Monday, July 14, 2008

This Spud's For You

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.

Potato Recipes

Potato Underground

Healthy Potato

Okay, wait, just one fry can’t hurt, can it? Man, those are good…
And good for you (in moderation)!

Until next time…




Anonymous said...

This is a great post! I agree, I think the potato gets a bad rap from french fries and loaded baked potatoes and passe all carbs are bad carbs thinking.

I'd like to suggest some other healthy baked potato toppings:

--Fat-free cheddar cheese with mild taco sauce and black beans

--Low-fat marinara sauce and fat-free mozzarella cheese

--Fat-free cheddar cheese and turkey bacon or Morningstar Farms' breakfast strips (meatless) with or without broccoli

And in terms of french fries, it's my philosophy to never deny yourself any favorite foods, just make them over to their healthiest forms. When you have french fries, try for organic ones like Cascadian Farms--you bake them at home, and they do not have trans fat from hydrogenated oils.

When eating out, look for places that specifically state their fries are free of trans fats and fried in healthy oils, and jump up and down when you find the rare place that bakes their fries :)

Melanie R. Jordan
Author of "Have Your Cheeseburger And Keep Your Health Too!"

Anonymous said...

Glad to see potatoes getting a thumbs up. Seems to be a strong human tendency to blame 'things' that can be tagged as a cause of our problems; and not appreciate that the problem is the way we use them, in this case the overload when we consume them as french fries PLUS the other overloads that we eat with the fries...

3 cheers for spuds!

Eric S. said...

I love to eat the skins. That is the best part of a baked potato. The other thing I do which probably voids all the benefit's like you say is to bake an egg in the potato.


I really, really love potatoes and am happy to hear this. I have avoided them lately thinking that they would throw weight on me. I also picked the banana on potassium. No wonder I am a wannabe health nut! Great post!

Anonymous said...

Nice post Mike, I'm with you.

I take a good organic baked potato and smother it in steamed veggies. Then I top with a little butter or olive oil. Delicious.

The problem isn't the noble potato. The problem is that potatoes in the form of french fries are the number one vegetable consumed in this country. Seriously, 25% of all fruits and vegetables consumed are french fries. Anyone care to guess what the number two fruit or vegetable consumed might be? Well, that would be tomatoes, in the form of..... ketchup.

Anonymous said...

Great article, thanks for sharing your knowledge, I dugg your post and I love potatoes too!
Greetings from here, ciao.

Anonymous said...

amen! people always look askance at me when I eat my jacket (of the tater I mean. not my coat. ;))


Anonymous said...

I love potatoes! I did not realize the potato was such a healthy choice. I will keep the fiber and protein content in mind. Great, useful information.

Anonymous said...

Did you realise though at one point they were a vegetable that was used totally for fattening pigs and people were forbidden to eat them. They are quite an amazing vegetable as a plant will grow from a small amount of peel as long as it contains an eye. I currently have one growing in my compost bin so I'm hoping for a small organic crop from this.

Anonymous said...

Yup, it's much better alternative than french fries junk food

brexians said...

since they introduced in my country 192 years ago we have made them a part to our mediteranean way of eating....
so try this

take 3 potatos cut them in two halves and bake them for 45 minutes.
then chop 1 tomato, 1 peperbell, green onion and fresh garlic,
cut the potatow in big chunks and combine with the rest
add 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1 esspreso cup extravirgin olive oil,salt peper,origano, thyme, and sage to taste and the secret ingredient 1 tablespoon dry beer yeast flakes...
enjoy it

Low Carb Ketogenic Diets said...

Great post as usual. Keep it up. I love potatoes always have. I likem best raw. Mmmm Yummy.

4udiary said...

I like potato. especially fried rice with potato....:)

Unknown said...

Great blog Mike. I've added you to my blogroll under Inspirational blogs.

I totally agree about potatoes. They're a great source of nutrition especially in their natural state minus frying.

The real problem in America is no portion control and poor nutrient timing. And lack of exercise!

Hey eric s. Eggs are healthy. The have the highest grade of protein and the yolk has healthy omega 3 fats. Like potatoes its about portion control.

Love your blog.

Unknown said...

livelife365, yes potato is healthy product. Anything in excess is not healthy.

Anonymous said...

Is it time for lunch yet? All these great potato prep ideas... Potato lovers around the world salute you--especially us, at the US Potato Board. Thanks for helping to debunk the myths surrounding potato nutrition... Potatoes really are a nutrition powerhouse. I hope it's not too forward for me to encourage your friends to visit the links you listed in your post--especially You're awesome Mike!