Potato’s Place in a Healthy Diet: International Year of the Potato: Time to Appreciate a Staple Food

Potato’s Place in a Healthy Diet: International Year of the Potato: Time to Appreciate a Staple Food

This is the International Year of the Potato, and although the humble spud’s profile hasn’t been high in this year of major political and financial events, it’s not too late to re-evaluate the potato’s nutritional value.

In fact, the Mayo Clinic’s Newsletter suggests that the cooler weather is just the right time to rethink the potato’s place in people’s diets.

Those of us in the Southern Hemisphere needn’t ignore the spud either. Potato salad is a great summer standby, especially when made with vinaigrette rather than sour cream or mayonnaise.

Potato’s Undeserved Reputation as Fattening Food

Nutritionists have been backing the potato’s healthy food values for some years, but for most people, potatoes equal fattening food.

Criticisms have ranged from their high carbohydrate count to their role as a base for high fat, high calorie toppings.

The popularity of fries or chips as a snack or fast food item adds a ring of truth to the idea that potatoes are fattening.

The demand for more fast food means more and more people worldwide are eating fries, according to the UN’s International Year of the Potato. And more and more people worldwide are suffering obesity.

Skip The Fries, Don’t Skip Potatoes

The truth is, if you skip the sour cream, cheese, butter and bacon, and don’t fry your spuds, the potato has a well-deserved place in a healthy diet.

Nutritional Values of Potatoes

Potatoes are rich in complex carbohydrates, making them a good source of energy. At 12-15 percent of their weight, they have the most carbohydrate of any vegetable.

They have the highest protein content (around 2.1 percent) of any root or tuber crops, and this is fairly high quality protein, with an amino-acid pattern well matched to human requirements.

They are also very rich in vitamin C.

A single medium-sized potato, eaten with the skin on, contains about half the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C. Young new or baby potatoes are higher in Vitamin C than old potatoes.

Potatoes are a moderate source of iron, and their high Vitamin C content assists in absorbing that iron.

The B vitamins – riboflavin, niacin and pyridoxine (B1, B3 and B6) are found in useful quantities, and potatoes also carry the necessary minerals potassium, phosphorus and magnesium, as well as folate, riboflavin and pantothenic acid.

Cooking Potatoes to Maximise Nutritional Value

Since potatoes can’t be eaten raw, how they are cooked is important.

The method of cooking you choose will make them high fat, high calorie treats like fries or baked potatoes laden with sour cream, cheese and bacon, or a healthy carbohydrate to alternate with wholegrain bread and brown rice.

To preserve the micronutrients, vitamins and minerals, potatoes should always be cooked with their skin on. The skin can be removed before the dish is completed, or the skin can be eaten.

The best methods of cooking are steaming, microwaving, boiling in as little water as possible, or baking them whole.

Avoid frying them whenever possible, and if the recipe does call for frying, ensure it’s shallow frying in vegetable oil or olive as dishes like potato pancakes, rosti or potato cakes.

There are lots of great recipes for healthy potato dishes. For example, Food Down Under has 1000 recipes from around the world using potatoes as the main ingredient.

Categories: Diet, Health, Nutrition