watching your waistline.
On the contrary to its recent popularity, some researchers believe that potatoes can have an anti-nutrient component to them. Obviously this isn’t a word we want associated with our foods. We’ll also take a look into the sweet potato glycemic index later and how this compares to white potatoes.
Sweet Potato Vs. Potato
Needless to say, it would seem the old fashioned potato has been mashed by comparison.
Here’s what the duo has in common: well to start, they’re both called ‘potatoes.’ And both provide nutritious tubers. And both have originated in Central and South America. Both have spread pretty globally since.
But that’s about where the similarities end.
Potatoes are considered to be categorized in the Solanaceae family. This family has close ties with tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. On the more deadly side, it’s also connected with nightshade. In fact, plants in this category generally create solanine, which is very poisonous. Obviously, stay away from the leaves and stems of these plants and don’t eat potatoes that are green. Gross.
Where do sweet potatoes fall in line, you ask? They go in the Convolvulaceae family, which has flowering plants like morning glory vines. You can actually eat the leaves of sweet potatoes – they’re full of nutrients.
Pop quiz time! Are sweet potatoes the same thing as yams?
Answer: No. Yams are just another type of tuber.
Another quiz! Is sweet potato a vegetable? Yes, they are.
More Than Your Average Spud
Right now, there are over 4,000 known types of potatoes in the world. In fact, about 3,000 of these are located in the Andes! And there are currently about 5,000 types of sweet potatoes growing throughout the world.
Potatoes and sweet potatoes can come in a rainbow of colors, like white, orange and even purple. For the most part, we just see the classic white potato, maybe golden russets and the sweet potatoes we find in the grocery store.
For example, fast-food joints need a potato that has a specific size and shape. Why? So French fries can be shaped easily and it will keep its shape while deep-fried – but they want that dough, flour texture to send the whole thing to the frying pan.
For the most part, sweet potato nutritional value is the strongest amongst the spuds. That raises the question: Are sweet potatoes fries healthy? While they’re still fried foods, at least you get the some nutrition from the sweet potato. But eat sparingly, don’t push it.
So what’s the deal on carbs then? Are there too many carbs in sweet potatoes? How many carbs are in a sweet potato?
Here’s how it works with sweet potato carbs. Tubers are inflated roots or stems of a plant, where nutrients are stored. So this makes them an excellent source of energy – or, in this situation, starchy carbs.
So yes, there are plenty of carbs in sweet potatoes. As for how many carbs in sweet potatoes, that really depends on the size but the average-sized sweet potato is about 27 grams.
Tubers have been serving as a potent food source to humans for a long time. Within the last decade or so, people have been getting majorly concerned about their carb intake. Do potatoes have carbs? Yes, but these are a natural vegetable source of carbs which is a far superior choice to grain. Do potatoes have protein?
One nutrient at a time, but the answer is not much (about 2.1 g per serving). Potatoes being high in carbs doesn’t make them unhealthy, in fact they are a healthy source of complex carbs with a low glycemic index rating. This means that they’re an excellent carb source, this DOES NOT mean that you should scarf them every meal. As with all carbs, too much and they’ll be stored as fat.
In turns that in addition to when and how much of them we eat, what we do with those potatoes is usually where we go wrong. We lather them in butter, marshmallow fluff and brown sugar and maybe even tell ourselves, hey at least there’s a vegetable in there!
So potatoes aren’t the problem here. It’s overeating, eating carbs at the wrong time, and all the over-sweet accessories that go along with them. Rather, potatoes and sweet potatoes themselves are actually very satisfying foods. They help you stay fuller longer. So when you wonder how many calories are in a sweet potato, keep in mind what these calories and carbs are doing for you- they’re helping your satiety. But if you’re thinking about sweet potato fries calories, remember they’re fried and these are a treat, not a food source.
The Potato Diet
Ever wonder what would happen if you ate only potatoes for 2 months? Us neither, but, luckily in 2010, Chris Voigt, the executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission, decided to give it a shot.
In the beginning, he only ate when he was hungry. What do you think happened?
Do you think he:
- Lost weight
- Gained a ton of weight
- Never made it through the experiment because he was so hungry he went on a mass-eating spree and then exploded.
