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Most people in the United States use the terms "yam" and "sweet potato" interchangeably, when in fact they are two quite different vegetables.
Yams are native to Asia and Africa and have thick skin and flesh that is white, orange or purple. They are often used as a starch, much as we use bread or pasta. In fact, yams are one of the most important food crops in the tropics and subtropical countries. Yams are usually boiled, baked, fried as chips or grated and steamed for breads and cakes.
Sweet potatoes are available in two primary varieties. One has tan skin and dry yellow flesh; the other, darker-skinned variety has sweet orange flesh and is often mistakenly called a yam. Sweet potatoes are what most people in the United States eat.
Compare the nutritional value of 1/2 cup cooked sweet potatoes and yams:
Sweet potato 103
Sweet potato: 2 grams
Yam: 1 gram
Sweet potato: 24 grams
Yam: 19 grams
Sweet potato: Less than 1 gram
Yam: Less than 1 gram
Sweet potato: 3 grams
Yam: 3 grams
Vitamins and minerals:
Sweet potato: A, C and potassium
Whichever vegetable you choose, each is an excellent source of fiber and potassium, essential components of a healthy diet.