A different take
on the much-
By Marijke Vroomen-Durning
IF THE POTATO HAD a personality, it
might be like Rodney Dangerfield’s: It can’t
get no respect. We eat them, but they don’t
have the best reputation. And that, say some
experts, is just wrong.
The potato is a great little food package,
says Timothy S. Harlan, M.D., aka Dr.
Gourmet, and author of Just Tell Me What to
Eat. “I love potatoes,” he says. “I think the
problem is that they got a bad rap over the last
few years, and a lot of that comes from the
Atkins and low-carb diets.
“A normal-size potato is going to be 6
ounces,” explains Harlan. This gives you
about 100 to 110 calories, roughly the amount
in an equivalent portion of pasta or rice, even
an apple. But when you double or triple the
size of the potato and you add high-fat or
high-calorie toppings, you are taking the
potato out of the “healthy food” category.
on boiling your potatoes or using them in a
casserole, waxy potatoes such as red potatoes
may be your best bet.
Kubow suggests that to get the most benefit from the nutrients in the various types of
potatoes you shouldn’t stick to just one type.
Are potatoes healthy?
A few years ago, the Women’s Health
Study, a 15-year study involving thousands of
women that looked into heart disease and
some types of cancer, examined the effect of
potato consumption on health. At first, it
seemed as if eating potatoes increased a wom-
an’s risk of gaining weight and/or developing
diabetes. But, Harlan points out, ultimately
the study found that women who ate healthy
portions of potatoes prepared in a healthful
manner stayed healthy or even lost weight if
they were dieting.
Choosing your potato
The type of potato you choose should
depend on your meal plans rather than
potential benefits, says Harlan. Starchier
potatoes, such as russets, are best for baking,
mashing, frying or roasting. If you’re planning
Dr. Gourmet’s Delicious
Yields 2 servings, half a potato each
Cooking time: 75 minutes
12-ounce Idaho potato
2 tablespoons nonfat buttermilk
1/8 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Green onion, sliced crosswise
1 ounce grated reduced-fat cheddar cheese
Remove it from the oven and let cool
slightly. Slice the potato in half lengthwise. Scoop out the flesh, leaving behind
about ¼ inch of skin and flesh.
Mash the scooped flesh with the buttermilk, salt, pepper and onion. Stuff the mixture back into the skins and top with
grated cheese. Return the potato to the
oven and bake until cheese is melted.
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Poke some holes in the potato using the
tines of a fork. Bake potato for 50 minutes.
Nutrition information: Each serving includes
162 calories, 1 g fat, 4 mg cholesterol, 258 mg sodium,
32 g carbohydrates, 2 g sugar, 4 g dietary fiber
The potato, deconstructed
By eating an average-size 110-calorie
potato (with the skin), you’re getting about 45
percent of the recommended daily amount of
vitamin C, 18 percent of potassium, 8 percent
of fiber and 10 percent of vitamin B6.
When discussing the health benefits of
potatoes, some people express concern
about their glycemic index (GI), stating that
a high GI makes potatoes a less healthy food
option. The American Diabetes Association
explains that the GI of a food is often higher
among nutritious foods; their website gives
the example of oatmeal having a higher GI
than chocolate. GI is also affected by food
preparation and cooking. For example, a
baked potato has a lower GI than do mashed
potatoes. So, as with most things, moderation is the key.
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for
Americans encourages people to get serious
about eating enough potassium, which
encourages heart health. A potato has
almost double the potassium of a banana
and even more than broccoli, foods traditionally considered potassium rich. At an
average of 62 cents per pound (in 2010),
according to the United States Potato Board,
the little potato turns out to be the best
value for the most potassium.
Concerned about fat, cholesterol and
sodium? Potatoes don’t have them. Remember,
it’s all in the preparation. C
Recipe reprinted with permission from Dr. Timothy
JUNE 2011 ;e Costco Connection 53
Freelance health writer Marijke Vroomen-Durning is a registered nurse.