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December 19, 2014

Potatoes – A Powerhouse of Nutrition


It’s no secret that adding more fresh produce to your diet will improve your overall health, from reducing the risk of cancer and many other chronic health conditions to managing your weight, fruits and vegetables are your answer.  The media and internet are constantly abuzz with stories about the newest emerging “Superfood” and the benefits offered. With those stories, we also hear wonderful facts and figures about the nutritional qualities of broccoli, spinach, blueberries, tomatoes, and beans.  But what we rarely hear are any positive stories about the potato and the nutritional powerhouse that it brings to the table.

Potatoes are one of the most nutrient rich vegetables that you can eat and are seriously satisfying as part of a meal.  Available all year around and in so many varieties, the preparation possibilities are endless, and are always a value at the register.  Potatoes are gluten free, fat free, cholesterol free, and sodium free and that’s just the tip of the benefit iceberg.  At only 110 calories, one medium potato provides 18% of the USRDA of Potassium, an often overlooked, but extremely important mineral and electrolyte. Diets high in Potassium are associated with maintaining healthy blood pressure levels which is important in maintaining Kidney health.

Potatoes have naturally high levels of Vitamin C, providing 45% of daily needs, along with many other antioxidant compounds like phenols, carotenoids, flavonoids, and anthocyanin compounds. The potato also earns high marks for providing 25% of the RDA of Vitamin B-6, which is essential for immune system functionality and the production of red blood cells.  Other vitamins found in potatoes are Vitamin K, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate, Pantothenic acid, and Thiamin.  With all these benefits, you would think that potatoes would get a little more respect.  They also provide zinc, phosphorus, copper, manganese, magnesium, calcium, selenium, and iron in measurable amounts and just for good measure the potato provides 3 grams of protein.

Aside from all the nutritional benefits, the potato also provides 8% of the daily needs of dietary fiber. Because potatoes contain both simple and complex carbohydrates, they provide the body with energy.  Complex carbohydrates are also referred to as dietary starch, are very satisfying and help to reduce constipation.  A medium sized potato contains 26 grams of total carbohydrates, only 9% of the USRDA.

In order to reap the maximum benefits from potatoes, keep their skins on and avoid cooking techniques which add calories and fat.  Keeping a close watch on the toppings to limit extra calories – try some outside of the box thinking like chopped cilantro, diced broccoli, onions, or other fresh herbs to add flavor to any potato dish.

Encourage everyone you know to increase their consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables and next time the term “Superfood” comes up, mention potatoes and see just how many heads you turn.