The Dietary Difference between Yams and Sweet Potatoes

Yams and sweet potatoes are often used interchangeably when spoken of and even cooked with, but they are completely different vegetables in dietary offerings. Both are considered extremely healthy and offer benefits other vegetables can’t bring to the table. Think of all your favorite potato dishes and consider how you can make them different by adding sweet potatoes or yams. Before you make the switch, learn a bit more about each one.

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are categorized with morning glories and have the reputation of a super food. They pack major nutrients into a surprisingly low calorie package. Because all varieties are similar in genetics, they all carry approximately the same nutritional value. This means no matter where you live or grow your sweet potatoes, you’ll still find these same benefits. Vitamin A is critical to eye health, and one sweet potato offers 8 times the adult recommended daily allowance. Because vitamin A is water-soluble, your body can store it for later use. Sweet potatoes also offer high levels of iron, vitamin E, calcium and twice as much protein per serving as a yam.

Sweet potatoes also offer massive amounts of anti-inflammatory traits. These are essential if you’re suffering from inflammatory diseases like gout, arthritis or IBS. Some other diseases can be triggered by inflammation, which the anti-inflammatory traits of sweet potatoes can help prevent. Some of these conditions include asthma, hay fever, rheumatoid arthritis and atherosclerosis.


You already know how important Omega-3 fatty acids are, in everything from heart health to brain function, and yams offer more omegas than sweet potatoes. They also offer Omega-6 fats at twice the level of sweet potatoes. Not only do yams not offer anti-inflammatory traits, they contain compounds that can aggravate inflammatory symptoms in people with inflammatory triggered diseases.

What They Have in Common

While both yams and sweet potatoes offer many different nutrients at varying levels, they do share some common ground. Both vegetables are packed with:

  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Phosphorous
  • Zinc
  • Copper
  • Selenium

Many of these vitamins and minerals you may not even think about, but even the trace amounts found in yams are beneficial to your nutrition. Consider working yams into your diet if you have a difficult time eating meat, bananas, spinach or other foods that contain the minerals above. 

Despite everything they have in common and taking into consideration the things they don’t, for nutritional benefits the sweet potato takes the prize. Yams are a great addition to any meal and are not discounted for their health benefits. Yams are readily available at a comparable price to sweet potatoes. If you have yam recipes you love, keep using them, but also consider swapping the yams out for sweet potatoes and see what you think. Sweet potatoes are one of the super foods and are readily available. The overwhelming benefits of a sweet potato should be reason enough to trade out your regular spuds next time you make your family’s favorite potato dish.


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