End Potato Prejudice: 10 Reasons Why You Should Eat Potatoes

by Erin C. O'Neil on 18 September 2013 6 comments

It's easy to forget the health benefits of the potato. The humble tuber has acquired a bad rap over the past decade, and it's high time for a tater comeback.

What was once a beloved vegetable — a staple of family dinners, practically required at holiday meals, and even turned into a series of adorable children's toys — suddenly became the black sheep of the vegetable arena. Which is a shame, because potatoes are actually one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet, and you should eat more of them. (See also: Best Credit Cards for Groceries)

60 Days of Hot Spuds

In 2010, one man was determined to restore the reputation of the potato. Chris Voigt, Executive Director of the Washington State Potato Commission, ate nothing but potatoes for two months. The results were incredible — Voigt lowered his cholesterol, blood pressure, and lost 21 pounds.

Stats before and after the challenge:

  • Beginning weight: 197
  • Beginning blood glucose: 104
  • Beginning cholesterol: 214
  • Beginning triglycerides: 135
  • 60 day weight: 176
  • 60 day blood glucose: 94
  • 60 day cholesterol: 147
  • 60 day triglycerides: 75

To further demonstrate the merits of the noble potato, below are 10 reasons to eat potatoes with relish (pun intended) and without guilt.

1. Don't Judge a Food by Its Color

Remember when potatoes were vilified and placed on the dreaded "white foods" list?

A lot of the "don't eat white foods" hyperbole is a bit of an overreaction. White vegetables are good for you, and potatoes are a shining example.

In May 2013, Advances in Nutrition published "White Vegetables: A Forgotten Source of Nutrients." Data showed that white vegetables (including potatoes) are indeed nutritious, and the color of a vegetable did not predict nutritional value. In fact, many white vegetables provide essential nutrients most Americans lack.

2. Potatoes Are Cost-Effective

If you want the most bang for your buck, potatoes offer a great ROI.

A new study in PLOS One found that potatoes deliver an excellent nutritional value per penny, second only to beans. Potatoes provide an affordable source for essential nutrients like magnesium, fiber, and Vitamins C, E, and K. And they're the most cost-effective source of potassium out of all food groups.

So if you're broke and need cheap, nutritious food, pick up some taters. Use Chris Voigt as inspiration.

3. Potatoes Will Not Make You Obese or Inflamed

The whole "potatoes will make you fat" thing is a half-baked theory.

In April 2012, the University of Washington studied the relationship between regularly eating white potatoes and weight gain. Scientists found no association between obesity, diabetes, or levels of C-reactive protein (an inflammation marker) and the amount of white potato consumption. (This contradicts older research, which failed to include important demographic factors.)

Summary: White potatoes do not make you obese, cause Type 2 diabetes, or trigger systemic inflammation.

4. Nutrient Powerhouses

White potatoes are among the most nutritious vegetable in the world. Here's a breakdown of the nutritional value for a medium white potato, with skin:

  • Around 110 calories
  • Has more potassium than a banana or broccoli
  • Provides 35% of the daily value of Vitamin C
  • Has 10% of the daily value of B6
  • Contains two grams of sugar
  • Fat-free
  • Sodium free
  • Cholesterol-free
  • A good source of fiber

(See also: Nutrients You Need More Of)

5. Eating Potatoes Helps the Economy

The potato is the fourth most widely consumed vegetable in the world. And it's a moneymaker for U.S. farmers.

Potatoes are the leading crop grown in the U.S. In 2010, the U.S. exported $3.8 billion worth of potatoes. Japan, China and Mexico are leading buyers of stateside spuds. Potatoes are grown in 30 U.S. states, with Idaho, Washington, and Wisconsin rounding out the top three.

6. Sweet and Purple Potatoes = Orbs of Awesomeness

Sweet potatoes are the Warren Buffets of vegetables, the most nutrient-rich vegetable on Earth. The Center for Science in the Public Interest ranked the sweet potato above all other vegetables in nutritional value. Purple potatoes are chock-full of antioxidants and may help to lower blood pressure. Plus, they look really pretty on a plate.

If you want to experiment with a new spud, sweet and purple potatoes are good options.

7. Spuds Support Weight Loss

It turns out eating potatoes can actually help dieters drop pounds. And not just sweet potatoes — white potatoes, too.

