Yams vs. Sweet Potatoes: What are you actually eating on Thanksgiving?

Whether they're topped with marshmallows or covered in brown sugar and cinnamon, yams are a staple side dish for Thanksgiving dinners. 

And if you like them or not, the age-old question remains – What is the difference between a yam a sweet potato? 

According to the Library of Congress, although yams and sweet potatoes are both angiosperms (flowering plants), they are not related botanically. Yams are a monocot (a plant having one embryonic seed leaf) from the Dioscoreaceae or Yam family. Sweet Potatoes, often called 'yams,' are a dicot (a plant having two embryonic seed leaves) and are from the Convolvulaceae or morning glory family.

Yams are native to Africa and Asia. Nearly 54 million tons of yams are farmed in sub-Saharan Africa, known as the "yam belt." It produces 95 percent of the world's yams, the USDA says. 

More likely than not, when you are shopping at a regular grocery store, the 'yam' you see is actually a sweet potato.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture requires labels with the term 'yam' to be accompanied by the term 'sweet potato.' Unless you specifically search for yams, usually found in an international market, you are probably eating sweet potatoes, the Library of Congress states.

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As far as sweet potatoes go, North Carolina is the leading producer of the starchy vegetable in the U.S. More than 100,000 acres are growing sweet potatoes in North Carolina, the USDA shows. 

The reason North Carolina grows so much is because of the type of soil and warm climate. The state's sandy, loam soil serves as beneficial for growing conditions.

Sweet potatoes are commonly grown in southern regions as they require four months of warm weather, according to Almanac.com

North Carolina planting takes place throughout April, May, and June. It takes about 120 days from transplanting to harvest in late August through early November. 

According to a recent survey, candied yams are the least liked Thanksgiving side dish. Knowing now that what you're likely eating are sweet potatoes, does that change your opinion? Let FOX Weather know here by tweeting us here