An American-grown veggie, sweet potatoes are no longer banished to marshmallow casseroles on the Thanksgiving table. Sweet potato french fries are crispy, salty, and with a hint of sweetness - but are they healthier than the classic shoestring french fry? Find out below.
Over the last ten years, sweet potato fries have transitioned from what could have been a fad into a permanent fixture on most restaurants' menus.
And while we doubt in a matchup of sweet potato fries vs. regular fries that the rise of the sweet potato will ever overshadow traditional french fries, it's a welcome switch-up that offers a slightly different flavor and texture.
Health professionals have touted sweet potatoes for their low glycemic index, which is excellent news, especially for those with diabetes. Weight Watchers and the South Beach Diet promote eating them as a healthier alternative.
Are sweet potato fries nutritionally better than regular french fries?
It depends on the preparation. We've outlined sweet potato fries' nutrition facts, benefits, and a comparison to classic french fries.
Are sweet potatoes good for you?
How healthy are sweet potato fries? Without a doubt, this is one solid vegetable that is nutrient-dense. Even the color is a dead giveaway - generally, the more colorful a fruit or veggie, the more nutrients they contain.
Health Benefits of Sweet Potatoes
Low Glycemic Index
Ironically, this veggie has a low glycemic index despite its sweet taste and many carbs in sweet potato fries. What does this mean? A low glycemic index food, like sweet potato, releases sugars into your bloodstream slowly, which avoids the high peaks and low valleys of blood sugar spikes.
People with diabetes are dangerously susceptible to high glycemic index foods, so sweet potatoes are a better option.
Even for those that don't have diabetes, blood sugar spikes can cause cravings, binging, fatigue, and weight gain.
Sweet potatoes are relatively high in dietary fiber, which helps keep you full longer and balances your gut and digestion. It's a crucial part of every diet, but especially for those that don't want to feel hungry eating a lower calorie diet.
Vitamins and Minerals
Sweet potatoes contain many crucial vitamins and minerals that keep your body functioning optimally, including vitamin A, C, D, B6, potassium, magnesium, and iron.
These help almost every system in the body, especially the immune system, nervous system regulation, thyroid function, hormone production, energy levels, and healthy blood, cells, bones, joints, and muscles.
Sweet Potato Fries vs. French Fries
Now, let's break down the french fries nutrition for these two types of fries and see how they measure up to each other. Note that these are the values before cooking, as different cooking methods will affect these numbers differently.
Nutritional Value of Sweet Potatoes
- Calories: 150 kcal
- Fat: 5g
- Sodium: 170mg
- Carbs: 24g
- Fiber: 3g
- Protein: 1g
Nutritional Value of French Fries
- Calories: 125 kcal
- Fat: 4g
- Sodium: 282mg
- Carbs: 21g
- Fiber: 2g
- Protein: 2g
In the debate of healthy vs. unhealthy, these two foods' macronutrients don't spell out much of a story. The calories in french fries are 125 kcal, compared to 150 kcal for sweet potato fries calories.
The sodium content is the only significant difference between these two options, with sweet potato fries containing a bit more than half of the sodium amount in classic french fries.
French fries carbs are a little lower than sweet potato fries but by a minimal difference. Protein is comparable, and the fiber in sweet potatoes is slightly higher than regular potatoes. From a macronutrient standpoint, each potato is on a pretty even playing ground.
To see where the most significant difference in these two potatoes lies, we need to look a little closer at the micronutrient content.
Both types of potatoes are pretty high in essential vitamins and minerals, but with a different mix in each. Sweet potatoes are slightly more nutrient-dense, so if you're looking for the biggest bang for your buck, stick with those more often than not.
Regular potatoes are a little higher in potassium, vitamin C, and iron than sweet potatoes. Still, they don't contain any vitamin A, while sweet potatoes contain 41% of RDA of this immune- and vision-strengthening vitamin.
Fried vs. Baked Sweet Potato Fries
What matters more than the potato you choose is the preparation method for either option.
Deep-fried sweet potato or french fries in oil nearly doubles the calories per serving, with a large serving containing as many calories as needed in an entire meal.
The fat and carb content is also doubled in deep-fried versions, as these potatoes love to soak up all of that extra oil.
If you're at a restaurant, deep-fried is likely the only option available, but ask your server how they prepare their potatoes.
Dangerous trans-fats used to be the deep-frying oil of choice in many restaurants. The FDA banned it in American restaurants as of 2018, so eating deep-fried versions as a treat in moderation isn't going to be bad for you in any way, other than the higher levels of fat, calories, and carbs.
Are frozen sweet potato fries healthy?
It depends on what goes into them. Inexpensive convenience brands, like McCain or Alexia, have mile-long ingredient lists full of unrecognizable words, a sure sign that they're not very healthy. McCain's version also contains hidden wheat flour, which doesn't bode well for unsuspecting celiac or gluten-intolerant people.
Some natural brands may have a shorter list of ingredients, so if you're searching for convenience, read some labels and see if there are some you feel comfortable consuming.
Homemade Sweet Potato Fries
The best way to ensure you're consuming nutrient-dense, whole food is to make sweet potato baked fries at home. They're straightforward to make, and in our humble opinion, taste even better than the store-bought versions.
Peel and slice your sweet potato into wedges or shoestrings, toss in a bit of vegetable oil and cornstarch for crispiness, and season as you like. Rosemary, salt, pepper, and cayenne make a fantastic combination.
Then, toss them on a baking sheet, pop in the oven at 425°F, and bake for 30-40 minutes, flipping halfway.
Final Verdict: Are sweet potato fries healthier than regular fries?
The excellent news for sweet potato and regular potato lovers alike is that both of these vegetables are nutrient-dense, with each offering a slightly different mix of vitamins and nutrients.
While the most significant sweet potato fries benefits are their low glycemic index, massive vitamin A content, and high fiber, classic potatoes are high in vitamin C, iron, and potassium. Switch up the potatoes you often eat to ensure you're getting the broadest range of nutrients into your body regularly.
What matters most is how the fries you eat are prepared, so opt for baked versions and save the deep-fried ones to enjoy as a treat in moderation!