Did you guess? Okay, the correct answer is “A.” Within the first 3 weeks, he lost a total of 12 pounds. After that, he decided to increase his potato intake to 20 potatoes per day in order to boost his calorie intake.
His results? Vogt said he never felt so stuffed in his entire life.
Even though he started meeting his calorie needs, he still lost another 9 pounds throughout the rest of the potato experiment. Additionally, his blood measurements improved greatly. By blood measures we mean blood glucose, triglycerides and cholesterol.
Now we aren’t saying you should run to the grocery store and buy enough potatoes to last you for the next 2 months. They’re just interesting findings. Obviously, starchy tubers are significantly more satisfying and filling than the angry mob on carbs originally thought.
Let’s compare how many calories in a sweet potato vs. how many in a regular potato. A medium sized raw potato has about 168 calories. A regular sized raw sweet potato only as 112.
What about carbs in baked potatoes? Let’s take a look at both. There’s about 33.8 grams of starch in a normal sized potato. How many in a sweet potato? 16.4 grams. But here’s an interesting finding – while regular potatoes have 277 mg of sucrose, sweet potatoes have 3,276 mg! So they aren’t kidding when they call them sweet potatoes. They also have almost triple the amount of glucose of a regular potato (532 mg vs. 1248 mg) and double the amount of fructose (490 mg vs. 910 mg).
A lot of tubers have some resistant starch in them. These are complicated starch molecules that we can’t actually digest, so the bacteria in our large intestine eventually breaks them down.
And when comparing sweet potatoes to regular potatoes, regular potatoes have a lot more resistant starch. However you say “potato,” it’s obvious that both potatoes and sweet potatoes, though high in carbs, don’t act the same way other high-carb processed foods do when they enter our bodies.
Potatoes and Glycemic Load
Another thing the carb-haters hate about potatoes (and sweet potatoes) is the glycemic index and glycemic load. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry. We’ll explain.
GI = how fast food converts to glucose
GL = how much food converts to glucose.
So often times, people are told to avoid food that have a high GI rating and/or GL. Harvard published a study on the Glycemic Index and Load of Popular Foods that you can use as a helpful resource.
On the glycemic index scale, baked russet potatoes are around 110. Baked sweet potatoes are around 70. Meanwhile, a banana’s level is around 62!
As for glycemic load, the sweet potatoes are around 22 and the baked russet potato is around 33, and the banana is 16.
There’s a special extract called caiapo that can come from certain potatoes and its currently looking like a good option for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Already, people in Japan eat white sweet potatoes raw as a form of treatment for anemia, diabetes, and hypertension. So there are definitely some major health perks to sweet potatoes.
So who wins the war of the potatoes? First we need to all acknowledge that carbs are not the enemy of muscle building. You need complex carbs to support energy and muscle growth. So, step one is accepting that you need to find healthy carbohydrate sources to fuel your diet.
Sweet potatoes excel in filling up hungry stomachs, providing energy and leaving you feeling fuller for longer. They’re packed with vitamin A and beta-carotene as well as a low glycemic index and load. Their high levels of glucose also make sweet potatoes an IDEAL component of your post workout meal.
These are the kinds of carbs that you want in your diet. And, if you are prone to giving in to your sugar cravings, a sweet potato might be the right choice for you to satisfy your sweet tooth. Or, try the purple sweet potatoes, people say they have a caramel-esque taste.
Both of these potatoes have an abundance of vitamins and minerals, but the numbers don’t lie. A regular potato has about 3 IU of vitamin A, while the sweet potato with the orange flesh is at 19217 IU!
Finally, potatoes and sweet potatoes have antioxidants, which can be essential to your body, but almost all of the sweet potato (80%) is made up of the sporamin, which can help you digest various proteins.
So, if it’s the right time for carbs, go for the sweet potato. This complex and delicious carbohydrate will help you refuel and build muscle, while tasting great and satisfying the critical nutrient needs of your body.
Latest posts by Terry (see all)
- How Important Are Net Carbs For Building Huge Muscle? - Apr 28, 2017
- The Matt Damon Workout Explained - Apr 27, 2017
- Watercress – Benefits And The Best Way To Consume It - Apr 26, 2017