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Most health experts and fitness enthusiasts often recommend that bodybuilders eat yams instead of regular baked potatoes. Since most people however prefer baked potatoes with taste, the question then becomes;
how much of a difference will that make in a bodybuilding or health oriented diet?
In general, baked potatoes and yams are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates. fitFLEX recommends yams over baked potatoes because yams score better on the glycemic index (GI), which ranks foods based on the way they affect blood sugar. Low GI foods (55 points or under) are preferable because they increase your energy level, curb your appetite and help prevent certain forms of diabetes and heart disease, benefits bodybuilders seek, either directly or indirectly. High GI foods (70 points or over) are more problematic because they can cause spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels (particularly when consumed alone or with other high GI foods). A white-skinned baked potato scores about 85 on the GI, but a yam posts a modest 51.
This does not mean regular baked potatoes should be stricken from your diet altogether. On the contrary, they are still considered a good bodybuilding food. One baked potato, including the skin, is about 200 calories, with only 0.2 gram (g) of fat and approximately 4.6 g of protein. Potatoes are also a good source of vitamin B6, iron and niacin, and an excellent source of vitamin C. In fact, Americans consume so many potatoes every year that they are the main source of vitamin C in our diets.
One important point to remember in the potato debate is that, in the United States, there's little difference between yams and sweet potatoes. True yams are starchy edible tubers of African origin, which can't be grown in the United States because they require a longer growing season than is available here. They have a rough and scaly brown skin, taste starchy and are extremely low in beta-carotene. What we commonly refer to as yams in the United States are in reality a type of sweet potato, which is a root, and is characterized by smooth orange skin and sweet taste. Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene and considered more nutritious overall than the true yam. A large sweet potato contains about 200 calories, with only 0.2 g of fat and about 3 g of protein, numbers that are comparable to baked potatoes. Sweet potatoes score a 54 on the GI.
So, if you're not dieting to reduce bodyfat and you have a craving for a baked potato, go ahead. Don't forget to eat the skin of the potato, too, because the skin contains many of the nutrients. If you are trying to lose bodyfat, however, yams - excuse us, sweet potatoes - are the better choice.