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The Paleo Potato Debate: Sweet Potatoes vs White Potatoes

White is Mr. and Sweet is Mrs. Who's going to win?

It’s a common belief that sweet potatoes are healthier than white potatoes. Within the paleo community, many dismiss white potatoes completely while adoring its sweet friend.

Here’s the truth: Both foods have their own unique health benefits.

One is not more superior than the other.

Not everyone eats potatoes and some do best avoiding them for a certain time period. However, if you do eat potatoes then consider eating both white and sweet along with other varieties.

Below you will find the important nutrition information for sweet potatoes and white potatoes. All numbers are based on 200 calories. The vitamin and mineral numbers are DV% except for Choline which is in milligrams as noted. I bolded the “winner” in blue.

All data is taken from NutritionData.com.

Vitamins (Sweet Potatoes vs White Potatoes)

  • Vitamin A: 658 vs 0
  • Vitamin C: 9 vs 95
  • Vitamin D: 0 vs 0
  • Vitamin E: 3 vs 0
  • Vitamin K: 5 vs 6
  • Thiamin: 12 vs 14
  • Riboflavin: 8 vs 6
  • Niacin: 6 vs 15
  • Vitamin B6: 24 vs 29
  • Folate: 6 vs 13
  • Vitamin B12: 0 vs 0
  • Pantothenic Acid: 19 vs 8
  • Choline: 28.5 mg vs 31.9 mg

Minerals (Sweet Potatoes vs White Potatoes)

  • Calcium: 7 vs 3
  • Iron: 8 vs 8
  • Magnesium: 14 vs 15
  • Phosphorus: 11 vs 18
  • Potassium: 22 vs 34
  • Sodium: 5 vs 1
  • Zinc: 5 vs 6
  • Copper: 18 vs 17
  • Manganese: 30 vs 21
  • Selenium:  2 vs 1

Macronutrients (Sweet Potatoes vs White Potatoes)

  • Carbohydrate: 47 vs 49
  • Fiber: 7 vs 7
  • Sugar: 10 vs 3
  • Fat: 0 vs 0
  • Protein: 4 vs 5

The glycemic load is also indifferent: 19 for sweet potatoes and 20 for white potatoes for 200 calories each.

The inflammation factor is a different story with sweet potatoes coming in at 286 (strongly anti-inflammatory) and white potatoes scoring at -112 (moderately inflammatory). However, if you peel the skin then I bet that inflammatory potato all of a sudden becomes anti-inflammatory.

As you can see, white potatoes win in 6 out of 11 nutrients compared (excluding ties). If the %DV was within 2 percentage points I left it alone. That’s too close to call. The data is never exact. If you did include these ‘too close to call’ nutrients then white potatoes would win 10 to 8.

Sweet potatoes have loads of Vitamin A but it’s the pre cursor form. Your body will not use much of that Vitamin A unless you add lots of fat like butter (do it!). White potatoes are full of potassium and Vitamin C. Based on the vitamin and mineral content, I’d say it’s a tossup. Anti-nutrients, lectins, etc. are present in both foods. Heat destroys most of them and they become not so problematic.

I remember a poll that was taken a while back within the primal/paleo community. About 50% said they believe white rice is an ok food. It’s good to consume after an intense workout. Why not eat baked white or sweet potatoes instead? They seem to be fairly benign yet provide a lot more nutrition compared to white rice.

I want to know what YOU think about white potatoes and sweet potatoes. Do you avoid white potatoes? If so, why? Do you eat sweet potatoes instead? Does this post change your mind perhaps? Sound off in the comment section below.

photo credit

23 Comments

  1. I avoid all potatoes, but indulge once in a while and generally don’t love the taste of a sweet potato. I prefer white or better yet yukon gold. A blue potato, or some of the other more unique varieties, may have some nice antioxidants.

    • I love yukon gold! I prefer sweet potatoes but love variety. Russet is good too – purpleish skin.

