Science Now Says White Potatoes are Healthy

Pass the Spuds!

Potatoes have been mashed for years through what I call “bad science”. Older studies have linked the starchy tuber to increased weight gain and Type-2 diabetes. The bad potato press has caused us to eliminate them from our diet. Harvard University really hit the potato hard indicating “we should view potatoes as a starch, and a fattening one at that, not as a vegetable.”

It turns out, the spud is not to blame but how it’s processed. Researchers failed to disclose the facts of study participants eating large amounts of French fries and potato chips. If we all sat around eating bags of chips and going through the drive-thru requesting super-size fries, the end result would be “super-size” thighs. Research made the mistake of tossing the potato in the general “bad carb” food bin and closing the door until recently.

Athletes Love White Potatoes

White Potatoes are Part of a Healthy Diet. Adam Gault/Getty Images

Advances in Nutrition released new guidelines for the white potato. Now indicated is “white potatoes prepared in a healthy way have an important role in a nutritious diet.” 

White potatoes are full of important nutrients and vitamins in addition to being high in fiber. They also contain essential amino acids which exceed recommended levels “demonstrating that potato protein is of high quality.”

The carbohydrate or starchy part of the potato ranks high on the glycemic index (GI) which means it enters the bloodstream faster but endurance athletes love this fact.

Leslie Bonci, R.D., Director of Sports Medicine Nutrition at the University Pittsburgh Medical Center recommends adding a small amount of protein or healthy fat to slow down the GI profile.  This will allow for slow-release energy during a hard workout or long distance run.

Potatoes are Part of a Healthy Diet

White Potatoes
Bake, Boil or Grill Your Potatoes. Westend61/Getty Images

American Society of Nutrition (ASN)’s Annual Meeting held in conjunction with Experimental Biology (EB) hosted extensive research. Over 14,000 scientists were represented and the Alliance for Potato Research and Education (APRE) presented “several additional studies highlighting the potato’s health benefits.”

Additional topics covered were vegetable and white potato consumption for children and young women, how potatoes affect satiety and blood glucose uptake, and potassium content in potatoes. APRE came in strong with six additional potato studies and “collectively, the research presented at EB told a very strong science-based story that potatoes are part of a healthy diet.”

Potatoes Sustain Our Workouts

Baked Potato with Greek Yogurt
Try Greek Yogurt on Your Baked Potato!. imagenavi/Getty Images

Potatoes are actually one of the most consumed vegetables in America. They are also an inexpensive source of valuable nutrients. At least 50% of us are getting it right by baking or boiling our spuds to maintain the nutritional value.

Tara Gidus, R.D., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association says "A large baked potato is just as effective as pasta at getting runners ready for a hard or long workout." One medium baked white potato is approximately 170 calories, 37g of carbs, 5g of protein, and 4g of fiber with absolutely no fat.

“In addition to energy, high-quality protein, and dietary fiber, potatoes provide significant amounts of several vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.” The potato is the right “white food” to stay in our diet and science continues to bring more evidence to support this fact.

Potato Tip: enjoy your baked potato topped with plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream or baked potato wedges with no sugar added organic ketchup!

Bonus Potato Plug: White potatoes have been shown to be part of a healthy diet when prepared right. Science doesn't always get it right the first time and this is a good example. Potatoes are full of quality nutrients including protein to fuel our workouts and more. New studies are indicating the health benefits of eating white potatoes. Passing the spuds is now a welcome friend at the dinner table.


Advances in Nutrition, White Potatoes, Human Health, and Dietary Guidance, Janet C. King et al., 5/13

United States Department of Agriculture, USDA Foods Fact Sheet, POTATOES, RUSSET, FRESH, 12/12

Alliance for Potato Research and Education, Summary: Potato Research at Experimental Biology 2015

New England Journal of Medicine, Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men, Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D. et al., 6/11

Continue Reading