Potatoes are a staple of diets around the world. They were first cultivated in Peru many thousands of years ago and travelled to Spain with the Spanish Conquistadors. They were then heavily relied upon in Ireland and eventually all throughout Europe. You can find potato-based dishes in many cuisines worldwide.
Lately I have had many people telling me they have given up white potato in favour of sweet potato. But are they really that much better?
When you compare peeled sweet potatoes to white potatoes, you won’t find a large difference in kilojoule content, carbohydrate levels or fibre. In fact, there are only 70 kilojoules difference in a 100gram serve of boiled potatoes.
What many people don’t know is that most of the vitamins and minerals that potatoes contain are in or near the skin. All potatoes contain a large amount of vitamin C, up to 45% of your recommended daily intake. Where they really differ though, is in vitamin A content. A sweet potato contains more than 500 times more vitamin A than your regular white potatoes. Most of the fibre and potassium is located near the skin too, so don’t peel them unless you really need to!
The Glycemic Index (GI) measures food according to how they raise the blood glucose levels after eating. Lower numbers mean a slower digestion and lower insulin (that’s a good thing!) These numbers depend on cooking method though, so the GI of potatoes can differ wildly whether served hot or cold, or baked or boiled. The recommended cooking method for the lowest GI is to slice and boil.
Growers in South Australia have bred a new, low-GI white potato called the Carisma. It has a lower kilojoule and carbohydrate content than most white potatoes, with a GI of 53. These help you release energy more slowly and help you feel fuller for longer.
So don’t be afraid of the humble white potato, eating it has many benefits! Just remember it is the portion that matters, not necessarily the type of potato you use.
My advice would be to use both white and sweet potatoes as part of a balanced diet. If you are watching your weight, pay attention to the rest of the ingredients in the dish; use lower-fat toppings and watch your portion sizes.