cassava sweet potato

Potato, sweet potato or cassava: which is healthiest?

Food, Nutrology

All three of these foods are popular in Brazil, but which is the “healthiest”? Some people reject all three because they are starches and high in carbohydrates, but actually they all have a place in a well balanced healthy diet. Here is one component in all three that makes them healthy:

Resistant Starch

Resistant starch is a carbohydrate present in all these tubers (cassava, potato, and sweet potato) that is called resistant because it is a carbohydrate that is not broken down or digested in the stomach and small intestine like most food products. Resistant starch passes intact through most of the intestine, and only in the last part of the intestine—the colon— is it broken down. In the colon are trillions of bacteria that attack the resistant starches and change them to useful substances like short-chain fatty acids.

These resistant starches act similar to fiber in our body, and in the large intestine, the starches are “fermented” by the bacteria, releasing short-chain fatty acids and improving the bacterial environment of our colon. This activity lowers the general level of inflammation in our body, produces vitamins, and detoxifies potential carcinogens. One advantage of resistant starches over other fibers is that they tend to produce less gas.

Help in weight and glucose control

Some dieticians recommend that every meal contain some resistant starch because they are great for making us feel full. These starches also improve our glucose metabolism, by encouraging our cells to absorb glucose from the bloodstream and and utilize it as fuel, rather than depositing it as fat.

All of these three tubers are good sources of resistant starches, and here are a few special characteristics of each.


Like the other tubers, cassava is gluten-free. Cassava is low fat and doesn’t have much protein. It has a decent amount of certain minerals but the main value is the resistant starches and antioxidants called saponins. The problem with cassava compared with the other tubers is that it has almost 3 times as many calories per gram as potato. And note that when cassava is processed, for example, to make tapioca flour, it loses much of its resistant starch content. When you make tapioca, consider adding some other grains such as chia seeds to make it healthier.


Potatoes have fewer calories, and might be a better choice if you are dieting. Potatoes, like cassava, have antioxidants and also are filling. The most important point about potatoes is how you prepare them. The best way— to get the most benefit from the resistant starch—is to allow the potatoes to cool after cooking. This rearranges and improves the starch. Potato chips and French fried potatoes are nutritionally awful. They are often filled with saturated and trans-fats, and the cooking process produces a high quantity of carcinogenic acrylamide chemicals.

Sweet potato

All the tubers discussed have significant benefits, but sweet potato may be the healthiest. It has more anti-oxidants and much more beta-carotene, while being lower in calorie than regular potatoes.

Final word

Any of these tubers are healthy, but be careful with the calories in cassava. If you see potatoes with red or purple skins, buy those, because they have even more antioxidants. Eat the skins as well. In general, the more color the better!

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Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)

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