Batata – is it better than potato?

Which one is the better alternative?

Batata – is it really better than potato?

Andrea Zentai, Nutritionist

As a dietitian, it is mostly people with insulin resistance, athletes or people wishing to lose weight that I meet in my work. In the diet of all three groups, carbohydrates are a major consideration: what types and how much can be consumed at which time of the day, and how fast they get absorbed by the body. Many of these people think of potatoes as the forbidden food, and keep yearning after the inviting potato side dishes when they look at a restaurant menu, without daring to order them. Yet, they wish to eat some food which tastes like potato, and so they often ask me the question, with their eyes sparkling: Can I eat batata? Can it replace potato? After all, it is not potato!

Indeed, sweet potato or Ipomoea batatas, called kumara in Oceania, and known widely today as batata (which is actually grown in Hungary now) does not belong to the class of potatoes, resembling it only in shape. It is a plant belonging to the convolvulus family and the genus of Ipomoea, which is cultivated primarily for its root bulb (which can be white, orange, yellow, purple, pink or red in color) although its leaves are also edible. Its taste widely varies according to type, perhaps it can best be compared to that of the chestnut or the pumpkin.

Many people opt for sweet potatoes in the belief that it can be included more frequently in their diet in cases of diabetes and insulin resistance because its consumption leads to a slighter increase in insulin and blood sugar levels and also because it contains less carbohydrates. However, according to the NutritionData nutrient data base, its nutrient content and its glycemic load (which, based on the concept of glycemic index, makes it possible to compare the blood sugar increasing effects of any two foods per portion: GL= GI/100 times the carbohydrate content of a portion, in grams) is not any better than that of potato, nor is one portion of it sufficient for one meal any smaller.

100 g Potato Sweet potato
Energy (kcal) 77 86
Protein (g) 2 2
Fat (g) 0 0
Carbohydrate (g) 18 20
Fiber (g) 2 3
Glycemic load 8 8

This means that enticing as this exotic sounding plant is, it is unfortunately not advisable to consume it any more frequently than potatoes, and just as much care should be taken to use it fresh or in minimally processed forms when cooking.

It can be used as a side dish, as part of casseroles or in soups and salads. It can be grilled or baked - either whole in the jacket or cut into chips. You can make good cakes from it, too - sweet or salty. It is really delicious with some fibrous vegetables, complete with some quality oil and served with some seeds like chia seeds.

They also make flour, starch and spirit from it but none of these can form part of our daily diet as the nutrients they contain get absorbed very fast. Therefore, when we use batata flour or starch, it makes good sense to mix it with some seed flour which gets absorbed more slowly.

Batata can be stored in various ways but definitely at 10-15 °C and at an optimum of 80% humidity. Under these conditions, it can last for as long as a year. If we have cooked too much of it, we can keep it in the fridge for 3-4 days. With a couple of minutes of precooking, it can be stored deep-frozen for 3-4 months.

It can be used as a side dish, as part of casseroles or in soups and salads, it can be grilled or baked.


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