Potatoes are packed with nutrition but not calories

Something most people think of as healthy has more calories than the same weight in potatoes.

Posted on Feb. 24, 2014 at 11:15 a.m.

The winter of 2014 continues to be a good reason to prepare some heavier foods such as potatoes.

Since it is National Potato Month I suggest you plan to make potato soup. If you do a little planning you could make potato soup a different way every day of the month and/or for the rest of the winter.

The potato is a compact package of good things for you and your family. A favorite food of just about everyone, the potato is versatile, economical and loaded with important nutrients. Contrary to what you may believe, it is also relatively low in calories, and is a good addition to a weight-conscious healthy eating plan.

Potatoes are a good source of vitamins. A medium-size potato, which is three potatoes per pound, provides almost one half the Vitamin C recommended daily for an average adult. Potatoes also supply B-1 and niacin to the diet.

No single food can provide all the iron needed every day. Therefore, it is essential to eat several iron-source foods daily. Potatoes, because of their popularity, actually provide more iron to the American diet than any other vegetable even though lima beans, Brussels sprouts and peas, for example, contain more iron per 100 grams. I am sure lima beans, Brussels sprouts and peas are not on your favorite food list. The body is able to use 93 percent of the iron in potatoes.

Carbohydrates are essential to the body but are often misunderstood as meaning fat. The body needs more than three times as much carbohydrate as protein in order to provide necessary energy to the brain, heart, lungs and muscles. In addition, the potato gives good nutritional return for every gram of carbohydrate it contains.

The potato also contains small amounts of high-quality vegetable protein. The protein of the potato is some of the best quality vegetable protein available. Here again, it is highly usable by the body. Therefore, the potato has as a supplementary source of good protein.

Potatoes are low in sodium, virtually fat free and east to digest. They are highly acceptable in almost any diet. When you compare calories, the potato has no more than many foods that are thought of as low calorie. One medium baked potato contains 90 calories, one medium potato boiled, without skin, has 80 calories and one medium potato boiled, with skin, has 105; one-half cup potato, mashed with milk, only has 63 calories and that same one-half cup potato, mashed with a pat of butter, has 93 calories. Ounce for ounce, the potato is no more caloric than a typical apple. Remember we all need to eat more apples and yes I know that winter is not the best time for fresh apple eating. The potato is less caloric than equal weights of pears, rice or even bran flakes.

If you are trying to maintain your weight or lose weight, do not eliminate potatoes. To lose weight, one should adjust the amount of each food item without eliminating any one food from the diet. The key to weight reduction is to eat less food without haphazardly eliminating any one food completely. Enjoy a little bit of all foods. Reduced eating plans should also be based on foods normally consumed if they are to lead to a lifetime of successful weight maintenance.

The potato, therefore, can and should be part of the reduced eating plan. For just a few calories, the potato is a significant source of nutrients essential to maintaining health and vitality. In addition, potatoes provide plenty of important satisfaction and comfort to the dieter. Potatoes taste good all by themselves and, because they are versatile, they're easy to prepare in ways that keep calories down but taste delicious. 

Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross is county extension director and an extension educator in health and human sciences at Purdue Extension Elkhart County. You can reach her at 574-533-0554 or lienhart@purdue.edu.


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