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Types of Sweet Potatoes (With Images) and Why You Should Be Eating Them

Louise Hendon | August 5
Types of Sweet Potatoes (sweet potato varieties) https://paleoflourish.com/types-of-sweet-potatoes-with-images-and-why-you-should-eat-them

Confused about the types of sweet potatoes?

I lived on this island off the Southern coast of China for 3 months, and I survived in large part on sweet potatoes (in addition to salted duck eggs, roasted duck, and fresh fish!).

One of the things that always bothered me when living in China was I couldn’t tell what type of sweet potato I was buying. My friend, who is living in Okinawa, expressed the same problem.

So, when we discussed our favorite types (I know, it’s the sort of geeky conversation foodies indulge in!), we’d resort to laborious descriptions of what the skin looked like, what color the flesh was, how it tasted, etc.

So, when I spotted these 5 varieties of sweet potatoes in Whole Foods the other day, I decided to document them with photographs and notes!

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Here are the results:

Types of Sweet Potatoes

sweet potato types

types of sweet potatoes and yams

types of sweet potatoes and yams cooked
There are a ton of different kinds of sweet potatoes from Beauregard to Regal, but it’s hard to find most of them in the store.

Incidentally, yams and sweet potatoes are different.

All the varieties described below are technically sweet potatoes, though they’re often called yams. The confusion comes from an unfortunate attempt to distinguish between varieties of these root veggies hundreds of years ago.

Yams are tubers from from the Dioscoreaceae family, and are related to lilies and grasses.  Most of the world’s yams are grown in in Africa and Asia, and they are actually quite hard to find in the US.

Yams are a starchier and drier root vegetable. They also vary significantly in size, growing up to 150 pounds.

Sweet potatoes are from the Convolvulaceae (morning glory) family, and are native to tropical parts of the American continents.  These are what you typically find in the grocery store, even if the label says “yam”.

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Hannah Sweet Potatoes

Types of sweet potatoes - hannah yams
SKIN – Cream colored and pretty smooth.
FLESH – Cream/whitish colored that becomes yellow when baked.
TASTE – Pretty sweet and fairly firm inside (Hannahs are considered a dry or firm meaning that the flesh is pretty firm and dry when cooked).

NUTRITION – Data from Whole Foods.

  • Serving Size: 1 medium potato
  • Calories: 112
  • Fat: 0.02g
  • Carbohydrates: 26g (4g fiber)
  • Protein: 2g
  • Vitamin A: 369%*
  • Vitamin C: 5%*
  • Calcium: 4%*
  • Iron: 4%*
  • Potassium:  438mg (13%*)
  • Vitamin B6: 14%
  • Manganese: 17%

Stokes Purple Sweet Potatoes

Types of sweet potatoes - stokes purple sweet potatoes yams
SKIN – Deep purple.
FLESH – Deep purple.
TASTE – Not very sweet, and pretty dry inside.
NUTRITION – Data from Whole Foods.

  • Serving Size: 1 cup (150g)
  • Calories: 116
  • Fat: 0.14g
  • Carbohydrates: 26g (3.2g fiber)
  • Protein: 3%
  • Vitamin A: 0%*
  • Vitamin C: 50%*
  • Calcium: 2%*
  • Iron: 6%*
  • Potassium: 638mg (18%*)
  • Vitamin B6: 22%*

Japanese Sweet Potatoes

Types of sweet potatoes - Japanese yams
SKIN – Purple and fairly smooth. Generally more round (“fatter”) than the Stokes purple variety, which are more elongated.
FLESH – Whitish flesh that turns golden when baked.
TASTE – Very sweet and fairly firm inside.
NUTRITION – Data from Whole Foods.

  • Serving Size: 1 medium potato
  • Calories: 177
  • Fat: 0.26g
  • Carbohydrates: 42g (6g fiber)
  • Protein: 2.29g
  • Vitamin A: 4%*
  • Vitamin C: 43%*
  • Calcium: 3%*
  • Iron: 5%*
  • Potassium: 1224mg (35%*)
  • Vitamin B6: 22%*
  • Manganese: 30%*

Jewel Sweet Potatoes


SKIN – Orange/copper. I find it really hard to tell garnet and jewel varieties apart because their coloring is fairly similar both inside and outside. To me, it seems that garnets are slightly more reddish in color on the outside.
FLESH – Deep orange.
TASTE – Mildly sweet and fairly firm inside.
NUTRITION – Data from Whole Foods.

