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Sweet Potatoes or Yam, or Perhaps Both....

By Rupal Mohan, MD

Sweet potatoes and yams have a reputation among health food advocates of being one of the most densely nutritious (but surprisingly low-calorie) food on the market.

Sweet potatoes are packed with massive amounts of vitamin A, a nutrient considered critical in maintaining proper eye health. One sweet potato contains nearly eight times an adult's daily need of this important vitamin, and, because the vitamin is fat-soluble rather than water-soluble, the body can store it for later use. So many Americans are deficient in this important vitamin that the sweet potato might be seen as a critical health food for our inadequate diets.

The sweet potato contains several other vitamins and minerals in amounts not found in the yam. Compared to yams, sweet potatoes contain significantly higher amounts of calcium, iron, and vitamin E, and twice as much protein per serving.  The yam also has its own impressive nutritional values, some of which the sweet potato lacks.

Omega-3 fatty acids have received significant news coverage in recent times owing to their ability to do everything from preventing heart disease to increasing brain stamina. Although both the yam and the sweet potato are low-fat food, the ratio of essential fatty acids is preferable in the yam compared to the sweet potato. Sweet potatoes contain less omega-3 fats than yams, and have nearly twice as many omega-6 fats, which are known to inhibit the body's ability to make use of the omega-3's. When it comes to fatty acids, yams are quite preferable.

health & fitness

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Rupal Mohan M.D


Both the sweet potato and yam offer special health benefits to people with diabetes. Both have very low glycemic indices. Other health benefits found in both the sweet potato and yam include similarly high concentrations of key minerals. The yam and sweet potato are both loaded with potassium, magnesium, and phosphorous, as well as several so-called trace minerals: selenium, zinc, and copper.

If there is one thing that can be said about the American diet, it is that we are severely undernourished when it comes to fruits and vegetables. Knowing this, it would be false to say that eating yams could possibly be a bad idea. However, given the number of unsurpassed benefits of the sweet potato, it is certainly the preferable option for health-conscious consumers who want to choose the best vegetable for their tables.

However, whether you pick sweet potatoes or yams, or perhaps alternate between the two to keep things interesting, be sure to make it a regular part of your family meals. I just wrap one in a foil and grill or bake it for 45 minutes for my kids.


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