Potatoes tend to get a bad rap in the nutrition world since this vegetable is processed in so many different ways (think French fries and potato chips). The white potato is also a high glycemic food. This all adds up to potatoes being put on the "to be avoided list" if you are striving to follow a heart healthy diet.
Let's talk about a potato that is good for you and can be a part of a heart healthy diet - the sweet potato
Sweet potato versus "white" potato
Serving Size: 1 medium potato with skin
Calories: 128 white potato; 103 sweet potato
Glycemic Index: 85 (high) white potato; 54 (low) sweet potato
The glycemic index is simply a measure of how quickly a food (particularly carbohydrates) raises blood sugar levels.
Fat: 0.2 g white potato; 0.2 g sweet potato
Fat as long as you don't "drown" a potato in high fat toppings, such as butter, sour cream, marshmallows, etc.
Fiber: 3 g white potato; 4 g sweet potato
Fiber promotes stable blood sugar levels and reduced cholesterol.
Soluble Fiber: 1 g white potato; 2 g sweet potato
Soluble fiber is estimated to lower LDL cholesterol 1% for every 1-2 grams consumed daily.
Potassium: 738.3 mg white potato; 541.5 mg sweet potato
A high potassium intake is needed to balance out sodium in the diet in order to lower blood pressure levels.
Vitamin C: 13.25 mg white potato; 22.34 mg sweet potato
An antioxidant that promotes cellular health and is also used to form collagen.
Vitamin B6: 0.43 mg white potato; 0.33 mg sweet potato
Essential to many bodily processes, including amino acid and lipid (fat) metabolism.
Beta-carotene: 8.28 mcg white potato; 13120 mcg sweet potato
Beta-carotene is a precursor for Vitamin A.
Lutein + zeaxathin: 41.4 mcg white potato; 0 mcg sweet potato
This nutrient is linked to eye health and prevention of macular degeneration.
I must tell you this is the first time I've actually lined up the nutritional difference between a white potato and a sweet potato. I really expected the sweet potato to far "out shine" a white potato nutritionally, but the difference isn't as great as I expected. However, there is still a benefit to selecting a sweet potato over a white potato. There is a significant difference in the glycemic index, soluble fiber, and beta-carotene content that make a baked potato a better option.
Ways to add sweet potatoes to your diet
Since fall has arrived, I thought this was the perfect time to discuss why and how to add sweet potatoes to your regular diet. I hope you can now see that sweet potatoes have a place in your diet all year long and not just at Thanksgiving dinner.
Sweet potatoes can be prepared many, many different ways. I personally like to use sweet potatoes for making "sweet potato French fries" I bake in my oven with a little olive oil and Mrs. Dash seasoning.
If you have a favorite (and for the most part healthy!) sweet potato recipe, please share it below!
Be sure to sign up for The Heart of Health provided by Health Central dietitian Lisa Nelson and you'll receive access to the free report "How to Make Heart Healthy Changes into Lifelong Habits" at http://hearthealthmadeeasy.com.