Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sweet Potatoes vs. Yams

My clients are always asking me what the difference between a sweet potato and a yam are. Here is a quick explanation below with a delicious recipe to try!

In the United States, the term "yam" is usually mistakenly used to label orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. Yams—thick, white tubers with little flavor—are actually not related to sweet potatoes at all. Sweet potatoes originated in South America and come in dozens of varieties; the orange-fleshed ones in question are only eaten in the United States. Yams, on the other hand, are rarely available in the United States, though they are popular in South and Central America, the West Indies, many Pacific islands, and parts of Asia and Africa. Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes have a rich, sweet flavor; yams are particularly bland, starchy vegetables that are best used as a background for more flavorful accompaniments. Sweet potatoes typically have a smooth skin, while the skin of yams is rough and somewhat shaggy.

In the supermarket, you will generally see what is technically a sweet potato labeled as a yam. You are unlikely to find a true yam at your average supermarket, although they are slowly making their way to some, so if you are shopping for sweet potatoes, you should be safe putting a "yam" in your cart. When recipes call for yams as substitutes, most are referring to red-skinned, orange-fleshed sweet potatoes that have been labeled as yams—not the white-fleshed, bland tuber.

Difference in Health Benefits:

Sweet potatoes are relatively low in calories and have no fat. They are rich in beta-carotene , having five times the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A in one sweet potato, as well as loaded with potassium. These nutrients help to protect against heart attack and stroke. The potassium helps maintain fluid and electrolyte balance in the body cells, as well as normal heart function and blood pressure.

Wild Mexican "yams" which are related to the sweet potato, seem to have anti-weight-gain, anti-cancer, and anti-aging properties. True yams do not contain as much Vitamin A and C as sweet potatoes.

Information above adapted from: http://www.bonappetit.com

Sweet Potato Wedges


3-4 sweet potatoes or yams

1/2 teaspoon coconut oil

1 tablespoon maple syrup

a few generous dashes of cinnamon, cumin and nutmeg

sea salt to taste

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash potatoes and remove blemish spots and dried ends. Slice into thin sticks and place in large bowl. Drizzle on remaining ingredients and toss to distribute evenly. Spread coated potatoes in single layer on cookie sheet and bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven, flip slices and bake another 10-20 minutes or until tender and browned (cooking time will vary depending on thickness of potato slices and stove). Serve hot & enjoy!


  1. I work for Google, where a posting by Chef Scott Giambastiani brought me here. I'm escaping from typical American fare of fats and sugars, and the Google food program is such a rich environment to ferret out replacement alternatives. Sweet potatoes, YES! And the same for a host of "weird" plants, tubers, grains I've seldom heard about, let alone eaten. Now, with articles like this one, they're becoming front and center in my house. Thank you.

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