Nutrition

Should you shun the potato?

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The potato is a wonderful, edible tuber crop that is available year round and for a very low price. It is loaded with tons of nutritional benefits and is super versatile. So why is it that this wonder-food has gotten such a bad rap among health and fitness circles? Well it’s probably because when we think potato we usually refer to French fries or mashed potatoes with gravy or chili cheese baked potatoes with sour cream. Truthfully though when this spud is prepared in other ways it can be part of a healthy and nutritious way of life.

One potato contains 164 calories, 0.2 grams of fat, 37 grams of carbs, 4.3 grams of protein and 4.7 grams of dietary fiber. It also contains 12% of your daily magnesium needs, 51% of your vitamin C needs and 25% of your daily potassium (which helps regulate blood pressure) requirements, not to mention that it also contains iron, calcium and alpha lipoic acid which helps the body convert glucose (i.e. sugar) into energy. There are so many different varieties of the potato including russet, fingerling, purple, sweet, yellow, white and red, and they are all inexpensive (especially when compared to other fresh produce)  and taste really great. The sweet potato, which has gained significant popularity in recent years, gets its orange color from carotenoids, which are not only powerful antioxidants but can also be easily converted to vitamin A during digestion. Purple potatoes on the other hand contain 4 times the amount of antioxidants (which strengthen the immune system and help prevent diseases) as the russet potato and get their rich color from the antioxidant anthocyanin.

Now many people are concerned with the starch content in potatoes and that’s probably why if you’re trying to lose weight or even maintain your current weight, you may have shunned this particular vegetable. I myself tried to avoid potatoes for the longest time for this exact reason until I realized that it can actually be part of balanced diet. A great option is to consider adding potatoes to your pre or postworkout meal, as the complex carbs are great to help you fuel up before exercising or aid in your recovery right after. Your body needs carbs during these times and this veggie can greatly help you to get the most out of your workouts. Another option that I am particularly pleased to share with you is that when you eat a potato that is fully cooked (i.e. baked or steamed) and cooled completely, your body only absorbs and digests a small amount of the starch, meaning that potatoes are not nearly as “fattening” when prepared this way.

Consider adding this healthy recipe to your repertoire:

Baked Potato Salad

Serves 1

Ingredients

1 medium potato

2 tablespoon chopped onion

2 tablespoons chopped celery

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ tablespoon Dijon mustard

½ teaspoon dry basil

½ teaspoon paprika

Pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Rinse the potato under warm water then poke with a fork all over. Microwave the potato for 2 minutes, then flip it over and microwave for another 2 minutes. Remove from microwave with tongs (careful it will be hot!) and cut into bite sized pieces using a fork and knife.
  2. Place potato pieces in a bowl and add the remaining ingredients, stir to combine.
  3. Let it cool completely in a refrigerator before digging in.

As an alternative, try mixing the potato with 1 tablespoon of humus and ½ tablespoon salsa, trust me it’s delish. These are just a couple of examples of some really great potato recipe ideas.

Another concern that you may have is whether or not you should go organic as this spud is concerned to be part of “the dirty dozen”. It really depends on you and your preferences as organic produce can be more expensive than the conventional stuff. You always have the option of peeling potatoes, but then again the peel contains a lot of nutrients, or you can rinse the potato with its skin, but there will probably still be some pesticide residue left over. So just go with whatever you’re comfortable with; since I am quite the bargain hunter I usually just go the non-organic produce and either rinse them well or peel off the outer skin. We all have to be realistic when it comes to budgeting for healthy food, so if you feel that it’s worth it to go organic then go for it.

There you have it, my take on the super awesome potato. It really is a means to consume lots of nutrients for a low price (I recently snagged a 10 pound bag of purple potatoes at my grocery store for only $1!). Always be sure to consult a nutritional expert for more info on eating a healthy and balanced diet. So go on and eat up … within reason of course!

Start It, Finish It

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