“Avoid white potatoes…eat sweet potatoes instead.”
“A white potato is worse than a Snickers bar.”
“White potatoes have too many carbs.”
Have you heard these things?
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?”
We are going to go out on a limb here…since we talk to so many people who are confused about potatoes, we are 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…we said it...potatoes can be good for you!
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 we mean!). Sweet potatoes actually have slightly more fiber than the white potatoes. Both white and sweet potatoes will 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, one way is 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.
Potatoes are often associated with being high-carb and high on the glycemic index, which is a measure of how quickly food converts to glucose (sugar) in your body. Therefore, there is a concern 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 parsnips, watermelon and breads rank high as well. As we always say, it is the dose that makes the poison!
How much should you eat?
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. And opting for smaller portions, or "half" size potatoes is really the best answer. Typically potatoes are eaten as a side dish with other foods. Eating potatoes with proteins and healthy fats, plus added fiber from ample veggies and salad, will reduce the glycemic load of your meal. And, this keeps you from overindulging.
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, and also sometimes like to boil them first. The result is a great side dish with a lower glycemic ranking, along with great texture and taste. These Smashed Rosemary Potatoes are a perfect example, where the potatoes and boiled before the smashing and roasting begins!
We highly recommend including a wide variety of REAL food…potatoes included…as part of your REAL food lifestyle!
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. And, the purple potatoes happen to be loaded with antioxidants so definitely grab them when you can! Sweet potatoes can sometimes be found in white, yellow and purple varieties. Get creative and experiment with different varieties!
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! You can even "bake" your sweet potatoes and white potatoes in your slow cooker!
Check out the great-tasting recipes on Eat REAL America using both white potatoes and sweet potatoes and enjoy them in a variety of delicious ways! Here are just a few examples: