Did you know Potatoes can Actually be good for your Diet
Potatoes are high in starch and have developed a bit of a bad reputation due to the popularity of low-carb diets and fad Paleolithic diets. However, carbohydrates aren’t bad for your health as long as you watch your portions. Potatoes can easily be part of a healthy diet and if you include the skins, they’re a good source of fiber and vitamin C.
The most common types of potatoes are white, yellow, and red potatoes and you might find blue ones too.
Carbs in Potatoes
While a medium potato has 4 grams of fiber, it packs in 36 grams of carbohydrates, for a total of 32 grams of net carbs. Most of the carbs are starch and only a small amount is sugar. Starches are quickly broken down during digestion to sugar in the bloodstream, resulting in a quick rise in blood sugar levels. This is known as being glycemic.
The glycemic index of a food is an indicator of the impact of a food on blood sugar. Studies vary, but potatoes average in the 80s, which is a high glycemic index. By comparison, table sugar has a glycemic index of 59, making potatoes more glycemic than sugar. Waxy varieties such as new red potatoes are somewhat less glycemic than varieties such as the russet.
Another way to represent the glycemic effect of a food is the glycemic load, which takes into account the serving size. A medium potato fares better here, with a moderate glycemic load of 17. But you need to watch your portion size as a large potato has a glycemic load of 29, which is high.
Fats in Potatoes
Potatoes have only a trace of fat, and that tiny amount is split between saturated and polyunsaturated fat. They also have trace amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids. As a vegetable, they have no cholesterol. Unless you add a topping with fat or fry your potatoes, they are basically fat-free.
Protein in Potatoes
Potatoes have a small amount of protein, with a medium potato providing 9 percent of the daily value. However, it is likely that you will want additional protein sources in your diet.
Micronutrients in Potatoes
Potatoes are not empty calories, they provide many vitamins and minerals. One plain potato is a good source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, and potassium. They are a good source of folate, niacin, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and manganese. To get the most micronutrients, you should eat the potato skin as well as the flesh, as some micronutrients are more concentrated in the skin.
Potatoes are high in potassium, which works in opposition to sodium to help regulate blood pressure and fluid balance. Potassium is also essential for normal muscle and nerve function. Vitamin C is needed for normal immune system function, blood clotting and strong connective tissue and blood vessel walls. Potatoes also have a good concentration of antioxidant phytonutrients.
Isn’t the starch in potatoes bad for you?
It’s true that potatoes are high in starch, which is where most of the calories come from. Starch is a storage form of sugar and your body’s good at digesting it and absorbing it.
If you only eat a plate full of potatoes with nothing else, you might see a substantial impact on your blood sugar levels. But it’s unlikely you would only eat plain potatoes and nothing else.
You can combat that blood sugar rush by serving your potatoes as part of a balanced meal. An example is a piece of salmon with whipped potatoes and a side of green beans. The addition of protein from the salmon and fiber from the green beans slows down the digestion and absorption of the starch.
Aren’t potatoes high in calories?
Potatoes are not highly caloric in themselves. One medium plain potato has about 150 to 160 calories. The excess calories come from how you prepare them, either by deep frying them (French fries or potato chips) or burying them under globs of cheese or gravy.
- 1 cup potato salad has 358 calories
- 1 medium order of French fries has over 300 calories
- 1 cup hash browns has 470 calories
- 10 tater tots have about 180 calories
- 1 cup mashed potatoes has about 240 calories (that’s without gravy which can add 100 to 200 more calories)
- 1 ounce of potato chips has 155 calories (but a whole bag can have well over 1,000 calories)
If you’re watching your weight, you need to be careful about what you put on your potatoes. Better toppings include salsa, green veggies, or reduced fat sour cream.
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