Caught up in a fad dieting fever, you may be guilty of ditching the humble potato out of fear that the carby vegetable may not be ‘good for you’.
Yet according to dietitians, this anti-potato sentiment is unfounded.
Spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia, Gabrielle Maston, reminds us of a simple fact: potatoes are vegetables and few Australians are consuming anywhere near the recommended amount of vegetables on a regular basis. CSIRO statistics suggest that two out of three adults aren’t eating enough veges in their diet.
“The purple potato is slightly higher in fibre than white potatoes and it contains antioxidants.”
“The potato is one of the most hunger satisfying foods available,” says Accredited Practising Dietitian, Maston. “If you have a raging appetite all the time, then potatoes are a good food source that will help you to curb your appetite.”
Maston says eating a few roasted potatoes a week, consumed as part of a balanced diet, could be beneficial. According to myfitnesspal, one medium sized potato – weighing around 150 grams – contains 141 calories and has no fat or cholesterol.
“Potatoes are nutritious and contain vitamin C, potassium and B vitamins.” The vegetable is also a gluten-free wholefood. “For that reason, eating a whole potato is a lot better for you than eating fried chips.”
Pick purple potatoes
If you’re still not sold, there’s one specific variety of potato that packs an additional punch: purple potatoes.
The purple Congo potato and Toolangi Delight are both grown in Australia and are suitable for mashing. The Congo potato has an oval shape and purple skin and flesh, while the Toolangi has dimpled purple skin and white flesh.
“The purple potato is slightly higher in fibre than white potatoes and it contains antioxidants,” Maston tells SBS.
“Antioxidants combat what we call free radicals in our bodies. That is the chemical compound the body produces from the breakdown of cells or UV light.”
“Any fruit or vegetable that has a purple coloured skin or flesh – like eggplant or plums – is rich in antioxidants that are anti-inflammatory.”
The pigment that makes some potatoes purple, that has an antioxidant role, is called anthocyanin.
“Any fruit or vegetable that has a purple coloured skin or flesh – like eggplant or plums – is rich in antioxidants that are anti-inflammatory.
“There has been research to show that antioxidants help, broadly, to lower blood pressure and may help to reduce the risk of cancer. But that’s a grey area [in terms of evidence].”
A 2012 study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry showed that people with obesity could reduce their blood pressure if they ate purple potatoes cooked without oil, in a microwave on a regular basis. One international review published in a plant journal suggests that pigmented potatoes – like red and purple potatoes – display two to three times higher antioxidant potential compared to white-flesh potatoes. There’s a 2017 study conducted on pigs – not humans – suggests that purple potatoes may reduce a pro-inflammatory protein that may be linked to colon cancer.
However, Maston explains that further research is needed to conclusively determine the impact of purple potatoes on the human body.
How about potatoes and weight gain?
Matson encourages Australians to eat potatoes but, like many other foods, consumption in moderation is best. She also advises people to steer away from frying the vegetable or adding lot of toppings to the potato if you are concerned about weight gain.
“You can have one serving of potatoes the size of your fist at any one time,” she says. That would replace other carbohydrate servings you might have like pasta, rice or bread. Having potatoes in this way twice a day is plenty.”
People should also alter their diet to suit the amount of exercise they do on a daily basis.
“Potatoes are a good alternative source of carbohydrates and they are an energy rich food. So if you aren’t doing a lot of exercise then I recommend that you stick to a daily portion-controlled serve of potatoes.
“Someone who is doing lots of exercise and running marathons can eat a bit more than two serves a day, as part of a healthy diet.”