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Have you ever wondered why two similar-looking tubers in your grocery store have completely different names? Are you sure that the yam you bought is actually not a sweet potato or vice versa? It is true that yams and sweet potatoes look alike but in reality they are completely different. They are not even related in any way.

What is a sweet potato?

Sweet potatoes come in a lot of varieties. Depending on the type, they are cooked differently and have different taste and texture. The colors can range from white and yellow to purple and red. Regardless of being called potatoes, they have almost nothing in common with regular potatoes. Firstly, they originate from South or Central America and are generally produced there. Then, they are longer and have smooth skin. Finally, they are much sweeter and moister than regular potatoes.

What is a yam?

Yams look like sweet potatoes, but have almost nothing in common. They originate from Africa and continue to be almost entirely grown there. Yams generally get a lot bigger than sweet potatoes and can get up to 1.5 meters in length. Their skin is different. It is rough and hard to peel. Just like sweet potatoes, yams can be found in a variety of colors. Their taste, however, is not as sweet. In fact, they are a lot starchier and drier.

Why are yams and sweet potatoes mistaken so much?

Generally, yams are not very common in America. The chances that you have bought a product labeled as yam and it was actually a sweet potato are huge.

There are two main types of sweet potatoes. Therefore, soft and firm sweet potatoes need different labels. Since yams and soft sweet potatoes have a lot more in common, people took the term “yam” and used it for soft sweet potatoes. The reality is that this continues to be used nowadays and the chances are that you have yet to try a yam.

Different nutrient contents and health benefits

Obviously, if they are different plants, they have different nutrient contents and benefits. Sweet potatoes contain more water than yams – 77% to 70%. On the other side, yams are filled with a lot more carbohydrates.

Sweet potatoes contain fewer calories per serving as well. Yams are packed with nutrients important for bone health while potatoes are rich in vitamins.

As for health benefits, yams have not yet been studied. Sweet potatoes, however, are considered to be high in antioxidants. This means that by eating them you decrease your risk of cancer and heart diseases.

The bottom line

Obviously, these are completely different vegetables. Small yams and sweet potatoes may look alike, but they do not originate from the same continent. In addition, they taste completely different.

In the end, both vegetables seem like a great nutritious addition to your diet. It all depends on the taste you are looking for. Be cautious with false labeling, however, as yams are not common.