I find it amazing on how many people recognize that yams and sweet potatoes are the same vegetable. This could not be further from the truth. Although they might look somewhat similar on the exterior, internally and nutritionally they do differ quite a bit. Let’s explore!
Yams are a tuberous vegetable that come from the Dioscorea family. Most of the worlds yams are harvested in Africa. This crop is mostly found in tropical regions. It can be stored up to 6 months without refrigeration, which makes it perfect for countries that are scarce in food. Yams have a rough exterior with a dry flesh inside. The color inside ranges from yellow, to pink, to purple. The skins vary from dark brown to pink. When compared to a sweet potato, yams are starchier and drier. Unlike sweet potatoes, they are not high in beta-carotene. A nice characteristic about the yam is that it is high in potassium and low in sodium, this is important in controlling blood pressure and essential for a healthy heart function and renal health. 100 gram yam yields about 27.9g of carbohydrates and 4.1g of fiber. And only .5g of sugar, and non-existent fat and minimal protein about 1.5g. There is 816mg of potassium vs a sweet potato 337mg, so you can see the difference, and the sodium in a sweet potato is about 55mg vs a yam 9mg, this is based on a 100g or 3.5oz.
Let’s discuss the sweet potato now in some detail. The sweet potato belongs to the Convolvulaceae, it’s a tuberous, starchy, sweet tasting root vegetable. As you can see nothing like the yam family, two different families. Central origination of this vegetable thousand years ago is thought to be from South America or Central America. 100 grams of sweet potato has 20.1g of carbohydrates, 4.2g of sugar, and 3g of fiber. A big difference from the yam, 1g less of fiber, and a significant amount of sugar. There are more carbohydrates in the yam, however, those carbohydrates are not derived from sugar, which make it a superior food if you are trying to stay super lean, I’m talking single digits, not your average person who is double digits in body composition. Sweet potatoes will get you lean for the average person, but if you are trying to get sub 5% percent, switching to a yam would be a better choice especially with the high potassium content which will keep your skin super thin. China is the largest grower of this crop, about 80% of the world’s supply comes from China. The more orange the flesh is, the more beta-carotene it contains. Although it is called sweet potato, it’s an excellent food source for diabetics, even though the sugar content is higher than the yam, it’s a natural sugar, and it’s low on the glycemic index, making it suitable.
Now that you have seen the differences between the two, which would you pick? Well, most would say that the sweet potato tastes a little better, and I would agree. My favorite way of eating a sweet potato is broiling it with skin on which keeps the moisture insulated, and once it’s done the skin literally peels off, and I put Splenda and cinnamon extract and it tastes amazing. Give it a try if you haven’t, overall these two crops are more nutritious than a regular white potato, so they would be a better option nutritionally and that’s why I pick them over a regular white potato.