The primary nutrient difference lies in the carbohydrate content of the two root vegetables. Although the fiber content (carrot, 2.8 percent; sweet potato, 3 percent; as fed) and the simple sugar content (carrot, 4.7 percent; sweet potato, 4.2 percent; as fed) are similar, sweet potatoes are much higher than carrots in starch (12.9 percent and 2.1 percent; as fed, respectively). Looking more closely at the type of starch in the sweet potatoes, 80 percent is rapidly digestible (enzymatic digestion), while only 11 percent is resistant starch only fermentable by microbes). Sweet potatoes provide over twice the calories that carrots do (86 and 41 calories, respectively, per 100 g), mostly because of the difference in starch content. In this context, “as fed” refers to raw vegetables and “dry matter” to dehydrated vegetables.
While dehydrated sweet potatoes have less sugar than dehydrated carrots (18 percent and 40 percent, respectively), they have similar levels when fed raw (4.2 percent and 4.7 percent, respectively), as noted previously.
Both are rich sources of beta-carotene, which is the precursor to vitamin A.
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Despite their names, sweet potatoes and Irish potatoes are not closely related from a botanical standpoint. Sweet potatoes and yams are vines in the morning glory family, whereas Irish potatoes are in the nightshade family. Sweet potatoes do not contain the nutritional anti-factors that make raw Irish potatoes unsafe for horses to consume.
Sweet potatoes can be a tasty treat for horses either raw or cooked. Due to their relatively high starch and sugar content, they should be fed in only small amounts. Feeding large amounts carries some risk, especially when given to starch-sensitive horses. In addition to beta-carotene, sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin C and potassium.
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Reprinted courtesy of Kentucky Equine Research. Visit ker.com for the latest in equine nutrition and management, and subscribe to Equinews to receive these articles directly.
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