In a study conducted by the University of California, Davis, three groups were assigned diets ranging from five to seven servings of potatoes per week. (So, one group was eating potatoes every day.) Subjects were closely monitored for dietary compliance. All three groups lost weight, further disproving that potatoes cause weight gain.

8. They Last Forever

Gigantic bushels of veggies from the farmer's market always seem like a great idea. Then you get home and realize that unless you rapidly eat several pounds of greens, food will go to waste.

Not so with the potato! Potatoes last a long time if stored in a cool, dark place, about two to three weeks on average. The shelf life of potatoes works for everyone, from plan-ahead foodies to culinary procrastinators.

9. Taters for Tots

Children benefit from eating potatoes. In fact, it seems to encourage them to eat more veggies. New research indicates eating potatoes doesn't mean kids eat less of other vegetables. On the contrary, the study found that adding potatoes to childrens' meals led to a higher-quality diet.

And to get this out of the way — eating a potato is not the nutritional equivalent of gulping down a soft drink. The idea stems from the glycemic index, but GI isn't an exact science. Potatoes do have a high GI (100), but chocolate cake has a GI of 38. A medium white potato contains 2 grams of sugar; a can of Coke, 39 grams. Just food for thought.

10. Potatoes Are Multi-Talented

A potato can be eaten bare, with nothing but a small pat of butter, or wearing a variety of toppings. There's also potato ice cream and potato vodka. And don't forget household projects — potatoes are used as stamps, to remove a stuck lightbulb, and more. (See also: Potato Ideas That Pop)

Google search results for "potato recipe" numbered over 62 million, so the exact number of ways to prepare potatoes is unknown. Suffice it to say, there may not be a more versatile vegetable. (See also: 17 Ways to Serve Potatoes)

It's time to give tubers the love and respect they deserve. Take criticism of the potato with a grain of salt…and then take that grain of salt and sprinkle it on a lovely Yukon gold.

I'm sure tater haters have their own opinions on this. Potatoes are a controversial topic. What's your opinion on potatoes?

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Guest's picture
Andrew

On number 7, the statement "(So, one group was eating potatoes every day.) Subjects were closely monitored for dietary compliance. All three groups lost weight, further disproving that potatoes cause weight gain" does not match the information in the scientific article. Each person regardless of the group at somewhere between 5 and 7 servings of potatoes each week. Each group was on a diet. The point of the article is to show that potatoes can be part of a diet (low glycemic index, high glycemic index, or general smart eating) and that diet helps you shed some pounds. There was no group in the study that had no potatoes so the statement that this study helps disproves beliefs that potatoes cause weight gain is not accurate.

Guest's picture

I'm thinking a great amount of the nutritional value of the potato is obtained eating the skin. Even mashed potatoes can be made with chunks of potato that still have the skin on. And there's nothing like scooping out the innards of a baked potato while still hot and then putting a pat of butter inside each skin half. A bit later and they are a melted butter potato skin treat, my favorite when I was small.

Guest's picture
Guest

lots of pesticides/chemicals are soaked into the skin of non-organic potatoes

Guest's picture

Exactly!

Guest's picture
Will

Awesome! I'm eating a ton of potatoes after reading The Starch Solution by Dr. McDougall. I've lost over 14 lbs in 2.5 months and my blood pressure is 105/72 which is insane as the systolic used to be over 140.

Another fact that I would add is potatoes are incredibly satiating, over 320% compared to other foods based on the satiety index. This means you stay full for many hours and aren't tempted to snack on extra and often bad calories. I eat potatoes without any added fat - mashed potatoes and no fat brown gravy, baked fries with ketchup and/or gravy, etc. You can even blend them in the Vitamix for an incredibly creamy potato soup and I add the creaminess to my indian curry dishes. I rarely peel the potatoes either, even for mashed potatoes.

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Neil Melbourne

It's important to distinguish between the Sweet Potato (Yam) and the regular potato (which is a member of the same family as deadly nightshade, that's why the leaves are poisonous). Sweet potatoes are good for you like any vegetable but it is the regular and much maligned normal potato that has the incredible properties required for weight loss.

It has the highest satiety to calorie value of any foodstuff. It also has the highest satiety:price ratio thus making it the cheapest way to get full and get all the nutrients that you require. It truly is nature's gift and just by subsituting one regular meal per day for as many potatoes as you can eat, you will realize your weight loss goals.