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Why you should eat more potatoes

potatoesSometimes food gets a bad reputation. A food can be labeled “fatty” or “junk food,” all based on widely held misconceptions.

Due to a variety of fad diets in the past decade, potatoes developed a reputation for making you fat. In fact, a number of carbohydrates were shunned, which we now know is not in good practice with a healthy diet.

Potatoes Give You Energy

“Carbohydrates are the primary and preferred source of energy for your body,” said Caroline Ng, MS, RD, LD. If you think of a car needing gasoline, that’s what carbohydrates do for our body. Carbohydrates provide the fuel for your muscles and organs, such as your brain. If you don’t eat enough carbohydrates, it can cause fatigue, cramping and poor mental function.” Ng works as part of the GI Nutrition Support at Scott & White Healthcare and gives us the real facts about potatoes.

She said that even if you are trying to control your weight, you will need some type of carbohydrate. Potatoes are a great source of energy, as are foods like whole-wheat breads, pastas, and brown rice.

Ng cautions, however, that potatoes and all other carbohydrates should be consumed in moderation: “The general rule of thumb is about 50 to 55 percent of your total calories should come from carbohydrates.” She also mentions that if you are interested in a low-carb diet, that you should consult an expert dietician, as this can be harmful to your body and brain if taken to an extreme.

Potatoes are a Resistant Starch

Another positive attribute of potatoes is that they are a resistant starch. This means they are not broken down in the small intestines, and tend to be digested more like a fiber in the colon. Ng says that potatoes are a form of resistant starch and explains they can help keep you full longer, prevent constipation, and especially for Type II Diabetics, help control your blood sugar levels.

Potatoes, the Right Way

As with most foods, you can turn potatoes unhealthy rather quickly. All you have to do is add some sour cream, lots of butter, salt, and fry them and most of the nutritional value that you would have gained will be overshadowed.

Here are a few tips from Ng to keep your potatoes healthy.

Preparation:
  • Be sure to leave the potato skin on. “Remember the skin is the source of dietary fiber,” Ng said. “Eating both potato and the skin will provide more benefits than the potato alone.”
  • She also suggests if you are to peel the skin to use a vegetable peeler instead of a knife to remove only a thin layer of skin and retaining the nutrients that lie underneath .
  • Clean and cut your potatoes right before cooking to prevent discoloration. Discoloration can also be caused by certain metals in your cookware, so be aware of this and adjust accordingly.
Cooking:
  • Baking, grilling, broiling, sautéing, or steaming are all great ways to cook your potatoes.
  • Stay away from the deep fryer when handling potatoes.
  • Use good substitutes, such as cooking with olive oil instead of butter, to lower the fat content.
Eating:
  • “Eating a potato is similar to eating a salad,” Ng said. “The toppings or dressings are our culprits.”
  • Be aware of extra calories you are adding on top of your potato. For flavoring, use fresh or dry herbs and spices rather than salt and use cheese sparingly.
  • One serving size is a medium-size potato. Ng said this is about the size of a computer mouse. If you were to dice or mash them, it would be about half a cup. “You don’t want to overdo it,” Ng said. “Too much of a good thing can easily end up being bad.”

We hope this insight improves potatoes poor reputation and gives you a better idea of your nutritional options.

About the author

Jill Taylor
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I contribute content and skills as a freelance writer for Baylor Scott & White Health. I enjoy improving our connection with our readers, patients and communities by assisting with a wide range of writing projects.

1 thought on “Why you should eat more potatoes”

  1. Potatoes are only a source of resistant starch if (1) they’re eaten raw, or (2) they’re eaten cooled after you’ve cooked them.  Eating a hot cooked potato contains absolutely no resistant starch – none whatsoever.  When potatoes are cooled, some amount of resistant starch forms, but it’s relatively low.  If you’re going to eat a potato, a cooked and cooled one is definitely a better choice than a hot one.  Good food sources of resistant starch include intact whole grains, beans, peas, under-ripe bananas and high amylose corn.  Resistant starch has great benefits, but you’d have to eat too many potatoes to get enough resistant starch to make a difference.  The article with the data is Resistant Starch Intakes in the United States,   Journal of the American Dietetic Association – January 2008 (Vol. 108, Issue 1, Pages 67-78, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2007.10.012).  

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Why you should eat more potatoes