We'll also tell you the difference between sweet potatoes vs.yams, and more.

By Kelly Vaughan
Updated: June 24, 2019
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We all know that consuming fruits and vegetables with a bright, vibrant color, like sweet potatoes, means they’re chock-full of antioxidants and vitamins. Sweet potatoes near the top of the list for their big dose of beta-carotene and vitamin C. But are all sweet potatoes made equal? Are some kinds of sweet potatoes healthier than others? While there are over a dozen varieties of sweet potatoes, we’re focusing on the most common. Here, we’re getting to the root of all your sweet potato questions.

Sweet Potatoes vs. Yams

These common varieties of root vegetables often get confused— but what is the difference between yams and sweet potatoes? For starters, yams and sweet potatoes are not the same vegetable, contrary to popular belief. Yams are drier and have a higher sugar content than sweet potatoes. Their flesh also tends to be lighter than intensely orange sweet potatoes. When you cut into a raw yam, both the interior and exterior is more likely to resemble a russet potato than a sweet potato. While we don’t know anyone who eats raw potatoes, raw yams contain toxins that are harmful to humans so always cook them before eating.

Both varieties offer tons of potassium and are loaded with vitamin A and vitamin C. Sweet potatoes are healthier than yams in terms of calories— 1 cup of sweet potatoes contain about 114 calories, whereas yams contain approximately 177 calories. Sweet potatoes are also richer in beta-carotene. You can prepare sweet potatoes and yams similarly by roasting, microwaving, or boiling them, or even using an Instant Pot to cook sweet potatoes.

When shopping for sweet potatoes, choose ones that are uniform in size, as they’ll cook evenly. Keep an eye out for large sprouts, which are a sign the potatoes have been on the shelf for a while. Always wash potatoes thoroughly before cooking with them, particularly if you are going to be eating the skin.

Sweet Potato Noodles

Sweet potato noodles can be store-bought or made with a spiralizer. Use them in this recipe for “Zoodles” & Turkey Meatballs, which offers a healthy twist on traditional spaghetti and meatballs. Sweet potato noodles cook up in just a few minutes when boiled or sautéed. It’s a low-carb option to your favorite pasta dishes, or a fun and healthy side dish that gets kids excited to eat their vegetables.

Purple Sweet Potato

Purple sweet potatoes have a purple-beige skin and vibrant purple flesh. Even after they’ve been cooked, they maintain their striking hue. They taste rich and denser than regular sweet potatoes. Purple sweet potatoes are a recent addition to the root vegetable family; they only became available in 2006. They’re high in fiber and rich in antioxidants, which protect against free radical damage and pollution.

Japanese Sweet Potato

Japanese sweet potatoes, aka white sweet potatoes, have a pale yellow interior and purple skin. They’re naturally sweet and nutty with a more robust flavor than traditional sweet potatoes. When roasted, their exterior crisps up while the interior remains creamy. They’re perfect for roasting whole or sliced into fries.

RELATED45 Easy and Delicious Recipes for Sweet Potato Lovers

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