For all those insomniacs never realizing the cause of their sleep deprivation, I give you the answer to the long awaited question: White Potato vs. Sweet Potato: WHO WINS?
First, I will start by saying BOTH forms of potato (especially in organic form) are naturally HEALTHY products that provide good sources of nutrition. Interestingly, there are distinct differences between these vegetables coming from two different botanical families. White potatoes come from the Solanaceae family and Sweet potatoes come from the Convolvulaceae family. Although there are thousands of varieties, I will keep this simple by focusing on the white potato vs. the sweet potato. The following graph provides some nutrition facts; white potato on the left, sweet potato on the right:
This chart shows that white potatoes have greater amounts of protein, potassium, magnesium and iron as well as CALORIES and CARBOHYDRATES. Sweet potatoes have greater amounts of Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium, SUGAR and manganese (a mineral important in the formation of bones, connective tissues, blood-clotting factors and sex hormones as well as involvement in fat and carbohydrate metabolism, calcium absorption, blood sugar regulation and brain and nerve function). It is lower in calories and overall carbohydrates.
Isn’t SUGAR just a substitute for the word DEVIL?
I’m glad you asked. We must review two terms to answer this question. They include:
Glycemic Index– measures HOW QUICKLY food coverts to glucose (a sugar the body uses as fuel.)
Glycemic Load– measures HOW MUCH food converts to glucose.
In both cases, the lower the number the less risk factor for causing sugar health problems. The following chart examines our two potatoes:
You will notice the BAKED white potato has a higher GI than the BAKED sweet potato, BUT, The BAKED white potato has a LOWER GL than the BAKED sweet potato. This means that BAKING a white potato causes faster sugar conversion, BUT actually converts a SMALLER amount. This explains why the baked sweet potato has more sugar in it. In addition, overcooking a sweet potato (causing the potato to dehydrate) increases the sugar concentration even more.
You will also notice that BOILING both types of potatoes reduce the GI AND GL in each. When we compare the GI and GL of each potato while boiling them, we see the sweet potato produces the healthier response.
DOES THIS MEAN WE HAVE A WINNER?
Not yet! We need to first understand what RESISTANT STARCH is. Resistant starch is a partially UNDIGESTED starch that is broken down and utilized as nutrition in the large intestines. It is found in BOTH white potatoes and sweet potatoes (although higher in quantity in white potatoes.) When white potatoes are cooked and COOLED, it changes their starch form making it more resistant to digestion. This blocks the typical elevated insulin response that many fear when eating white potatoes. The fermenting of resistant starches in the colon also creates short chain fatty acids (SCFA) that improve gut bacteria function providing a better environment for nutrient absorption as well as inhibiting disease.
SO, IT’S THE WHITE POTATO THAT WINS?
Wait a minute! White potatoes belong to a class called “Nightshades.” This is a botanical class of plants containing GLYCOALKALOIDS (a chemical substance that can be toxic for human consumption.) These substances protect the white potato from bacteria, fungi, viruses and insects. This is what makes large quantities of raw white potatoes and their leaves dangerous for consumption. Sweet potatoes, on the other hand do not fall under this classification of botanical plant. Both the potato and its leaves can be consumed in a raw state providing sources of good healthy nutrition. Nightshade fruits and vegetables do not cause life threatening harm to most people. The harm seen is typically an allergic reaction resulting in intestinal upset, joint pain and swelling, nausea and overall dis-ease.
I’M CONFUSED, WHICH ONE SHOULD I EAT?
The average person should include BOTH in their diet. Both types of potatoes are REAL FOOD filled with healthy sources of energy that satiate hunger. If concerned about sugar in these products, boil them to reduce the glycemic index and glycemic load. Allow the white potatoes to cool (in a refrigerator) to increase the resistant starch to mitigate an insulin response. Finally, eat them AS THEY ARE (including their skin!) The biggest problem with the potato is NOT THE POTATO; it’s the butter, sour cream, sugar, cheese, bacon, ranch dressing and fried onions that we load on top of our healthy potato to satisfy our palate while damaging our bodies.
As I hear the sighs of relief by providing YOU, my fellow bloggers, THE ANSWER to this multi generational dilemma causing many restless nights of insomnia and inner turmoil, I wish you all a healthy and happy “SPUD” weekend!
I would like to thank Cooking For The Time Challenged for asking my opinion about white vs sweet potatoes and suggesting I write about it. I frequently view her blog site to find many dishes that satisfy taste, flavor and presentation while making the process simple and quick. I think you will enjoy her recommendations as well.