Potatoes have been given a bad name in nutrition – most likely because of the way we prepare them. Before they were turned into french fries, loaded baked potatoes, potatoes au gratin or any of the million other extremely high-calorie bastardizations of potatoes, they started as a healthy and delicious starchy root.
Potatoes are good for you, but they don’t count as a vegetable
First, let’s be clear. A potato is a starch, not a vegetable. It should not count towards your 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day if you want to get all of your vitamins. It is, however, in its unadulterated form, a very nutritious starch.
One medium potato contains:
- only 160 calories
- 4 grams of fiber
- over 25% of daily vitamin C and potassium
- a plethora of B-vitamins, including folate
- 10% of daily iron recommendation.
There is a lot of talk about high glycemic index foods and low glycemic index foods, mostly relating to fad diets like South Beach. A potato is a high glycemic index food; however, recent research* has shown that eating potatoes had no effect of weight loss when included in a healthy diet…probably because potatoes (when properly prepared) are indeed healthy for you.
Potatoes may also be helpful for weight loss because they are high in glutamate – the substance that gives the taste of umami, richness and fullness. They will help you feel satisfied with your meal.
Ideas for preparing healthy potatoes
Baked or steamed: Steam a potato the microwave for about 5-6 minutes on high, or bake a batch in the oven for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes, then top with a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper and even vinegar if you like.
Mashed: Dice potatoes and boil for 10 minutes. Mash with some garlic, salt and olive oil. Add a bit of white wine or stock if they need some moisture. I think these are even better than traditional, butter-loaded mashed potatoes.
Potato salad: Here’s an interesting idea for a potato salad made with yogurt and vegetables in place of mayonnaise. http://www.potatogoodness.com/Videos/Quick_and_Healthy_Potato_Salad/
Potato pancakes: Here’s a good recipe for carrot potato pancakes: http://eatdrinkbetter.com/2009/08/10/meatless-mondays-carrot-potato-pancakes-and-crispy-veggie-fritters/
* The research was sponsored by the US Potato Board. Usually, I am highly skeptical of research funded by bodies with a conflict of interest. However, I like the cut of their jib – they seem to be pushing healthy preparation of potatoes over McDonald’s french fries. Check it out.
Image credit: Flickr creative commons by oddsock