And guess what… it’s not salad! Some people in the know (aside from the Irish) have been saying for years that this item deserves a spot next to your greens. Now, Weight Watchers in the US has just launched its new eating plan that puts potatoes back where they rightfully belong: on the Zero Point list of foods that you do not have to measure or track.
Since the indigenous people of Peru began eating the varieties growing wild in their backyard 2 500 years ago, people all over the world have been happy to include potatoes as a staple in their diets. This was until ‘carbohydrate’ became a swear word and the humble spud was grouped with baddies like refined sugar and processed white bread.
Peeling Back the Truth
Potatoes are more nutritious than you think. Yes, they are starchy vegetables, but starch is not bad in itself. Starch and complex carbohydrates contribute to weight loss because they improve blood sugar control and prevent insulin resistance. Though spuds are admittedly high on the glycaemic index, this effect can be mitigated by combining them with protein and healthy fat. Potatoes also top the satiety index that measures how full you feel after eating a particular food.
A study by researchers from Purdue University in the US found that potatoes contain at least 4,7g of fibre. Their resistant starch content fills up the digestive tract, slowing down digestion and keeping you feeling full for longer. In fact, a medium spud contains only 163 calories before you add cheese, bacon, or sour cream, and because it takes so long to digest, your digestive tract cannot absorb all the calories.
The best part of all this is that there are hundreds of ways to eat and enjoy this incredible carb. Think of a crunchy potato cheddar rosti (instead of a hunk of bread) to serve with avocado and feta salad, or crispy baby potatoes topped with gremolata and grilled chicken. Then there are skins served with guacamole dip and tomato salsa, or a cheesy mash and fresh herb salad. What’s not to like?
What Do South Africans Think?
According to a consumer usage and attitude study done for Potatoes SA recently, first and foremost, consumers want food that is quick to prepare, and tasty. Health concerns were ranked fourth, after convenience, with the level of carbohydrates of least concern to consumers. When asked which potato dish springs to mind first, fries came out on top (32%), followed by mash (27%), potato salad (19%), baked or roasted potato (14%), and then boiled potatoes (8%).
“When it comes to eating potatoes, it’s all about the choices we make,” says Immaculate Zinde of Potatoes SA.
“If you’re consuming packets of chips, plates of fries, or other easy-grab munchies on the move, that’s obviously going to add to your waistline. But by preparing these carbs differently, you can fill your belly without the unnecessary added fat.”
This doesn’t mean eating bland and boiled potatoes. The trick is to get creative with your meal ideas. “Potatoes are versatile, easy to prepare, and filling,” says Zinde.
“Once consumers understand the benefit of the starch and nutrients found in this food, they’ll think differently about including them in a healthy diet.”
The Bare Necessities
Potatoes contain between 10 and 19% of your daily vitamin B6 requirement, 15 and 20% of your daily vitamin C requirement, as well as calcium, folic acid, copper, zinc, iron, phosphorous, potassium, manganese, magnesium, and iodine. They are also unrefined and don’t have any additives, making them a healthier choice than other carbs. Add to this their versatility as an ingredient and you have pretty compelling reasons to include them in your diet.
Compiled by Immaculate Zinde, Marketing Manager of Potatoes South Africa; and Food and Decor Editor, Claire Badenhorst