So I love sweet potatoes or ubi keledek since I was young especially that kuih keria or just deep fried in batter with sambal from the makcik in my school tuckshop. What amazed me that suddenly there was a sudden emergence from the West saying that, the sweet potato is a healthier alternative for the common kentang or white potato that we are so used in having with burgers, steaks and sup tulang (bone soup).
There started my love for making everything with sweet potatoes from mash to sweet potato fries and even, chips. I find that sweet potatoes paired well with a lot of savoury dishes due to the sweetness that balances even the “umamiest” curries with its ladleful of Ajinomoto. Truthfully, I don’t use MSG in my cooking and it has been vilified as “you will grow bald” condiment but recent awakenings have shown otherwise, but that is a story for another day.
This is the same with sweet potatoes as the marketing increased and concurrently prices jacked up for your common sweet potato due to its lower glycaemic load scale as compared to white potatoes. But this is the only argument that I hear day in day out about it and recently, I found out that they are not far apart on the glycaemic load scale.
Let’s talk about both of them but first let it be known that I am not a nutritionist, but I love food and was an owner of a health food café in Hobart, Tasmania. This opened my mind on what to look for customers and answer them on nutrition. Both of them come from different families with the white potatoes are more related to tomatoes, peppers and eggplant whereas sweet potatoes are to morning glories. They are both tubers that grow underground which are known to always be carb heavy. Nutritional composition for both of them are in the table below and we are looking at 100grams of baked white and sweet potatoes with skin on and not seasoned.
As you can see they are still high in carbohydrates and the amount of fibre does not offset the net carbs that much (net carbs = carbohydrates – fibre). However, what not shown here – sweet potatoes are also high in Vitamin A (good for eye health) and Beta-Carotene (anti-oxidant). On the other hand, let’s not dismiss white potatoes, which has a higher potassium value (an essential electrolyte). It looks like sweet potatoes are a bit better, but consuming more because of how sweet tasting it is offsets whatever health benefits you were looking for.
The problems with white potatoes, in general, is due to how we consume it. Fries and potato chips are the worst way and especially with no skin on where you lose fibre that comes with it. This can be said true to the sweet potato too where we remove the skin as we think that all the dirt that comes with it should not be healthy. What you could do with both potatoes is brush and wash the skin. Currently, I still exclusively eat sweet potatoes at home unless making sup tulang but even with curries I use sweet potatoes.
If you are still keen on using the abundant sweet potato, these are my suggestions to make it a replacement for the humble white potato. First is making sweet potato mash, these are yummy and so delicious and sweet potatoes of course cook faster than potatoes. I normally boil them with skin on and then put them in the air fryer to dry them (if you do not have an air fryer just put them in the oven or microwave them to remove excess moisture). Then mashing them with butter and warm milk (or none if you want to keep fat levels down) and seasoning it. Have it with steak or even make shepherd’s pie instead of white potatoes. The second recipe is to make a sweet potato soup with a bit of tom yam spices. This can be done by boiling some chicken bones to get the stock, add sweet potatoes and wait for it to be tender and blend it with the stock, add your spices and later if you want either milk or coconut cream and there you have a nice warm soup for your soul.
I could go on and on with the many uses of these tubers but I think there’s a lot of more resources out there for you to explore. This is hopefully a head start for anyone who is going to the sweet potato journey. Here are my take away on these potatoes, you can have both but too much of a good thing is still bad for you.
Najjib Aziz is currently work as a tech consultant in Australia, but also has higher degree in zoology from University of Tasmania. An endless learner, he has done a diverse range of vocation not limited to military medicine, paramedic, venturing into food and beverages industry and university tutor.
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