  • Serving Size: 1 medium potato
  • Calories: 112
  • Fat: 0.07g
  • Carbohydrates: 26g (4g fiber)
  • Protein: 2g
  • Vitamin A: 369%*
  • Vitamin C: 5%*
  • Calcium: 4%*
  • Iron: 4%*
  • Potassium: 438mg (13%*)
  • Vitamin B6: 14%*
  • Vitamin B5: 10%*
  • Manganese: 17%*

Garnet Sweet Potatoes

Types of sweet potatoes - garnet yams
SKIN – Reddish/Dark Orange.
FLESH – Orange.
TASTE – Mildly sweet, and pretty moist inside.
NUTRITION – Data from Whole Foods.

  • Serving Size: 1 medium potato
  • Calories: 112
  • Fat: 0.07g
  • Carbohydrates: 26g (4g fiber)
  • Protein: 2g
  • Vitamin A: 369%*
  • Vitamin C: 5%*
  • Calcium: 4%*
  • Iron: 4%*
  • Potassium: 438mg (13%*)
  • Vitamin B6: 14%*
  • Vitamin B5: 10%*
  • Manganese: 17%*

Are Sweet Potatoes Paleo?

Yes! They are definitely paleo!

Nutrition:
Sweet potatoes are a fantastic source of vitamins and minerals – especially vitamin A. Please note though, the type of vitamin A is betacarotene, and only a small percentage is actually converted to retinol, the usable form of vitamin A. (1)

They are also a great source of high-quality protein, meaning that it contains all the essential amino acids your body needs even though the absolute amount of protein is fairly low. (2)

They’re a good source of antioxidant nutrients and compounds, including vitamins A, C, E, and K. Purple types are also high in anthocyanins, flavonoids that has been shown to have beneficial effects for liver health. (3, 4)

Yellow and orange varieties contain carotenoids, natural antioxidants which can benefit vision, cognitive function, and cardiovascular health. (5)

Although sweet potatoes are high in starch, they are considered a low-glycemic index (GI) food by the American Diabetes Association, with a GI under 55, making them one of the safer sources of carbohydrate for people with blood sugar issues. (6)

All that nutrition with no real toxicity makes these colorful root veggies a delicious addition to any Paleo meal.

Potential downsides:

If you eat too many of these tasty veggies you might notice your skin and nails looking a little orange!  This is simply a buildup of betacarotene. It’s a benign condition and it goes away when you reduce your intake. (7)

Sweet potatoes are high in oxalates, compounds found in many plant foods, which are safe for most people. However, they should be avoided by people who have kidney stones. (8)

How To Cook Sweet Potatoes

There are so many different ways to incorporate these nutrient-dense veggies into your diet.

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The easiest way is to boil/steam/oven-bake/microwave/pressure cook the whole potato with the skin on. Here are some basic instructions for each cooking method:

Boiling or Steaming

Fill a pot with water. Place the potatoes either into the water or onto a steaming rack. Cook them until you can stick a fork into them easily (this takes approximately 30-60min).

Baking

Poke a few holes into each potato with a fork or knife, and then bake in an oven preheated to 350-375 F (175-190 C) until a fork goes in easily (this takes approximately 45-90min – exact time depends on how large the potato is).

Microwaving

Poke a few holes into each potato with a fork or knife, place in microwaveable dish, and microwave on high for 5-10 minutes. This is definitely the faster method of cooking them.

Pressure Cooking

Put the steaming rack into the pressure cooker pot and add in 1 cup of water. Poke a few holes into each potato and place them onto the rack. Cook on high pressure for 15-20 minutes.

And if you want to prepare them a different way, here are some of our favorite recipes:

Paleo Sweet Potato Recipes

Paleo Coconut Sweet Potato Mash Recipe
Paleo Coconut Sweet Potato Mash Recipe

Paleo Brussels Sprouts Recipe with Lemon, Bacon, and Sweet Potatoes Recipe
Paleo Brussels Sprouts Recipe with Lemon, Bacon, and Sweet Potatoes Recipe

Walnut & Coconut Whipped Sweet Potato Casserole

Raw Sweet Potato Salad

Paleo Spicy Sweet Potato Soup

Rosemary and Sea Salt Sweet Potato Chips

Sweet Potato Hash with Fried Eggs

Post Workout Sweet Potato Coffee Protein Shake

Want more Paleo sweet potato recipes? Check out this post of 66 Paleo sweet potato recipes here.

*Percent Daily Values based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Joy - November 19

Japanese sweet potatoes are my favorite, so delicious!

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