I’ve seen a ton of articles speaking to the health benefits of sweet potatoes but rarely hear about the benefits of plain old brown potatoes. Are sweet potatoes really that much better nutritionally, or is this just another trend in the media? – Jeremy R.
Thanks for reaching out, Jeremy! Sweet potatoes do seem to be getting buttered up in the media lately. The hype is warranted though, as sweet potatoes contain an abundance of nutrients – many that you won’t find in traditional brown potatoes. Regardless of the type, both potatoes are rich in carbohydrates and fiber.
The shade thrown at brown potatoes is typically for their higher rank on the glycemic index and greater amount of starch. These two potatoes may be different, but they are more alike than you’d think! Both the sweet potato and the brown potato can easily fit into a healthy diet. For the most part, brown potatoes and sweet potatoes are very similar in their vitamin and mineral content. They both have an abundance of vitamins and minerals that make them great candidates for the carbohydrates you choose to put on your plate.
Sweet potatoes are jam-packed with beta-carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A and is found in other orange fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, mangoes and cantaloupe! Due to their surplus of beta-carotene, just one sweet potato provides you with 438% of your recommended daily vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for eye health, skin health and even supports your immune system.
However, brown potatoes aren’t completely outdone by their orange-colored cousins, so don’t ditch them from your diet! Brown potatoes have much more resistant starch than the sweet potato. Resistant starch passes through the small intestine and lands in the colon where it provides good bacteria. To keep your gut healthy, make sure you’re consuming plenty of resistant starch! 
Another important nutrient found in brown potatoes is potassium. You may have been told that bananas are the best source of potassium, however, with 26% of your recommended daily potassium, the brown potato reigns supreme in this arena! Although, one sweet potato still gives you roughly 12% of your daily potassium needs. 
So, why is the surplus of vitamin A found in sweet potatoes beneficial? Well, for starters, vitamin A contributes to the health of your skin and vision. Vitamin A is essential for cell production and growth, meaning it helps keep your skin looking firm and healthy.
Additionally, the abundance of resistant starch found in brown potatoes benefits your digestive health. Resistant starch resists digestion (hence the name) as it is not fully broken down by the small intestine. Once it arrives in the colon, good bacteria convert it into short-chain fatty acids. These short-chain fatty acids stimulate blood flow to the colon, increase nutrient circulation, aid in nutrient absorption and inhibit the growth of bad bacteria. So, as you can see, the brown potato comes with its fair share of benefits that shouldn’t be overlooked! 
The potassium found in brown potatoes and sweet potatoes also helps with hydration! Potassium and sodium work together to hydrate your cells and balance your electrolytes and bodily fluids. Since staying hydrated is essential to good health, count the rich amount of potassium found in potatoes (more so in the brown variety) as another primary health benefit. 
It’s less about which type of potato you eat and more about how you eat it! In fact, both sweet potatoes and brown potatoes can rise and fall on the glycemic index depending on how you prepare them. Since starch binds to water, a boiled potato typically ends up lower on the glycemic index. Conversely, the dry heat of baking potatoes will cause the sugars to concentrate and elevate its spot on the glycemic index.
Eat your potatoes with a balanced diet. Protein and healthy fats help balance the carbohydrates in sweet potatoes and brown potatoes. You can also leave the skin on for extra fiber and be mindful of the toppings you choose! 
The Factor Dietitian Team
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