5 Great Reasons to Eat Potatoes

Conde Nast Digital StudioConde Nast Digital StudioSarah-Jane Bedwell, Eat Like Me, SELF magazine

According to the USDA, Americans eat about 140 pounds of potatoes per person per year! However, potatoes often get a bad rap nutritionally speaking, and many Americans beat themselves up for eating this starchy "white food." When counseling my clients, many of them are surprised to find out that they can eat potatoes.

Even though recent research has linked potatoes (baked or fried) to weight gain, potatoes provide many nutritional benefits. And as a dietitian, I believe it's just how we prepare them sometimes that makes them a less than healthy choice. When prepared correctly, potatoes provide a relatively inexpensive source of many key nutrients.

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There are many good reasons to include potatoes as a part of a healthy diet. Here are my top five: 1. Potatoes are high in potassium. Potassium is an electrolyte important for keeping a balance of water and body fluids in the cells. Potassium also plays an important role in nerve function and contraction of all the muscles in the body, including the heart. Although bananas have long been touted as the gold standard for potassium, root vegetables, such as potatoes have the highest amount of potassium of any single food! One medium baked potato with skin has around 700mg of potassium.

2. Potatoes are a good source of vitamin C. When you think of vitamin C, you may not think of a potato. However, one medium potato has 45% of your daily value of vitamin C. This vitamin is essential to maintaining your immune system, and studies have shown that having adequate amounts of vitamin C can help keep stress levels down by stopping the secretion of stress hormones.

3. Potatoes contain fiber. As I've mentioned before, fiber is so important for weight-loss, heart health, and digestion. Eating a potato with its skin on can be a good way to work more fiber into your diet. To increase the fiber content even more, try topping your baked spud with broccoli and salsa.

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4. Potatoes are inexpensive and in season year round! We often think of junk food as the cheapest food around, which makes it seem harder to eat healthfully on a budget. However, the processed versions of our foods can often be more expensive than the fresh. Take potato chips for example, you can buy a 10oz. bag of chips for $2.59, but for the same price, you could buy a 4 pound bag of red potatoes, which are a much better nutritional bang for your buck. This provides you with about 16 servings of this potassium and vitamin-C rich vegetable, with none of the fat and sodium from the chips!

5. Potatoes are fat-free, sodium-free, and low in sugar. Contrary to popular belief, potatoes in and of themselves are not bad for you. In fact, potatoes are not high in sugar as many fad diets would have you believe. One medium potato only contains one gram of sugar! Also, potatoes do not contain any fat, cholesterol, or sodium. We just have a tendency to fry them or top them with loads of unhealthy fats and salt. For a healthier, yet still flavorful way to cook potatoes, stay tuned for my recipe for Rosemary Roasted Potatoes with Parmesan in tomorrow afternoon's post!

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