Potatoes are a misunderstood vegetable. They are kind of like the Rodney Dangerfield of the veggie world—they don’t get any respect! Sure they are popular: they are the number one consumed vegetable (around 130 pounds per person, per year…man, that’s a lot of spuds!) in America. But they are never mentioned along with broccoli, tomatoes, carrots, or apples as one of the healthiest. One reason: their association with that deep-fried, fast-food staple, the French fry. But what if I told you that potatoes are loaded with all sorts of healthy goodness—even in their greasy French fried state? Why not grab a fry (not too many) and read on.
The first misconception about the potato is that is it high in calories. French fried potatoes are (over 500 calories per serving; plus high in saturated fats and sodium, though zero cholesterol). But a medium baked potato (before you smother it with butter, sour cream, cheese, and bacon bits—wow, my stomach just growled real loud!) has only 160 calories. I eat my baked potatoes with a drizzle of olive oil, sea salt, and pepper, and they taste delicious. Try one with just a touch of your favorite butter or margarine (although I recommend trying the olive oil), and skip all those other toppings, and you will get the healthiest benefits. The potato’s bad rap comes from the fatty toppings most people add to them, as well as in how they are prepared in other ways (augrautin, mashed, for instance). I compare this to eating salads (trying to eat healthy), but then drowning your lettuce, tomatoes, cukes, and carrots with fattening dressings, high-in-calorie croutons, cheese, and the rest of those salad bar offerings. You have essentially taken a healthy eating choice and rendered it unhealthy. Please resist doing this. Instead, let’s focus on more of the potato’s good attributes—like fiber.
One potato has around 4.0 grams of fiber. I am a huge advocate of fiber, constantly looking for ways to get more than the recommended amounts of fiber into my daily diet. I recently lost 40 pounds on a high-fiber diet, and have kept it off. I am always searching for healthy, fiber-rich foods, and the potato gets high marks.
Here’s a question for you: Which has more potassium, one banana or one potato? Most of us assume that the banana, with around 800 mgs, has the most. But a medium potato has just over 900 mgs. Did you know that the best way to get the most out of this tuber is to eat the skin, along with the potato? This helps retain the nutrients. So, always eat the skin when digging into a baked potato. Buy yourself a good potato scrubber and give your spuds a good cleaning before baking. That way you can enjoy the tasty skin without hesitation, while getting all that healthy potassium (and other nutrients) in the bargain.
Looking for a source of vegetable protein? I know I always am. Look no further than the potato. Eat one and get around 4.0 grams of protein—a good thing!
Potatoes are also loaded with more than 60 vitamins—including 45% or your daily value for vitamin C, also thiamin, niacin, iron, and magnesium—and phytochemicals, which along with flavonoids, are considered heart-healthy. Plus kukoamines, a plant chemical found in potatoes, which help lower blood pressure. Those are a bunch of big words that just mean—EAT POTATOES, THEY ARE GOOD FOR YOU!
Wow, when you look at all those amazing healthy benefits, maybe potatoes aren’t the Rodney Dangerfield of the veggie world after all? I guess it’s all in how they are prepared. My mantra—keep it simple. The more toppings and extras you add (to any food, not just potatoes) that do not enhance the naturally good flavor and healthy benefits of that food, will ultimately detract from it…and add unnecessary and unwanted calories, fats, sodium, and carbs.
To help you get started on your way to appreciating (and eating) the amazingly healthy potato, here are a few excellent websites that are all about potatoes. They offer some great recipes and helpful tips in preparing these tasty spuds.
Okay, wait, just one fry can’t hurt, can it? Man, those are good…
And good for you (in moderation)!
Until next time…