I hate sweet potatoes, not because they are bad for you, but because I think they are disgusting. I always have. I am not into savory/sweet foods. Cinnamon on a potato? What the hell is that? Gross. I’ve also heard the paleo police cry, “White potatoes aren’t paleo!” Oh really? As if our ancestors came across the white variety of this starchy tuber and shouted, “Toss that shit! It ain’t sweet!” Not likely, pal.

I used the USDA’s nutrition database to compare the nutrient density of the good ol’ white potato versus the sweet potato. The values are in grams, per 100g of each.


As you can see, the sweet potato wins for calcium, vitamin C and vitamin K; though not by much  when in comes to vitamins C and K. The white potato reigns supreme for phosphorous, potassium and folate by a pretty decent margin. If you use the USDA links I provided for each potato, you will notice that the sweet potato blows the white potato out of the water in regard to its vitamin A content. Here’s the thing: true vitamin A cannot be obtained from vegetables. From Chris Kresser,

Beta-carotene is the precursor (inactive form) of retinol, the active form of vitamin A. While beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A in humans, only 3% gets converted in a healthy adult. And that’s assuming you’re not one of the 45% of adults that don’t convert any beta-carotene into vitamin A at all.

If you’re wondering about the glycemic index of each, I wondered that too. While the results I found were varied, it appears that the GI of the white versus the sweet are not so different. According to Harvard Medical School, 150g of boiled white potato has a GI of 82, while 150g of sweet potato has a GI of 70. The School of Molecular Biosciences at The University of Sydney maintains that 150g of white potato ranks at 41, while the sweet potato is at 44. Furthermore, either potato is a great form of absorbable glucose. Though by eating eating potatoes with butter and/or vinegar, you can literally cut the GI in half, as fat slows the absorption of glucose.

The point is, either potato is fine to eat. In fact, they’re pretty damn good to eat from a nutritional standpoint. They are a great form of delicious carbohydrate (well, not the sweet potato, gross). There is no need to fear the potato.


45 responses on “White Potato vs Sweet Potato and Are They Paleo?

  1. Christine

    My husband will be soooo glad to hear this. As will my children. I could kinda go either way so this will make for more harmony at the dinner table. 😉

  2. Corinne

    Thanks for this article. I don’t mind sweet potatoes, but I was really missing my white potatoes. I have started incorporating them here and there. I did find that I really enjoy mashed cauliflower and I can hardly tell a difference and I eat that guilt free! YUM!

    1. Dani Stout

      I totally love mashed cauli too. I’ve found that mashed taters are just sometimes easier (can’t mash cauliflower with a fork, easily at least). But if you like ’em and they don’t upset your digestion, white potatoes are good to go!

  3. Lisa Turcotte

    I think I love you for this article! I really don’t covet my neighbor’s sweet potato,if you get my drift. They are ookkkaaayy, sorta. But now I can stand proudly by my humble white potato and feel good about eating it.

  4. Laura

    I’m trying to like sweet potatoes, but I think the sweet thing combined with a sweet potato is gross too. I like the newer trend to pair it with chipolte or cayenne instead. I never bought in to the whole “white potatoes aren’t good for you” theory in the first place, though.

  5. Vicky

    Hi Dani! Interesting research and thank you!

    I quite like to eat sweet potatoes occasionally but there is something in white potatoes (which I do eat now and again) that doesn’t like me despite the similarities in the nutritional detail.

    I believe it is the alkaloids that cause me problems, these aren’t present in sweet potatoes and this is the main reason I tend to avoid white potatoes.

    1. Dani Stout

      Hey Vicky! Do you avoid all nightshades for this reason? This can absolutely be an issue for some people like it is for you, and people find it helpful to avoid nightshades as a whole, at least for some time. For those who aren’t sensitive, there isn’t much difference between the white and sweet, ya know? Thanks so much for sharing!

        1. Vicki

          I thought it too ironic that my name is Vicki and I have issues with white potatoes too. They cause my muscles to ache badly. What type issues do u have with white potatoes?

  6. George Marks

    I agree completely with your analysis. I don’t think there’s usually a good nutritional reason in a primal/paleo diet to avoid white potatoes, and to exclusively choose sweet potatoes instead.

    However, like Vicky I have found that I have specific problems with white potatoes. At first I thought I was imagining it, but several very carefully controlled self-experiments confirmed it. For me, they seem to cause achy joints and/or random aches and pains in various parts of my body — especially places where I have had past injuries or inflammation. I have no idea why I react this way to them, but I’m not happy about it, as I love a good potato.

    Regarding nightshades, I have a different (but still noticeable) reaction to other nightshades like tomatoes and peppers — those give me an itchy red skin rash on random/various parts of my body. This also makes me unhappy, since I enjoy eating those too. I can still get by with a little of these here and there, the more processed forms seem to affect me less. Meaning, I can occasionally have tomato sauce if I don’t overdo it, but fresh raw organic tomatoes make me bright red and itchy!

    1. Dani Stout

      That’s such a bummer! I love tomatoes. I do believe that in a lot of cases nightshades affect people because they have a damaged gut, is this your case? The gut can always be healed!

      1. George Marks

        I’m pretty sure I don’t have a damaged gut. I have been eating a strict primal/paleo diet for over 3 years — I feel very healthy, work out regularly and feel strong, and have very good digestion. I try from time to time to re-introduce things back into my diet that I seem to be sensitive to, thinking that maybe I just needed to let things heal longer before trying them. But so far, each time I introduce certain foods back into my diet, the symptoms seem to be the same.

