Food Spotlight: The Unfairly Maligned Potato

When you hear the word potato what do you think of? I will be honest. I think of French fries or potato chips. It is a fact that potatoes are the No. 1 vegetable consumed in America — in French fry form. That being said, potatoes have a bad reputation and are usually viewed as being an unhealthy food. In reality, it is how potatoes are prepared and what we add to them that make them high in calories and fat and an unhealthy choice.

Think about it: French fries and  potato chips are both fried. We add sour cream and butter to baked potatoes, or cheese and bacon to potato skins. This is where we get in trouble.

The Facts

One serving of cooked potatoes, at a half cup or about half of a medium-sized potato, contains the following:

  • 57 calories
  • 0 gram fat
  • 0 g saturated fat
  • 0 g cholesterol
  • 3 mg sodium
  • 13.2 g carbohydrates
  • 1 g fiber
  • 1.2 g protein
  • 3.1 mg calcium
  • 238 mg of potassium

Potatoes are starchy vegetables consisting of 80 percent water and 20 percent solid. Potatoes also have a variety of vitamins and minerals including B vitamins, folic acid, phosphorus, iron and magnesium. Potatoes come in a variety of shapes, colors and sizes. Just don’t forget to eat the skin too; it’s where you get the fiber.

Spuds and Blood Pressure

A recent research study illustrates that purple potatoes may help reduce blood pressure. There were 18 participants who were hypertensive and overweight or obese. Half ate six to eight small, microwaved purple potatoes twice a day. The other half followed their usual diet and then they switched. Researchers found a 3.5-percent decrease in the systolic number (the top number) of their blood pressure and a 4.3-percent decrease in the diastolic number (the bottom number).

I realize that this is a small research study and further research will have to be done. However, we can take away and be reminded that potatoes can be a beneficial part of your diet when prepared in a healthy manner.

Tater Recipes

Here are a few of my favorite potato recipes:

  • Instead of french fries, try these delicious Oven Fries. I usually don’t even use the full amount of olive oil.
  • Bacon Mashed Potatoes. Even as a dietitian, I can’t help but feel that bacon makes everything taste better. In moderation, of course.
  • One of these Loaded Twice-Baked Potatoes is like a mini meal. You can even mix up. I have replaced ground lean beef with ground turkey and changed up the vegetables, too.
  • I love how rosemary tastes with potatoes. Try these Roasted Red Potatoes with Rosemary and Garlic. Again, I don’t use this much olive oil when preparing this dish.

What is your favorite way to prepare or eat potatoes?

Photo Credit:  Chiot’s Run

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