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Sweet Potatoes or Yams?

By Sara Butler

A lot of people use the terms “yams” and “sweet potatoes” interchangeably – but are they really the same thing? It turns out that while sweet potatoes and yams have a lot in common, they are very different things. Let’s set the record straight once and for all about how exactly they are different and what that means for your health.

Sweet Potatoes Explained

Sweet potatoes are a root vegetable, but only very remotely related to the potatoes you’re used to mashing, frying and baking. Just like a white potato, they’re the root of a plant that is eaten as a vegetable. But there are actually two main types. They are:

  • Orange-fleshed, dark-skinned – These are sweet with a dark skin and the most common type found in the United States.
  • Pale-fleshed, golden-skinned – These are a firmer version with a light yellow inside.

Both types of sweet potatoes are sweeter than regular potatoes, and often fluffier.

So, What Are Yams?

Yams are also a root vegetable but are completely different from sweet potatoes. Their size and skin color are what differentiates them from the sweet potato.

A yam is long and skinny with a rough, bark-like, brown skin that is very difficult to peel. You can find them in white, purple, pink, or yellow. Their taste is different, too; they’re not as sweet and the texture is much drier and starchier than a sweet potato.

The truth of the matter is that unless you go to specialty food stores, you’re going to have a tough time procuring a yam. They’re rarely found in local grocery stores, so all these years you’ve probably been buying sweet potatoes even if you thought they were yams.

Why Do They Get Confused

The most likely explanation for this confusion is that distributors used the term “yam” when they introduced the darker-skinned, orange sweet potato to the market a few decades ago. They simply wanted this new version of the sweet potato to be able to be told apart from the paler version that was the norm on supermarket shelves.

Now, “yam” is basically a marketing term to help people distinguish between the two types of sweet potatoes available.

For Your Health

Both yams and sweet potatoes are good for you. But they do have a different nutritional profile. In general, a sweet potato is going to be lower in calories, higher in Vitamin C, and higher in beta-carotene. Both yams and sweet potatoes are full of B vitamins, so you can’t go wrong either way.

The biggest thing to remember is that you have to be able to correctly identify what you’re eating if you’re trying to be healthy. If you think you’re eating a yam when you’re really eating a sweet potato, then you’re not counting the right amount of nutrients – so know what you’re eating!

To learn more about your health and wellness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Katy, Tex. 


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