As we march into a week filled with starchy spuds, I thought I would share some of the hidden health benefits of potatoes. Potatoes have gotten a bad rap over the years as people have moved towards lower carb diets and sworn off the white fluffy stuff. The truth is potatoes are a vegetable and they provide nutrients that our body needs. Potatoes are a good source of B vitamins like Folate as well as Vitamin C and Potassium. If you eat the skin it is also a good source of fiber. One medium potato has 150 calories, a lot more than a cup of broccoli, but it is filling and satisfying as part of a full meal.
The problem with potatoes is really about their preparation. The biggest culprits are French fries and potato chips, both of which are usually deep fried. When fried their peels are usually removed and they absorb so much oil they basically become fat sponges. Even when baked they are often a magnet for fat laden toppings, like butter and sour cream. If you can change the way you eat potatoes they can and should be part of a healthy diet.
- Try topping a potato with low fat or non-fat yogurt or sour cream
- Stuff with broccoli and a little sprinkling of cheese
- Use skim milk when making mashed potatoes
- Make potato chips or fries in the oven with cooking spray
- Keep the skin on
You might be wondering about sweet potatoes. Most people consider them healthy, even though they have the same amount of calories as a white potato. Sweet potatoes have a little bit more fiber and are rich in Vitamin A, but its main claim to health fame is that it has a low glycemic index, meaning that it should make you feel full longer. That means you get more bang for your buck with the same amount of food and calories.
As to those little purple potatoes, sometimes called Peruvian potatoes. These colorful guys have been seen to lower blood pressure and they contain anti cancer antioxidants, but their nutritional make up of calories and fiber is more akin to the white potato.
All potatoes can and should be part of a healthy diet, especially on Pesach when starches are limited. The best thing you can do is be sure to include all kinds of potatoes and beware of the toppings bar.
I happen to be a fan of potato skins, not the deep fried ones, but the baked ones you make at home - try Jamie's Zippy Potato Skins with low fat sour cream and cheese or my Kale and Blue Cheese Sweet Potato Skins.