Enjoy Potatoes and Control Calories
- 3 Minutes Read
Potatoes have a bad rap: supposedly high calorie, causing weight gain or blood sugar spikes. Are they really that terrible? How can you enjoy potatoes but avoid excess calories?
Potatoes have a bad rap when it comes to dieting. They blamed for causing weight gain and sabotaging diets. They're also allegedly guilty of raising blood sugar; the so-called Glycemic Index claims that potatoes are worse than Snickers Bars or ice cream. Can a food that has sustained populations for centuries really be that bad?
Potatoes are native to South America, and remain a staple food in some parts of the continent. In 2008, the Year of the Potato, Peru grew the most potatoes in the region, and per person potato consumption was about 176 pounds per year. That's more than 61,000 calories of potatoes per year, or almost 170 per day, the amount in one medium-sized potato.
According to the Idaho Potato Museum, potatoes are grown in 125 countries. India and China are the top potato growing countries. Germans eat twice as many potatoes as Americans, almost 250 pounds per person per year. If potatoes were really responsible for obesity, then you'd expect Germans to be heavier. But in fact, the obesity rate in Germany is much lower than in the USA.
Historically, Ireland has to take the prize for sheer potato consumption. The potato was introduced to Ireland sometime in the 16th century, after Spanish explorers returned from the Americas. Eventually potatoes became the staple food of the poor, with average consumption around 10 lbs per day. Or about 3500 calories per day. Now that's a lot of calories, but remember, these were people who spent the day doing hard physical work, farming by hand, fishing and walking everywhere for transportation.
Aside from calories, what are the other nutritional benefits of potatoes?
Despite the bad rap on calories, potatoes actually are a modest calorie food. On a pound for pound basis, Health Halo whole wheat bread has more than 3 times as many calories as a potato. A small 2-1/2 inch plain potato has around 120 calories.
But who eats a small plain potato? The problem with potatoes is not the potatoes; it's how we prepare them. Potato chips and French fries dominate our potato choices, both of which are high fat and high sodium. Mashed potatoes are always prepared with added fat, and baked potatoes can turn into a calorie nightmare thanks to sour cream, butter and cheese. The other problem with baked potatoes: portion size. Restaurants can create the illusion of value by serving giant baked potatoes. They're inexpensive, easy to prepare and they can fill up half the plate. Even if you just ate the giant plain potato without the high fat toppings, you could be consuming 300 or more calories as a side dish.
Here's another problem with potatoes, although a good problem: they taste great. That makes it all too easy to keep right on eating through that super-sized serving of French fries or that 3/4 lb baked potato or bag of potato chips or pile of mashed potatoes.
So how can you enjoy potatoes but not overdo the calories?
There's no reason not to enjoy potatoes. They're delicious, highly nutritious, and they've sustained populations for hundreds of years.Foods & Recipes->Potatoes & French Fries Nutrients->Potassium