        I have also tried to re-introduce other foods that I had problems with in the past, and so far no luck with those either. Any kind of dairy products gradually upset my digestion in a sort of cumulative effect, that gets worse over time. I can still tolerate small amounts, like cheese sprinkled on a salad, but I need to space out how often I do that. (Thankfully, pasture butter is just fine, and I consume a lot of that!).

        Also, I’m 47 years old and will still get acne from chocolate. Yes, even organic dark chocolate with a very high cacao percentage. It seems to be something in the chocolate itself. I’ve heard it might be the theobromine, or maybe the caffeine — I am caffeine-sensitive and get very twitchy and uncomfortable with even a small amount of coffee.

        So in the end, there are still plenty of delicious and healthy foods that I can eat, and feel well-nourished. I try not to focus too much on what I can’t have, and I enjoy the things I can. :)

        1. Dani Stout

          What an awesome outlook! I know a lot of people get bummed about the things they can’t eat instead of being stoked about the food they can. That’s interested about the dairy and chocolate. Have you tried raw dairy? Or do you take a probiotic supplement/eat probiotic rich foods? Also, I’m totally sensitive to caffeine too. I have no idea what it’s like to smoke crack, but I imagine it’s similar.

          1. George Marks

            Like many states, selling raw dairy is mostly illegal here in Tennessee. They are allowed to sell it labeled for pet consumption only, and everyone just kinda winks and nods when they sell it “for your pets”. So I’ve had it a few times. I don’t recall it causing digestive upset, but then again I didn’t really consume all that much.

            I do take a probiotic supplement, and have been the entire time I’ve been primal/paleo. It definitely helps a lot and makes a difference in overall digestion — which leads to better health overall.

  7. Karen, WA state

    I have to say, I like sweet potatoes, but not with cinnamon. I use the same herbs one uses for fish fry,,, celery seed, dill, parsley,a bit of garlic and make them savory.
    I often do the same with white potatoes. I do however cut potatoes with either sun chokes or turnips….

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  11. Lori

    Thank you, Dani! I have been leaning more towards the sweet potato, as I thought they were higher in nutrional value than white and that there was a more significant GI differential. White potatoes back on the list:)
    AMEN to cinnamon & brown sugary crap on a potato being GROSS!

  12. Jamil Avdiyev

    Dr. Carey Reams suggested one eat white potatoes only several times a year because of their overall low mineral content. Once I cut them out my waist became trimmer. I eat only purple or blue ones ones (higher mineral content) or more preferably high brix nutrient dense heirloom ones – grown in fertile soil with much higher vitamin and mineral content. See http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2010-10-26/health/fl-jjps-purple-1027-20101026_1_potatoes-health-benefits-dijon or http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=dailytip&dbid=122

    It is possible you have not liked yams because you probably had only low brix junk like practically the rest of all of us. I have been disappointed by the quality of store bought organic sweet potatoes countless times. The texture is pathetic.

    The USDA analysis does not into account variations of soil. See http://njaes.rutgers.edu/pubs/bearreport/ as an example.

    1. Dani Stout

      Hi, I’m not too familiar with the work of Dr. Reams, but white potatoes actually do not have an overall low mineral content, as you can see from the USDA’s website. While they do not take soil health into account, it still contains viable nutrients, more so than the sweet potato in certain instances. I actually have had quality sweet potatoes, I try to buy my food locally, and have had sweet potatoes from organic, healthy local farms. Still can’t stomach ’em! :)

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  15. Chrissie

    If you look at Paleo only from the point of view of “what did our ancient ancestors eat?”, then potatoes are not Paleo. The reason being is all varieties of potatoes originate in South America. They are a new world food and therefore have only been eaten by South Americans since humans migrated over the Bering Strait into the New World. While there were some older migrations, the human migrations that moved as far south as South America only have archaeological evidence showing 10,000 years ago – right around the same time evil agriculture began. Europeans only started to eat these foods when the Spanish & Portuguese discovered South America in the 15th century. Some of the many other new world foods: tomatoes, chocolate and corn. Anyway, just thought I would share this interesting information. Not telling people what to eat, as I still eat some of these. Though I definitely don’t recommend corn, if only for the whole GMO and high glycemic things.

  16. tyler

    I like how you have broken down the numbers here.
    I was just at a paleo talk where Robb Wolf was fielding questions. His response to this question was mainly that, “…when writing the paleo solution, I was writing for therapeutic purposes of ppl really trying to get their health in order, at which point any potatoes are unnecessary. As for an athlete or someone comfortable with where their weight is, there is no significant difference between white or sweet potatoes”.

    In other words eat up.

  17. Martí

    “Though by eating eating potatoes with butter and/or vinegar, you can literally cut the GI in half, as fat slows the absorption of glucose.” Adding butter not only harmlessly, but to actually make something healthier……… I love my diet :)

    Great article! I’ve definitely been on the sweet potato trend and acquired the taste (I loved using them as a bread replacement for sloppy joes after frying them up in halves) but saying no to white potatoes was hard. Love having them back in the good books, thanks! :)

  18. Zack

    If you are going to cite a Harvard study in the affirmative to your argument you should know that this is also straight out of Harvard…


    It’s their guide to healthy eating, and it doesn’t count a potato as a vegetable serving.

    I know it’s an ad hominem fallacy but I’ll deliver it anyways: Okinawans live the longest in the world and their staple food is the sweet potato. They know what’s up.

  19. Shelah

    I am so glad to see this post too! I too dislike sweet potatoes except on Thanksgiving and then we use Yams. I love white potatoes.

  20. jackie

    Hi! I love this post, I pretty much lived on white potatoes growing up. I have always believed they were good for you! But I have a question, do you know what you can do if you’re one of the people who doesn’t convert beta carotene? I figure I must be one of them (and my boys (4 and 2 yrs old) are too) because of the keratosis pilaris on the backs of our arms!

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