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Sweet Potatoes vs. Yams

Updated: Apr 10, 2023

Yams and Sweet potatoes are sometimes mistaken to be the same, I know I sure thought they were until a few years ago and still find it difficult to physically tell them apart, anyone else?

But surprisingly they are different species and have few similarities. Yams are not as available in the US groceries compared to sweet potatoes. Other than both being tubers, good sources of carbohydrates, and fiber there’s not much comparison.

Yams can come in white, “red flesh” or purple and are dry and starchy. They come from the Dioscorea family. Yams origins are from Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia. 95% of yams are produces in sub-Saharan Africa. According to one source Yams was a key source of nourishment for enslaved people during the East and West historic migration. Yams are essential in fighting malnutrition, food insecurity, and improving health. Yams have more potassium than sweet potatoes in addition to calcium . Despite it's nutritional benefits and therapeutic effects Yams are known at the “orphan crop” because it is under researched and utilized.

Sweet potatoes are internationally known, where they are produced on more than 100 countries, making it the sixth largest food crop globally. They come from the Convolvulaceae botanical family, all known as morning glory. Sweet potatoes come in different colors white, cream, orange, purple, and yellow and are softer and sweeter. Due to its versatility and durability in most climates sweet potatoes can help reduce food shortages.

Sweet potatoes due to its density in nutrients from antioxidants (like Beta-carotene, vitamin C, and anthocyanin), vitamin B6, fiber, and potassium research has show it has anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, and cardio-protective, properties. Interestingly enough Yams have very similar nutritional effects.

So bottom line Yams are not Sweet Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes are not Yams so double check that you are in fact using the correct vegetable if you have a preference. In all, they both are great to incorporate for a healthy and balanced diet as they are nutritious and health protective.


  1. 410-767-1700

  2. Obidiegwu JE, Lyons JB, Chilaka CA. The Dioscorea Genus (Yam)-An Appraisal of Nutritional and Therapeutic Potentials. Foods. 2020;9(9):1304. Published 2020 Sep 16. doi:10.3390/foods9091304


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