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Difference Between Sweet Potatoes and Yams

Sweet potatoes scientific name Ipomoea batatas and yams name Dioscorea are often confused, but they belong to different botanical families and have different characteristics. 

Sweet potatoes, part of the morning glory family, have various skin and flesh colors, with a thin, edible skin and a sweet, moist texture when cooked. Rich in beta-carotene and they have vitamin A and offer a nutritional value including fiber, vitamins, and minerals. 

On the other hand, yams, part of the Dioscoreaceae family and have rough, scaly, and inedible skin, with a starchy and dry texture when you cook them. It lacks the vibrant beta-carotene of sweet potatoes, but yams can give important nutrients like potassium and vitamin C. how you use them in your diet may vary, with sweet potatoes being great in both sweet and savory dishes, while yams are popular in African, Caribbean, and Asian cuisines. 

What are Sweet Potatoes?


A sweet potato is a type of vegetable that is actually a root tuber of the Ipomoea batatas plant.

Type of tuber:

Sweet potatoes are root tubers; in other words, they are the root of the plant that is modified to store food.


Sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamin A, especially if it is the type that has orange flesh. This orange color is due to the beta carotenes, which are an excellent source of vitamin A. There is also 3 g of fiber per 100 g of sweet potatoes which is a pretty good helping of fiber. Sweet potatoes have several antioxidant molecules, meaning that it can protect cells in the body from oxidative damage.

How sweet potatoes are prepared:

You can prepare sweet potatoes in various ways, including boiling, baking, or roasting. Sweet potatoes can also be cut up or mashed up and added to soups. It is a very versatile vegetable that you can add to different meals. 

What are Yams?


A yam is a stem tuber that is eaten as a vegetable, and is from the plant of the genus Dioscorea.

Type of tuber:

A yam is, unlike a sweet potato, a stem tuber. This means that the yam plant stores food in specialized stems. These are the parts of the plant, which are harvested and used as human food.


Yams are a relatively healthy vegetable with some vitamin A, fiber, and protein present. They also have quite a bit of vitamin C present, more than compared with sweet potatoes. They are of higher calories than sweet potatoes. Yams have slightly more fiber than sweet potatoes at 4 g per 100 g, and they provide more calories. This makes them a good source of nutrition and a healthy addition to any meal.

How yams are prepared:

You do have to cook yams to eat them since they have oxalates. These are chemicals that can make you sick. Cooking can include roasting, baking, frying, or boiling. The yams should be soft enough that you can place a fork through them. They are easiest cooked by first washing, peeling, and cutting into small pieces first.

Difference Between Sweet Potatoes and Yams?


Sweet potatoes are vegetables from the plant Ipomoea batatas. Yams are vegetables from the Dioscorea plant.

Part of plant

The sweet potato vegetable is a root tuber. The yam vegetable is a stem tuber.

Color of the fleshy part

The fleshy tissue of sweet potatoes varies, and is usually white or orange. The fleshy tissue of yams is cream.


Sweet potatoes have a soft texture, while yams have a dry and starch-like texture.


Sweet potatoes taste sweet. Yams have a neutral taste.

Energy content in kcal

The energy content of sweet potatoes is 86 kcal. The energy content of yams is 118 kcal.

Protein content per 100 g

Sweet potatoes have 1.57 g of protein while yams have 1.53 g of protein.

Fiber content per 100 g

There is 3 g per 100 g of fiber in sweet potatoes. There is 4.1 g of fiber per 100 g in yams.

Vitamin A content

There is 709 µg of vitamin A in 100 g of sweet potatoes. There is 7 µg of vitamin A in 100 g of yams.

Vitamin C content

There is 2.4 mg of vitamin C in 100 g of sweet potatoes. There is 17.1 mg of vitamin C in 100 g of yams.

Table comparing Sweet Potatoes and Yams

Summary of Sweet Potatoes Vs. Yams

  • Sweet potatoes are root tubers.
  • Yams are vegetable tubers.
  • Both sweet potatoes and yams are nutritious vegetables.


Which is healthier, sweet potato or yam?

Sweet potatoes are slightly better for you as they have higher quantities of vitamin A.

Can you substitute yams for sweet potatoes?

In terms of taste, yams are not a good substitute because they are not sweet the way that sweet potatoes are. 

What is a yam in Canada?

A yam in Canada is not a true yam, but rather a sweet potato.

Why are yams not called sweet potatoes?

Yams are not the same as sweet potatoes in terms of taste or even the type of plant they come from.

Why do grocery stores call sweet potatoes yams?

Historically, yam was used as a nickname to differentiate between various types of sweet potatoes.

Which kind of sweet potato is healthiest?

The sweet potatoes which have an orange flesh are the healthiest because they have the highest amounts of beta carotenes which are converted to vitamin A.

What do Americans call yams?

It depends what part of the country you are in, but often these are simply called yams along with sweet potatoes.

Which is better for weight loss yams or sweet potatoes?

Sweet potatoes contain fewer calories, so might be better if you are trying to shed some weight.

What does yam do to the body?

Yams can help reduce your blood sugar levels and even aid inflammation and help your brain’s health.

Can you eat yams raw?

You cannot eat true yams raw since they are toxic in this state.

Should you peel yams before cooking?

It is up to you. You do not have to peel yams when cooking.

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  1. You have some incorrect information on sweet potato and yam comparisons! You need to check this out!


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References :

[0]Hayase, Fumitaka, and Hiromichi KATOI. "Antioxidative components of sweet potatoes." Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology 30.1 (1984): 37-46.

[1]USDA. “Sweet potato, raw, unprepared (Includes foods for USDA's Food Distribution Program)”. USDA, 2018,  https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168482/nutrients

[2]USDA. “Yam -raw”. USDA, 2018,  https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170071/nutrients

[3]Image credit: https://www.canva.com/photos/MAEOcEuId9o-sweet-potatoes-beside-a-knife/

[4]Image credit: https://www.canva.com/photos/MADarZ49a8k-yams/

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