Potato vs. sweet potato: which is healthier?

Time to settle the debate once and for all. Our resident dietitian Melissa Meier explains which of our favourite starchy root vegetables are the best. 

In the world of spuds, sweet potatoes get the tick of approval from health-conscious eaters, while white potatoes are demonised as a far inferior choice. Turns out, however, sweet potatoes and white potatoes are on a pretty level playing field. Here’s why.

Sweet potatoes

Per 100 grams of sweet potato, you’re getting 71 calories, 1.9 grams of protein, 14.1 grams of carbs, 5.6 grams of sugar, 0.1 grams of fat and 3 grams of fibre.

If you’re not a numbers person, that essentially means sweet potatoes are carb-rich and offer a little bit of fibre (especially if you leave the skin on). Don’t be scared at the mention of carbs – these are quality carbs that have a low glycaemic index, meaning they’re broken down slowly and help to balance out blood sugars.

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With orange sweet potato, you’re also getting a stack of the antioxidant beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body and is essential for healthy eyes.

White potatoes

Per 100 grams of plain old white potato, you’re getting 58 calories, 2.3 grams of protein, 12.9 grams of carbs, 0.6 grams of sugar, 0.1 grams of fat and 1.6 grams of fibre.

Again, they’re carbohydrate-rich – but in contrast to sweet potato, not all white potatoes are low GI. You can buy some varieties that tick that box, but as a general rule of thumb, assume they have a higher GI than their orange counterparts.

The standout feature of white potatoes is their content of resistant starch. This is a special type of fibre that resists digestion and gets fermented, which produces beneficial compounds that work to keep the gut healthy. It develops after potatoes have been cooked and cooled down (and are consumed cold). While all potatoes develop resistant starch, white potatoes develop more than sweet potatoes.

White potatoes also contain almost twice as much potassium as the sweet variety, which is important for your nervous system and muscle function.

The potato verdict

As long as they’re not deep-fried, in crisp form or mashed with mountains of butter and cream, I think all potatoes deserve a place on your plate. Yes, sweet potatoes tend to have a lower GI, slightly more fibre and beneficial beta-carotene, but white potatoes are richer in potassium and are one of the few sources of gut-loving resistant starch.

Rest assured, either variety is a good choice nutritionally – so say goodbye to sweet potato favouritism and hello to all kinds of taters.

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practicing dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.