Nutrition Nugget: Potato, Potahto
Bite-Size Reads for Your Health & Your Waistline
For such an ordinary looking plant, potatoes have extraordinary power! The power to confuse us(!) as we try to lead healthful lives! One minute, we hear they are nutrient-packed human survival kits; the next, we outcast them as the misfits of the plant world, who seek to destroy human health! While potatoes are complex carbs, they don’t need to be this confusing! Keep reading this nutrition nugget, for the truth about potatoes.
A potato is a potato, right? Wrong. The first thing to keep in mind with potatoes is that with so many varieties available, we must be specific otherwise we can mix up the nutritional value associated with each potato. The nutritional variation between types of potatoes translates to different ratings on the glycemic index. The glycemic index gives a number rating to foods based on how quickly and how dramatically they raise our blood sugar. This is critical for weight loss because it is our blood sugar levels that kick us into fat storage mode (more on this in another nutrition nugget). Plus, how we choose to cook the potato impacts its nutritional value and waistline impact.
When we are focused on leading healthful lives, it is best to eat foods with low glycemic impact. Sweet potatoes and yams have the lowest glycemic index ratings (for potatoes) because they have more fiber, as such they would be categorized as the healthiest of the bunch. Next, we have white potatoes. They have less fiber and a less diverse nutrient content, however, they still have plenty nutritional benefits because they are still plants. When it comes to the highest glycemic index and the least healthy option, instant mashed potatoes are the winner! These are highly processed. As a rule of thumb for processed foods, remember this: the more work machines do, the less our bodies do, and the less nutritional content the food contains. Therefore, we want to focus on whole foods as staples to keep our health on track!
Now for the preparation part. A sweet potato that is deep fried is worse for us than a white potato baked in the oven. A potato cooked in the microwave has less nutritional value than one baked in the oven. And the one which requires no cooking at all, those instant mashed potatoes, are even worse. Cook it the old-fashioned way for optimal nutritional results!
And don’t forget, potatoes are definitely NOT off limits! It’s about balance…what’s life without a french fry once in a while? Simply take what you learned here, apply it to your grocery shopping and meal prep and you will be set to enjoy your potatoes (no matter how you pronounce it — potayto? potahto?). Enjoy!