  2. I don’t eat many potatoes as I’m cutting back on my starch (as I’m trying to lose weight, not because of a belief that it’s poisonous), but when I do, I always have white as I’m not keen on the sweet ones. This is an interesting post and should dispel the “don’t eat white potatoes eat sweet ZOMG” zealots that seem to keep appearing when potatoes are mentioned.

    • Lol. Yea I just want to challenge minds. People accept that sweet potatoes are better without questioning it. I tend to question everything. I want the truth.

  3. I have no problem eating either. Both are great sources of soluble fiber, which is hard to find. However, I do tend to go for the sweet potatoes, mainly just to get my fix for something sweet…covered in some Kerrygold, of course.

    • Soluble fiber is hard to find? What about any vegetable? Most fruits? Got to throw on the grass-fed butter!

  4. I never eat white… and once in a blue moon I’ll eat a sweet one. I generally like the taste of sweet potatoes better and I always thought they were “better” for you. Think I will still avoid potatoes in general because of the large amounts of carbohydrates in both varitities… but this is a very interesting post.

    • They are both great. I just don’t think one should eat only sweet potatoes. What if someone eats a fair amount of liver? They are probably getting more than enough Vitamin A. If one does not need the Vitamin A from sweet potatoes then white potatoes could be more beneficial for that individual. It just depends on a number of factors.

      I’ve just always heard that sweet potatoes are way better than white. This has been a general consensus in the primal community. I am just challenging this “fact.”

  5. Sheesh, Toad! I’m still trying to figure out why wine is okay for some, but they get all up in arms about vinegar! Seems to be a case of some things being equally good or equally bad, doesn’t it? Where do Jerusalem artichokes land in all of this? Hmmm…..

      • I know this is a really late reply but I just found this article which is interesting by the way. Just wanted to let you know there is a difference between Jerusalem artichokes and regular artichokes. Jerusalem artichokes seem to be an edible root.

  6. If I could eat potatoes, I would definitely eat the white…I love golds, reds, purples, and those tiny fingerling ones you can get at the farmers market sometimes. Too many carbs for my messed up metabolism though…maybe someday 🙂 Great..thanks Todd…now I am so hungry for a potato with a bunch of butter…and some crumbled bacon…time to go to bed so I don’t think about it!

    • Yea, some really do need to limit their carb intake and thus potatoes are a no. Someday for sure!

  7. I think this is a great post, because I was a little confused myself about the difference in them.
    I am trying to lose weight, so have avoided all potatoes, but I agree, adding in a nutrious whole food every now and again is good for your whole body and mind.
    I looooove an organic sweet potato smothered in KerryGold butter with my lunch.
    🙂

    • If you like it then eat it! If you are losing weight consistently right now, then start eating sweet potatoes and see a stahl in your weight loss then consider ditching them. (Sweet) Potatoes are whole, nutrient dense foods!

  8. I eat all the potatoes, and I also love yucca root as well, it tastes just like white potato but better. As long as it’s not fried, I love it all.

  9. I do eat potatoes and sweet potatoes, but rarely, less than once a week. I never peel the potatoes.

    However, it’s for me zero tolerance for French fries (I’d call also “cancer fries”), microwaved potatoes (or nuked, zapped potatoes) and potatoes & sweet potatoes that are not organic (risk of exposure to pesticides, GMO’s, etc.).

  10. I eat organic white potatoes of all varieties without concern. Primal eating has led me to a place that if I feel pogged after a meal, I possibly overdid the carbs and so should ease off for a couple of meals.

  11. True and I definitely understand this. But I hear it all the time that white potatoes spike blood sugar, have too many carbs and have no nutrition. This is all untrue. I see no reason to consume only sweet potatoes and not white potatoes if you are comparing nutrition. There may be other reeasons to avoid either one but I never hear these reasons from anyone. And the nutrition is the most important factor if a food is easily digested.

    I could be wrong though. Andrew is definitely much smarter than me!

Comments are closed.

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