Potatoes are the most consumed vegetable in America, but that doesn’t stop throngs of tater haters, who malign them as starchy and fattening. So are potatoes healthy? 5/5 nutrition experts say yes — and want to shine up spuds’ reputation.
“It is a pity that potatoes got a bad reputation for being fattening, because potatoes are a very nutritious, satiating and low-calorie food,” says Trudy Voortman, nutrition scientist at Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands. And a 2014 study also found that potatoes don’t, in fact cause weight gain. “When prepared in a healthful manner there is no reason to not eat potatoes regularly,” says study author Britt Burton-Freeman, PhD, director of the Center for Nutrition Research at Illinois Institute of Technology.
That’s providing, of course, you don’t turn the potato into a French fry, a chip or a boat for bacon, butter and cream. “Yes to potatoes, but be careful of the company they keep,” says David Katz, MD, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center.
Bare naked, a medium plain white potato has 36% of your daily vitamin C, 27% of your potassium and 14% of your fiber. “Spare yourself the work of peeling,” Voortman suggests, since the skins are extra nutritious. (No, these potato skins are not the same as the kind you see on a menu.)
Potatoes really are starchy, though, and they land high on the glycemic index—right up there with rice cakes and pretzels. That means they’ll raise your blood sugar and insulin levels quickly. Luckily, some scientists have devised clever potato hacks. Eat them with beans or lentils, which are high in fiber and slow the blood sugar spike, advises Dan Ramdath, PhD, a clinical research scientist at the Guelph Food Research Centre in Canada. He also suggests boiling them and leaving them overnight in the fridge; refrigeration is thought to make the spud’s starch more resistant, which our bodies digest slower.
Remember, there’s also a wide and colorful world of potatoes out there, says Kristin Kirkpatrick, registered dietitian and manager of wellness nutrition services at Cleveland Clinic. If your plate’s looking monochromatic, try some purple potatoes. “They may help in the prevention of certain cancers, and one study found that consumption of them could help in managing blood pressure in obese individuals without weight gain,” Kirkpatrick says.
We’re not promising they’ll make you skinnier, but we’ve got some newfound love for the spud.
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