Are potatoes bad for you?
It actually depends. On their own, a quick look at the potato’s nutritional value shows that they’re actually not very high in calories and have plenty of nutrients. Take russet potatoes, for example. A medium baked russet with the skin on has 703 KJ and provides around 31% of your recommended daily intake (RDI) of Vitamin B6. It’s also high in Vitamin C, with 37% of your RDI in just one of these babies.
Red potatoes are healthy too, and even lower in kilojoules than russets and white potatoes, making them a great weight loss food that fills you up fast. Sweet potatoes are a good source of Vitamin A, and all potatoes have more potassium than a banana!
They’re also packed with antioxidants, which fight off chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer. They’re a good source of fibre and carbohydrates, and apparently healthy after all – so why do they get such a bad rep?
How can potatoes be bad for my diet?
It isn’t the potato that’s the problem: it’s how it’s prepared. Many comfort foods involve deep-frying potatoes, or smothering them in lots of cheese and butter. Potatoes are rarely eaten by themselves, and they’re frequently topped with items that are high in saturated fat and sugar.
These condiments make a huge difference in your diet. A medium-sized potato roasted in some olive oil and herbs has around 460 KJ. Keeping the skin on will keep you fuller longer, as it has plenty of fibre. But a baked potato with cheese and butter will have at least 1,300 KJ, not to mention more fat!
A medium order of fries from your favourite fast-food place will have over 1,530 KJ, while a small baked potato will have around 540 KJ. That’s a massive difference in your diet, and can explain why some people think that potatoes will cause weight gain.
Potatoes also have a high GI, which means they can raise your blood sugar even in small quantities, and need to be combined with low GI foods to be part of a healthy diet. With a GI of over 80 for white potatoes, you’ll need to be mindful about how many potatoes you eat in a day, and avoid heavy toppings that will raise your blood sugar further.
It really depends on how you cook them!
Baking, steaming, and roasting potatoes are much healthier cooking methods than frying them, because then they won’t absorb so much oil. If you want to have baked potatoes, consider this recipe which substitutes your cheese and bacon for some low-fat Greek yoghurt and chives. This will be just as flavourful without hurting your waistline!
Mashed potatoes can also be healthy when you swap out the butter with sour cream and garlic. Roasted potatoes are just as crisp and crunchy as fries, without the saturated fat of frying in oil. And if you think steaming potatoes sounds boring, this recipe with garlic mayo and herbs is wicked good and diabetic-friendly!
Are potatoes easy to grow at home?
Yes! Potatoes are actually quite easy to grow at home. You just need your choice of seed potato, a sunny patch to plant them, and a steady water supply. Seed potatoes love sunshine and should be planted in spring, so make sure you pick the sunniest spot in your garden for them.
It only takes a few weeks for potato shoots to poke through your soil, and after three months, new tubers should already be growing underground. If you don’t have a lot of space, you can also plant them in a large, deep pot.
So... are potatoes healthy? They can be if you swap out fatty condiments and choose a healthier way to prep them. With all the vitamins and minerals in different kinds of potatoes, you can actually shed weight by eating them in moderation! It’s all about making smart consumption and cooking choices, so get creative with veg and give yourself a carby treat that’s diet-friendly!
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