You say po-TAY-to; we say po-TAH-to! However you pronounce it, the humble potato remains high on the list of veggie favorites in the U.S. In fact, according to the National Potato Council, potatoes are the most consumed vegetable, with Americans eating an average of 115 pounds a year (in various forms, of course, including French fries, chips and other processed potato products).
So loved, and so tasty, it’s hard not to wonder: are potatoes actually good for us? The answer actually depends on a few different factors. Read on to learn more about potato nutrition and how you can healthfully sneak more spuds into your diet.
Potatoes are a vegetable. Of course they’re healthy…right?
When eaten in proper portions, potatoes can be a part of a healthful diet. However, if they’re deep fried and paired with other high-fat foods such as burgers, potatoes can lead to weight gain. Fried foods generally contain high amounts of salt, which can have harmful effects on health over time. A plain potato can quickly morph into a fattening side dish when mashed with butter and milk, topped with a dollop of sour cream, smothered with cheddar cheese and sprinkled with bacon. The bottom line: be careful about how you prepare potatoes, as well as how much you consume.
What are the different types of potatoes?
There are an estimated 200 varieties of potatoes available in the U.S., and they can be classified into a number of categories based on their texture, color and functionality. Types include starchy, waxy and all-purpose. Russet potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams fall into the starchy category because they’re mealy, low in moisture and absorbent, making them perfect for baking, boiling and mashing. Red potatoes fall into the waxy category, as their flesh turns creamy when cooked. Reds work well in dishes, such as soups or stews, which are simmered for hours. White and purple, or all-purpose, potatoes have a buttery/nutty flavor and can be prepared many different ways. Purple potatoes have the added bonus of powerful antioxidants to help protect your cells from oxidative stress.
What should we know about potato nutrition?
Aside from being 80 percent water, potatoes consist of carbohydrates, low amounts of protein and fiber. They’re naturally fat free, cholesterol free and low in sodium. Potatoes are mainly carbohydrates (primarily starch) which can rank high on the glycemic index and cause spikes in blood sugar for diabetics. However, potato skins are a good source of fiber, which can help regulate blood sugar and aid in digestion. Potatoes are a good source of vitamins and minerals, particularly potassium, vitamin C, folate and vitamin B6. Before you grab the peeler, remember: the highest concentration of nutrients and antioxidants that provide the many health benefits of potatoes are found in the skin.
What are some ideal ways to add potatoes to your diet?
Now that we know potatoes can be a part of a healthy diet, how do you incorporate them into your meal planning? Think: variety! Aim to cook with a variety of colorful spuds. For example, purple potatoes, which are rich in antioxidants, make a beautifully colorful and delicious soup. Bake sweet potatoes, which are rich in beta carotene, into dessert-worthy muffins. Enjoy buttery yellow potatoes paired with fresh dill. For many more creative and healthy potato recipes, be sure to browse the VitaVibes blog!
Here are a few creative potato products to try: