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The Great Potato Debate


tater haterAvoid white potatoes…eat sweet potatoes instead.”  “A white potato is worse than a Snickers bar.”  “White potatoes have too many carbs.”  Have you heard any of these about the misunderstood spud?  Are you confused about whether you should eat them or not?  Why do white potatoes have such a bad reputation while the sweet potato is considered by many to be a “superfood?”  I am going to go out on a limb here…since I was confused about potatoes, I am assuming there are others in the same boat.

Potatoes probably get a bad rap because they are most commonly served as French fries, tater tots or chips…after all, most of the potatoes produced in North America have a date with the deep fryer!  When they are not fried, they are often loaded up with butter, sour cream, bacon and cheese.  Obviously, in these forms, potatoes are not the epitome of health!  But, when eaten in their original form and prepared in a great-tasting, healthful way, they can actually be good for you!  There…I said it...potatoes can be good for you!

THE GOOD...

Potatoes contain healthy fiber!  Both white potatoes, eaten with the skin on, and sweet potatoes contain fiber, which helps control hunger, lowers blood cholesterol levels and keeps things regular (if you know what I mean!).  Sweet potatoes actually have slightly more fiber than the white potatoes.  Both white and sweet potatoes can leave you feeling full, making it difficult to overindulge.  Both white and sweet potatoes also contain useful vitamins and nutrients.  The white potato is actually a better source of protein, iron and potassium than the sweet potato.  While both contain important vitamins like Vitamins A and C, sweet potatoes are a Vitamin A powerhouse, providing 400% of your daily requirement!

So, while there are some slight differences between white and sweet potatoes, both are healthy.  In case you were wondering, yams are not the same as sweet potatoes.  They are a cousin to the sweet potato, but don’t provide as many vitamins and nutrients, especially Vitamin A.

Another benefit of potatoes is their resistant starch.  What is resistant starch?  It's a starch that acts differently in our bodies compared to high-carb processed foods.  Because it can’t be broken down, it passes through our system and ends up being energy for our gut bacteria, which promotes a healthy immune system and colon.  So, how do you reap the benefits of this resistant starch?  Believe it or not, it's by eating cooked and cooled potatoes!  When potatoes are cooked and then cooled, the cooling process transforms the starches into resistant ones.  They can be eaten cold (potato salad is a great example) or reheated to a low temperature without converting back to the “non-resistant” state.

THE NOT-AS-GOOD...

Potatoes are often associated with being high-carb and high on the glycemic index.  With the low-carb diets that have been popular over the past few years, people have been told to stay away from potatoes because of their carb load.  However, we all know that unprocessed or minimally processed carbs are important for our optimal health.  White potatoes rank high on the glycemic index, which is a measure of how quickly food converts to glucose (sugar) in your body, and there is a fear that eating potatoes will shoot your blood sugar sky high.  Potatoes seem to have become the poster child for being high on the glycemic index, even though other foods like carrots, parsnips and watermelon rank high as well.

Now, it is probably not a great idea to eat a huge amount of potatoes at once, because this can cause a spike in blood sugar and a surge in insulin.  But typically potatoes are eaten as a side dish with other foods.  This keeps people from overloading.  It's also important to remember the glycemic ranking of a food is influenced by many factors including the variety of the food, the preparation of the food and the combination of foods eaten together.  Eating potatoes with proteins and healthy fats will reduce the glycemic load of your meal.  Also, boiling the potatoes can lower the glycemic ranking because the starches bind with the water.  We love the flavor and texture of roasted potatoes, but also like to boil them first.  The result is a great side dish with a lower glycemic ranking along with great texture and taste.  We included a perfect example below…smashed rosemary potatoes where the potatoes and boiled before the smashing and roasting begins!

CONCLUSION?

We believe everyone is different and people should customize their eating to their situation!  For someone who is at risk for diabetes, has a glucose intolerance or has problems with insulin resistance, they may want to limit their intake of starchy foods like potatoes in favor of other healthy foods.  However, for those who are otherwise healthy, we highly recommend including a wide variety of REAL food…potatoes included…as part of your REAL food lifestyle!

Try finding different varieties!  There are over 4,000 varieties of potatoes produced today.  Unfortunately, the varieties available to us are fewer.  This is partly due to commercial breeding (for example, fast food restaurants demand a certain type for their fries), resulting in only certain varieties being available.  However, the farmers markets and some stores will carry different varieties of white, orange or purple potatoes.  Sweet potatoes can sometimes be found in white, yellow and purple varieties.  Get creative and experiment with different kinds of potatoes!

Personally, we prefer the taste and texture of sweet potatoes, but we don’t exclude white potatoes from our routine.  We really love stuffed sweet potatoes...they are great-tasting, quick & easy, and of course, good for you too!  Check out the great-tasting recipes on Eat REAL America using both white potatoes and sweet potatoes.  Here are a few examples:

Honey Dijon Roasted Potatoes with Rosemary:  https://eatrealamerica.com/recipes/honey-dijon-roasted-potatoes-rosemary/

Southwest Stuffed Sweet Potato:  https://eatrealamerica.com/recipes/southwest-stuffed-sweet-potatoes/

Sweet Potato Curly Fries with Chipotle Lime Dipping Sauce:  https://eatrealamerica.com/recipes/sweet-potato-curly-fries/

IMG_2177SMASHED ROSEMARY POTATOES

This is a great way to prepare potatoes -- the boiling before roasting lowers the glycemic ranking -- and they taste amazing!

Find this at https://eatrealamerica.com/recipes/smashed-rosemary-potatoes/.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lb bag fingerling potatoes (smaller the better)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 sprig fresh rosemary (leaves removed from stem)
1/2 tsp sea salt (divided)
1/2 tsp black pepper (divided)

Directions: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Place the potatoes in a large pot of water (with at least one inch of water over the top of the potatoes).  Bring to a boil.  Let the potatoes cook for 15 minutes or until tender.  You can test the tenderness by piercing the potatoes with a fork, they should be easy to pierce but not too soft.  Drain.
  3. Place a piece of wax paper or parchment paper on a flat surface and spray with cooking spray.  Place the potatoes, a few at a time on the paper, fold the paper over the potatoes then use the palm of your hand to smash each potato.  Repeat for all of the potatoes then place potatoes on a large baking sheet, sprayed with cooking spray.
  4. When all of the potatoes are smashed, brush or spray with 1 Tbsp of olive oil (this is where an olive oil sprayer comes in handy).  Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp of salt, 1/4 tsp of pepper and rosemary leaves. B ake for 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven, flip the potatoes, brush or spray with remaining 1 Tbsp of olive oil, sprinkle other side with 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper, and bake for another 5 minutes.
  5. Serve immediately and enjoy!

(Recipe adapted from jasonandshawnda.com)

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