Sweet potatoes are yellow or orange in color and have elongated ends. The paler variety is not sweet and has a texture similar to a white baking potato. The darker ones are sweet and moist.
Yams are generally sweeter than sweet potatoes and can grow much larger. These have brown or black skin and reddish flesh.
Although the two are often confused, they are two different species, and each offer different health benefits and culinary uses. Compared to yams, sweet potatoes contain “significantly higher amounts of calcium, iron, and vitamin E, and they have twice as much protein per serving.”
In comparison, yams contain more omega-3 fats than sweet potatoes, and have half as many omega-6 fats. Also, yams lack the anti-inflammatory compounds found in sweet potatoes, which are very important in the health of people with IBS, arthritis, gout, and other inflammation-related diseases.
The size of the vegetable is the most noticeable difference: yams are very long and cylindrical, while sweet potatoes are shorter and are slightly tapered at the ends. The skin of a yam is rough, and is a dark brown, sometimes blackish color. The flesh is most often purple but can be red as well. For sweet potatoes, their skin is thin, smooth, and a light yellow or dark orange color depending on the variety. In terms of taste, yams are much drier and starchier than the sweeter and more moist orange sweet potato.
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