By Elizabeth Streit, MS, RDN, LD
Sweet and regular potatoes are both tuberous root vegetables, but they differ in appearance and taste.
They come from separate plant families, offer different nutrients, and affect your blood sugar differently.
Different Plant Families<p>Sweet and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-potatoes" target="_blank">regular potatoes</a> are both considered root vegetables but are only distantly related.</p><p>Sweet potatoes are from the morning glory family, <em>Convolvulaceae</em>, and white potatoes are nightshades or <em>Solanaceae</em>. The edible part of these plants are the tubers that grow on the roots.</p><p>Both varieties are native to parts of Central and South America but now eaten all over the world.</p><p>Sweet potatoes typically have brown skin and orange flesh but also come in purple, yellow, and red varieties. Regular potatoes come in shades of brown, yellow, and red and have white or yellow flesh.</p><p>In the United States and some other countries, sweet potatoes are often called yams, even though <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sweet-potatoes-vs-yams" target="_blank">they're different species</a>.</p><p><strong>Summary: </strong>Sweet and regular potatoes are both root vegetables. They're distantly related but come from different families.</p>
Both Are Nutritious<p>Sweet potatoes are often touted as being healthier than white potatoes, but in reality, both types can be highly nutritious.</p><p>Here's a nutrient comparison of 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of white and sweet potato with skin, respectively (<a href="https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168483" target="_blank">1</a>, <a href="https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170434" target="_blank">2</a>):</p><p><span></span></p>
Different Glycemic Indexes<p>Different types of potatoes also differ in their glycemic index (GI), a measure of how a certain food affects your blood sugar (<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17992183" target="_blank">7Trusted Source</a>).</p><p>Foods with a GI of 70 or higher cause a more rapid increase in blood sugar compared with foods with a medium GI of 56–69 or a low GI of 55 or less.</p><p>Depending on the type and cooking process, sweet potatoes may have a GI of 44–94. Baked sweet potatoes tend to have a much higher GI than boiled ones because of how the starches gelatinize during cooking (<a href="http://www.glycemicindex.com/foodSearch.php" target="_blank">8</a>).</p><p>The GI of regular potatoes also varies. For example, boiled red potatoes have a GI of 89 while baked Russet potatoes have a GI of 111 (<a href="http://www.glycemicindex.com/foodSearch.php" target="_blank">8</a>).</p><p>People who have diabetes or other blood sugar issues may benefit from limiting high-GI foods. Thus, it's often recommended to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/diabetes/sweet-potato-diabetes" target="_blank">choose sweet potatoes over white potatoes</a>, as the sweet variety generally has a lower GI.</p><p>However, how eating potato affects your blood sugar largely depends on the type of potato, portion size, and cooking method. While some varieties of sweet potatoes may have a lower GI than regular potatoes, others do not.</p><p><span></span><strong>Summary:</strong> The effect that eating potato has on your blood sugar, known as the GI, varies among different types of both sweet and regular potatoes.</p>
Both Can Fit Into a Balanced Diet<p>Both sweet and regular potatoes provide fiber, vitamins, minerals, and energizing carbs and can fit into a balanced diet that includes a variety of other healthy foods.</p><h3>How to prepare them in healthy ways</h3><p>Though potatoes are highly nutritious, they're often prepared in unhealthy ways.</p><p>For example, white potatoes can be turned into <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sweet-potato-fries-vs-french-fries" target="_blank">French fries</a>, mashed with butter and cream, or baked and topped with high-calorie ingredients.</p><p>What's more, sweet potatoes may be combined with sugar, marshmallows, or other less healthy ingredients.</p><p>To prepare sweet or regular potatoes in a healthy way, try boiling or baking them, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/can-you-eat-sweet-potato-skin" target="_blank">keep the skin on</a> for more fiber, and serve with fresh herbs or spices instead of cheese, butter, and salt.</p><p>If you're concerned about the impact of these root vegetables on your blood sugar, opt for boiled over baked potatoes.</p><p>Pairing potatoes with foods that have fewer carbs, like lean proteins and non-starchy vegetables, can also limit their effect on blood sugar.</p><p><span></span><strong>Summary:</strong> Both sweet and regular potatoes can be part of a balanced diet. Bake or boil potatoes instead of frying them, and stick to nutritious toppings.</p>
The Bottom Line<p>Sweet potatoes differ from other potato varieties in appearance, taste, and nutrition.</p><p>Both sweet and regular potatoes provide a variety of nutrients, including carbs, fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidants. While white potatoes are higher in potassium, sweet potatoes provide much more vitamin A.</p><p>Potatoes may also affect your blood sugar differently, though this depends on the type, serving size, and other factors.</p><p>Overall, both sweet and regular potatoes can fit into <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/healthy-eating-for-beginners" target="_blank">a healthy diet</a> when prepared in nutritious ways.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from our media associate <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sweet-potato-vs-potato#bottom-line" target="_blank">Healthline</a>.</em></p>
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By Genna Reed
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
The J.R. Simplot Company, giant potato supplier for McDonald’s, has spent years working on the perfect potato. Its new genetically engineered (GE) traits—which will be offered in five different varieties of potatoes—up for approval by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has lower levels of a carbohydrate called acrylamide, which may cause cancer, and also has reduced black spot bruising. These potatoes will be used as frozen fries, potato chips and shoestrings, which make up approximately 50 percent of the potato market in the U.S., according to Simplot.
Both of the desired traits are achieved through the reduced expression of enzymes, affecting the amino acid asparagine for the low acrylamide trait and the enzyme polyphenol oxidase (PPO) for reduced bruising (the same way GE apples have been engineered not to brown). The problem is that an alteration in just one enzyme can unintentionally affect other plant characteristics as well as the plant’s health.
These GE potatoes will likely be fried using Monsanto’s new-and-improved omega-3 soybean oil, which will probably be marketed to lead consumers to believe that the bio-engineered combination is “healthy” fried food. A low-acrylamide potato may reduce levels of just one of the harmful chemicals brought out by frying foods but there are other dangerous compounds that are produced when food is heated to very high temperatures, including advanced glycation endproducts, or AGEs, which can lead to “chronic inflammation and oxidative stress,” (also linked to cancer). And of course this new fried “goodness” doesn’t address the high-calorie and low-nutrient content that make fried potatoes unhealthy in the first place.
Historically, GE potatoes have not fared so well in the marketplace. Monsanto’s NewLeaf GE potatoes were approved in 1995, but the company pulled its potatoes from the market in 2001. If approved, these potatoes may face the same fate and never make it into happy meals across America. But these potatoes could also be exported, since Simplot has submitted its petition for approval to Canada, Mexico, Japan and South Korea.
The USDA will be seeking comments until July 2 and we intend to tell them to further review the potential health effects of these GE potatoes.
Visit EcoWatch’s GE FOOD page for more related news on this topic.