Is the Potato a Superfood?
Potatoes were being cultivated 10,000 years ago in the Andes of South America. In time, use of the potato spread to Africa, Europe, and Asia. The reason why is simple: There are some real nutritional benefits to the humble spud that kept our ancestors healthy and thriving.
Potatoes are a good source of protein. A medium sized potato (about 3 inches in diameter) contains five grams. While five grams may not sound like much, that’s just a gram or so less than the amount of protein contained in a fresh whole egg. But unlike eggs, a potato also contains a healthful dose of the important dietary fiber that’s found only in plant foods. The average American consumes about 15 grams of fiber per day; one potato contains five grams. Additionally, the soluble fiber in potatoes and other root veggies helps slow digestion and moderates the release of sugar into our blood stream. Eating potatoes with the peels increases the fiber content.
Though French fries can contain large amounts of unhealthy fats and oils, simple, whole potatoes are really a low-fat food. Where do we go wrong? When we take a basic, healthy food and add a bunch of other ingredients to it, making it pretty unhealthy. With the potato, it’s the extra butter, sour cream, cheese, bacon bits, and oils, that pushes it off the healthy foods list.
What Are the Vitamins and Minerals in a Potato?
We think of bananas as one of the best sources of potassium, but, a medium-sized potato contains more. Potatoes are also a significant source of magnesium (for our nerves and muscles), phosphorous (for our bones and teeth), zinc (for our immune systems), and copper. (Yes, we need copper in our diet for proper cellular function.) One medium potato also packs over half the daily recommended amount of B6, and a full third of the RDA of niacin, vitamin C, and thiamin.
Truly, potatoes can be a part of a healthy diet. Like so many things, they need to be eaten in moderation, and without changing them too much from their original state. So, traditional French fries are out, same with greasy hash browns and butter-laden mashed potatoes — but there are many delicious, healthy alternatives.
So go ahead: Bake ’em in their skin, use them in soups and stews (with the skin on) or cut them into the shape of fries and bake them! Now they’re a SuperFood!
Sources: USDA, Advances in Nutrition, and Cambridge University Press