Po-tay-to, Po-tah-to

 While potatoes are a staple food item for millions of people around the world, and have been for centuries, in the past decade they have been alternately vilified as bad for your health, then glorified as an important part of a balanced diet. While potatoes haven’t been causing controversy in the headlines for a while now, there is still quite a bit of confusion regarding whether or not they are good for you.

We’re going to clear that up for you: yes. Yes potatoes are good for you. And we’re not saying that just because we’re from Idaho and also grow potatoes in Washington. Potatoes pack a big nutritional punch in a tasty package.

Check out these stats!

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 potato (148g/5.3 oz)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 110
Calories from Fat 0
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g
Saturated Fat 0g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 0mg
Potassium 620mg
Total Carbohydrate 26g
Dietary Fiber 2g
Sugars 1g
Protein 2g
Vitamin A 0%, Vitamin C 45%, Calcium 2%, Iron 6%, Thiamin 8%, Riboflavin 2%, Niacin 8%, Vitamin B6 10%, Folate 6%, Magnesium 6%, Zinc 2%, Phosphorous 6%, Copper 4%
*Percent Daily values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Impressive, right? Low in calories, zero fat, cholesterol and sodium, more potassium than a medium banana, good fiber, and lots of other vitamins and minerals. It’s quite a food! While their reputation as a starchy carbohydrate has misguidedly taken potatoes off the plates of many people, the American Heart Association has actually endorsed potatoes as a heart-healthy food due to the low levels of cholesterol, fat and sodium (www.idahopotatoes.org). Researchers have also found chemicals in potatoes, phytochemicals (like in broccoli), and kukoamines, that positively impact blood-pressure. Other nutrients in potatoes, support the nervous system, improve muscle cell performance, improve digestive functions, prevent colon cancer, and influence proper cell growth (www.whfoods.com ).


Who thought potatoes could be so pretty?

While it would make for a pretty boring diet, humans could healthily survive on a diet of potatoes and milk, which provides the vitamins A and D which potatoes do not have (www.wikipedia.org/wiki/potato). Chris Voigt, the Executive Director of the Washington State Potato Commission, recently went on a potato-only diet to demonstrate just how great potatoes are. He committed to eating 20 potatoes a day for 60 days straight! Not incredibly, he lost 21 pounds, and lowered his cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure. You can read all about it at his blog http://20potatoesaday.com/index.html

While the humble potato is quite a health food powerhouse, it does need to be prepared in the right manner. Unfortunately, French fries and cheesy mashed potatoes don’t quite meet those requirements (totally lame, I know). In order to get all the goodness from a potato, they need to be prepared with a minimal amount of added fat (cream, cheese, milk, etc), and eaten whole, skin and all. Thankfully, there are a bazillion ways to prepare potatoes that meet this requirement: boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew. Bonus points if you know where that last little line comes from!

It is a little-known fact that there are a bunch of different varieties of potatoes. About 5,000, give or take a few. FIVE THOUSAND kinds of potatoes! Big potatoes, little potatoes, long, skinny potatoes, round, fat potatoes, purple potatoes, white potatoes, red potatoes, yellow potatoes, HUGE potatoes, bitty potatoes. The majority of these are unique to South America, specifically Chile and Peru (www.wikipedia.org/wiki/potatoes ) .

Yep, all potatoes! Pretty funky, right?!

 The most common potatoes we see here in the United States are Russets (big, brown skin), Yellows (round, gold skin), and Reds (small, red skin). While these varieties dominate the potato market, we are seeing more unique types of potatoes as interest in wacky, heirloom crops increases. These different potatoes still bring a great nutritional value to your plate, and the purple varieties also deliver antioxidants found in other highly colored foods (www.potatoes.com ).

So, the main point of all this is that potatoes are good and good for you. Eat lots of them. Nom, nom, nom.

Happy potato plants = happy potatoes

For more information on potatoes, how to choose, store, and prepare them, visit these websites:

Idaho Potato Commission: www.idahopotato.com
Washington Potato Commission: www.potatoes.com
Great blog post on potato varieties and uses: http://www.thekitchn.com/potato-varieties-64061

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4 Responses to Po-tay-to, Po-tah-to

  1. Pingback: Leadership Idaho Agriculture – Pocatello Session | Kiss My Tractor

  2. TheFarmGirl says:

    Yep, tons of Vitamin C! I'm with you on putting cheese on them. Cheese goes with just about everything! The idea that the eyes of potatoes are poisonous comes from the fact that potatoes are part of the nightshade family, and they do produce a toxic chemical, solanine, when exposed to too much light. Solanine is the plant's natural defense against fungus and pests. The levels found in an average potato, eyes included, are minimal, and it is perfectly safe to eat them, eyes and all!One thing you want to watch out for in regards to solanine is potatoes which have a green tint to their skin. This means they have been exposed to a lot of light, and have built up higher levels of solanine. It's best to steer away from those.

  3. Collin says:

    I had no idea potatoes had so much vitamin C. I think I'll still put the cheese on them, but I'll keep the skins too. Are the eyes poisonous?

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