Most supermarkets use the terms sweet potato or yam interchangeably. There is a difference between the two. There are several varieties of each of these veggies that may be adding to the confusion between the two. At NYC Weight Loss Solutions, our personal coach will guide your through this food choice and others.

Sweet Potatoes are Everywhere

The darker, orange tube-like vegetable often referred to as a yam, is actually a sweet potato. This is the softer, sweeter tuber that is popular baked, fried or served in casseroles.

The harder variety has a lighter color when it is cut. It can be baked as easily but it will retain its firmer texture. It is a very healthy high fiber root vegetable.

The sweet potato is a relative of the morning glory or Convolvulacea family. It is a tuber – not really a potato. All varieties of sweet potatoes are very high in potassium and B-vitamins along with fiber. They are tasty cooked and served with a little butter or olive oil.

The outside of the sweet potato can be light to dark red. The shape is usually elongated with pointed ends. The inside can be light to dark orange-red. The darker, softer varieties are the most popular and they can also be canned. These are often marked as yams although the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires that canned yam contents be listed as sweet potatoes.

Exotic Yams

A true yam is drier and more starchy than a sweet potato. It has a cylindrical shape, a rough, dark skin and a white to yellow or purple color inside. Yams are found in all sizes.

Yams are grown in tropical regions of Africa, Asia and Latin America. This tuber is a member of the Dioscorea family. The humble yam is responsible for understanding the importance of high fiber foods for good health.

High fiber yams provide a staple for people in many parts of Africa. During the 1960’s, the late British scientist Dr. Denis Burkitt discovered that fiber primarily in yams consumed by West African tribes kept people healthy. They did not have intestinal cancers, breast cancer or heart disease.

Dr. Burkitt recognized that diets high in fiber were responsible for preventing diseases common in the U.S and other developed countries. Fiber helps digestion by keeping food and toxins moving through the system. Fiber can absorb some saturated fats, helping to control LDL cholesterol levels responsible for heart disease. These studies also contributed to the realization that over-processed foods with additives and preservatives were contributing to health problems.

Yams are imported and found at specialty stores while sweet potatoes are grown in the U.S. and available in supermarkets.

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