Did You Know Potatoes Can Actually Be Good for Your Diet?

Potatoes are good for you as long as you prepare them properly.
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Potatoes are good for your diet as long as you prepare them correctly. In fact, a potato is an excellent source of fiber, potassium, and vitamin C (especially if you eat the skin).

I know they currently have a bad reputation, partially due to the popularity of low-carb diets and fad Paleolithic diets that attempt to slash sugars and starches. There's also been a question or two raised about acrylamide and solanine.

Isn't Starch Really Bad for You?

Potatoes are high in starch, which is where most of the calories come from. The thing with starch is that it's 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, I mean, eating nothing but a big plate of potatoes for dinner seems weird. Just like it would be weird only to eat a loaf of bread for a meal. 

You can combat that blood sugar rush by serving your potatoes as part of a balanced meal. Like maybe 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.

Okay, But Aren't Potatoes High in Calories?

No, not really. One medium plain potato has about 150 calories. The excess calories come from the beastly ways consumers torture the poor things, either by deep frying them (you know: French fries or potato chips) or burying them under globs of cheese or gravy.

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. 

Don't Potatoes Contain Acrylamide-- Isn't That Dangerous?

Acrylamide is a toxic substance that forms in starchy foods when they are processed or cooked at high temperatures.

It affects potatoes and other starchy foods as well. Acrylamide has been shown to cause cancer in lab animals, but we don't know what levels of acrylamide exposures are dangerous for humans. The amount of acrylamide you'd get from potatoes is much lower than the quantities studied in lab animals.

Frying and baking potatoes at high temperatures for a long time could result in the most acrylamide, but those levels may be reduced when potatoes are boiled first or treated with antioxidant solutions.

And What About the Solanine?

Potatoes are part of the Nightshade family of vegetables, along with tomatoes, eggplants, and a few other plants. Nightshades contain small amounts of a substance called solanine. Some people claim they have increased arthritis type pain when they eat potatoes and other Nightshade plants. But, research hasn't found any substantial connection between rheumatoid arthritis pain and solanine.

In large amounts, solanine is toxic, but the amount of solanine you'd get from potatoes isn't enough to make you sick unless you eat green potatoes or sprouts that can grow from potatoes that have been sitting around for too long.

Don't eat green potatoes -- throw them out. They taste bitter and bad anyway.

Okay, I'm Convinced. Got Any Tips for Me?

I sure do. Here are some excellent ideas for delicious and healthy ways to serve potatoes:

  • Serve baked potatoes with salsa or some broccoli and sprinkle about one ounce of shredded cheese on top.
  • Baked fries contain no added fat.
  • Make mashed potatoes with low-fat sour cream, skim milk and chives.
  • Potatoes cooked in the microwave do not contain acrylamides. Serve them just as you'd serve oven-baked potatoes.
  • Try roasted potatoes with oregano or Rosemary.
  • Add potato slices (with skins) to soups and stews.


National Institutes of Health. "Acrylamide in Food and Cancer."  http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/acrylamide-fact-sheet.

United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. "Basic Report: 11352, Potatoes, flesh and skin, raw."  https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3080.

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