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Regular vs Sweet Potato and our misconceptions of Food

If I were on death row and given a choice for the last meal, it would be really hard not to choose steak (medium rare because someone who orders it well done deserves to join me) with some sweet potato fries (because they taste delicious and much healthier and regular chips) and some pepper sauce over the lot of it (because, to hell with health, I’m on death row and damn, am I feeling hungry just thinking about that meal right now).

sweet potato vs regular potato coach seán what is better comparison calories nutrition carbs mr potato head toy storyfat

Ok, I admit. There’s a helluva lot wrong with that first paragraph. It’s way too long, and of course, the main problem is: why would I have the healthier sweet potatoes fries if health is not going to matter in that hypothetical story? The point is that that is an incredibly delicious meal in my book. Moving on from death row.

If I ordered/cooked sweet potato fries, on a typical day, I would argue first that it was due to taste. If pushed on why; it’s healthier than regular potatoes. If pushed further on why it’s healthier, I might talk about how it has fewer sugars. Or more fibre. Oh, more vitamins. A lot fewer carbs and overall calories etc.

But why do I ‘think’ that? And a lot of us do think that. In terms of potatoes, sweet potato is up on a pedestal while the regular, humble, ordinary potato is frowned upon as the unhealthy option out of the two. The one that’s going to make us fat.

Truth is, I don’t know why I think that. It seems that in recent years, the sweet potato has become more popular and a ‘healthy choice’. Just like in last few years, people have become more find of avocados (I’m well up for correction on this one, but I don’t remember avocado on toast being a thing growing up - Mama Coach Seán wasn’t replacing my Weetabix with that).

And, unfortunately, in the past, I may have even recommended people to eat sweet potato over regular potato on the assumption that it was a healthier option. But is it really?

Well, let’s break it down:

Raw 100g Potato vs Raw 100g Sweet Potato

raw regular sweet potato carbs calories chart protein vitamins minerals compare comparison superfood


Ok, that’s a huge eye-opener. Also, before I continue on this, it’s slightly misleading. So before you ditch your sweet potatoes and go back to the regular ones, keep reading. Because we don’t eat our potatoes raw.

Frying them, while kind of killing my last supper meal idea, is definitely the least healthy option. So let’s say we baked a medium potato and a medium baked potato. And we logged this into MyFitnessPal. Here is the comparison in results:

Baked Potato vs Baked Sweet Potato

baked potato sweet potato choice vitamins comparison calories carbs

Now there’s a big difference once the food is made a little tastier (I assume, or maybe you refer raw potato?)

But it’s still not as clear cut that sweet potatoes are the healthier food choice. And that’s because they are not. Depending on how they are cooked, sweet potato is lower on the GI chart. However, there are other factors, apart from food that affect the GI chart, such as time of day you eat, activity levels, gut bacteria, how you cook the potatoes and more.

But Sweet Potato has more sugar?

Yes, it does. And so does fruit but you’re not going to avoid fruit because there are sugars, right? Actually, why is there a question mark at the end of that previous sentence? Even though there is more sugar in sweet potato, there is also a lot of vitamin A and C, more calcium, more magnesium and a good source for manganese. This means we have vitamins and minerals to help with our bone development, blood sugar management, blood pressure, vitamin absorption and anti-inflammatory properties.

Wait, I’m flipping back to saying you should have sweet potatoes after all that? No, not exactly.

Both types of potatoes have their benefits. Both the carbs in potatoes and sweet potatoes contain fibre and starch that, within a caloric maintenance/deficit, will not lead to weight gain. They also will help keep us feeling full - once again portion dependant to your overall diet. And that’s the point. It’s all in context to your overall diet.

One is not clearly better than the other. Both have pros and cons. One is not going to make you fat. A baked potato is a lot better than either version cooked for fries. I’m not sure where the talk of a sweet potato started as a much superior option. It reminds me of when black pudding was labelled as a superfood.

Sweet potato, in moderation with your health needs, can be a great choice. But so can the regular potato too. As long as neither are fried or overly processed. Now to have the steak and sweet potato…