With the start of fall comes the start of the potato harvest, the busiest time of year for potato growers. Since I busted several potato nutrition myths earlier this year, this seemed like a good time to return and address some other misperceptions so you can get beyond the myths and enjoy nutritious and delicious potatoes more often this harvest season and all year round.
MYTH #1. MOST PEOPLE EAT TOO MANY POTATOES.
Contrary to popular belief, the consumption of potatoes in all forms is well within current food intake recommendations. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 2 – 8 cups of starchy vegetables per week (based upon calorie needs) and potatoes fall into this vegetable subgroup, yet Americans only eat about 50% of the vegetables they should. One way to close this gap is to eat more potatoes since research suggests that consumers of white potatoes, on average, eat more vegetables than those who don’t eat potatoes.
MYTH #2. MOST COOKING METHODS DESTROY THE NUTRIENTS IN POTATOES.
While boiling potatoes does cause a small loss of water-soluble nutrients like vitamin C and vitamin B6, the white potato retains most, if not all, of its potassium and dietary fiber regardless of cooking method, such as baking, boiling, or frying. You might be surprised to learn that frying, because it decreases water, actually increases the concentration of key nutrients including potassium. In fact, a recent study found that on a gram weight basis the white potato in all of its cooked forms provides more potassium and as much dietary fiber as other commonly consumed fruit and vegetables.
MYTH #3. ADDING TOPPINGS TO BAKED POTATOES MAKES THEM TOO HIGH IN FAT AND CALORIES.
The only thing coming between you and a great tasting baked potato is your imagination! Traditional toppings like butter, sour cream and bacon bits can be high in fat and calories, but there are plenty of others that are not. Here’s a list of tasty and nutritious toppings to help you discover many new ways to top a baked potato. Use just one or try a combination to create the perfect flavor profile for you.
Dijon Mustard Sautéed Mushrooms Crumbled Feta Cheese
Low-fat Greek Yogurt Caramelized Onions Grated Smoked Gouda
Chunky Salsa Sliced Scallions Melted Pepper Jack Cheese
Marinara Sauce Diced Black Olives Shaved Parmesan Cheese
Guacamole Black Beans Shredded Manchego Cheese
MYTH #4. IF I GIVE MY CHILDREN POTATOES AT DINNER, THEY’LL FILL UP ON THEM AND WON’T EAT THEIR VEGETABLES.
One thing most parents quickly find out when planning family-friendly meals is that children love potatoes! That’s good news for kids and parents alike because potatoes are vegetables and provide the same key nutrients, or more, than other family favorites. For example, a medium baked potato provides more vitamin C than 5 cherry tomatoes, more potassium than a banana or a cup of chopped broccoli, and more folate than a large carrot, plus it’s a good source of fiber and vitamin B6. And research shows children who consumed potatoes that were baked, boiled, mashed or roasted actually ate more other vegetables, too.
MYTH #5. FRESH POTATOES SPOIL TOO QUICKLY, AND THEN THEY MUST BE THROWN AWAY.
Potatoes actually last much longer than most fresh vegetables. According to the Idaho Potato Commission, by storing them in a cool, dark place, between 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, they can last several weeks. If held at room temperature potatoes will keep for about one week. An easy way to prevent spoilage is to not buy more potatoes than you can properly store and use in that amount of time.
If you see a greenish color on your potatoes it may be chlorophyll, a natural plant pigment that is tasteless and harmless if eaten. Greening of potatoes may also indicate the presence of excess solanine, another natural compound produced in potatoes by exposure to light. Since solanine makes the potato taste bitter, and it’s not possible to tell by looking whether it’s chlorophyll or solanine making the potato green, it’s best to peel the potato to remove the green parts before cooking.
Sprouting on a potato is a sign the potato is trying to grow and should be cut away before cooking or eating. Proper storage will help reduce sprouting.
Disclosure Statement: Robyn Flipse was compensated by the Alliance for Potato Research & Education for her services as a guest blogger, but all opinions expressed here are her own.