One of the most popular and, some would say, adulterated foods in the Western World is the humble potatoe, or spud, as it is known in Australia and some other Anglicised countries, yet, it is had a bad rap, with claims of it being bad for your diet and health, so what is the truth, are they really bad for you?
The Spud, What Is It And Why Is It So Demonised?
The potato is a starchy, tuberous root crop from the perennial nightshade Solanum tuberosum. One of the most common and versatile root vegetables, potatoes are the world’s fourth-largest food crop after maize (corn), wheat, and rice. First cultivated by the Inca Indians in Peru over 7,000 years ago, it was brought to Europe in the 16th century. Potatoes have had such an influence on human development, that they have been associated with population surges and increased global urbanisation. There are now as many as 2,000 different varieties being grown in over 160 countries.
While it is widely accepted that a plant based diet offers many benefits, the humble spud is often not included as part of the recommendation.
Why is this?
The potato has all the requirements to form part of a healthy balanced diet.
100g of steamed potatoes, contain just 100 calories, no fat, no sodium, no cholesterol, and no gluten. What this 100g provides is nearly half your daily requirement of vitamin C, more potassium than in a banana, and plenty of vitamin B6, fibre, magnesium, and antioxidants.
So Why Are People Trying To Kill The Potatoe?
The answer is simple, starch.
Starch is made up of molecules of glucose, a simple sugar, which our cells can use as fuel with very little processing from our bodies. It goes directly into the bloodstream and creates a blood sugar spike, that prompts the pancreas to release insulin, which enables our body to either use or store that sugar.
Yes, potatoes do contain starch, which can increase insulin sensitivity, but it is also not a bad thing, as it can also improve blood sugar control, digestive health, nutrient absorption and satiety (fullness), help curb inflammation in the body, boost immunity, and improve blood circulation. All positives.
Now comparing an acre of potatoes to and acre of the ever popular broccoli, potatoes provide about half the calcium and vitamin C of broccoli per acre and none of the vitamin A, but they provide three times the iron, phosphorus and potassium.
The bad press on potatoes stems from accusations of high calorific value. But it is not the actual potatoes which bring the calories, it is the method of cooking.
It is not the actual potatoes which bring the calories, it is the method of cooking.
Most of the detrimental properties of the potatoe (and the resultant bad press) comes from the cooking method and condiment selection.
In non-vegan cooking, potatoes are often consumed after being deep fried in oil and covered in salt, baked in animal fats, slathered in dairy products such as cheese and creams, or covered in sugar laden tomato sauces and many other, less than healthy accompaniments.
None of this is the potatoes fault.
Yes, potatoes are high in carbohydrates, but these are necessary for long term energy. Many do not know the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates. Potatoes are complex carbohydrates which are a necessary part of our everyday diet.
fad diets and misinformation often steer peoples thinking about specific foods. The fact, we all requires foods from each nutrient group in order to maintain optimal health. Eating potatoes cooked appropriately in moderation is simply not harmful.
Potatoes are a high glycemic food, but, once again if eaten as part of a balanced diet, that includes high fibre foods such as lentils, beans, nuts and other vegetables, the sugar spike can be counteracted.
Potatoes deserve to be given a pardon and eaten, guilt free, once again. You can still prepare them the way you like, just ease up on the oils, salt and sugar.
There are also plenty of alternative recipes for potatoes that provide more flavour than steaming and taste great, but are beneficial to your health.
So go ahead and include the humble spud in your diet