Researchers Say The Potato Can Be Part Of A Healthy Diet

mbg SEO Editor By Eliza Sullivan
mbg SEO Editor
Eliza Sullivan is an SEO editor at mindbodygreen. She writes about food, recipes, and nutrition—among other things. She studied journalism at Boston University.
Roasted Potatoes on a Baking Sheet

When you think health foods, potatoes probably don't come to mind—sweet potatoes, maybe, but not the standard potatoes of french fry and potato chip fame. Previous studies have linked eating potatoes to increased risks of some diseases, but recent research suggests something else.

A group of researchers at Pennsylvania State University have conducted research to prove that the potato is no worse than any other carb—and, in fact, it may be better.

Debunking the potato myth

The researchers attribute the root vegetable's bad reputation, in part, to its traditional preparations and serving options: fried, or full of salt and unhealthy fats. They concluded that eating potatoes, prepared the right way, can be a part of a healthy diet.

For their study, the researchers had a group of 50 healthy adults, in this case based on factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and insulin levels, replace their regular side dishes with either potatoes or refined grains, both prepared by the Metabolic Diet Study Center at the university.

Participants ate one version of these side dishes for a month, took a two-week break, and then supplemented meals with the other option. The side dishes, regardless of potato or not, were kept to the same calorie count and carbohydrate level to isolate the impact of health to the potato itself.

They found that when participants were eating more potatoes, their levels of nutrients like potassium and fiber were higher. In addition, this study did not conclude that eating potatoes increased fasting glucose levels but that cholesterol, insulin, and cardiometabolic markers did not have any negative impact.

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How do you keep potatoes healthy?

While in this study potatoes were prepared with health in mind, that doesn't mean they were left boring and bland: Ingredients like scallions, breadcrumbs, and even cheese were added to enhance flavor.

"Certainly eating chips or french fries should be discouraged, but there are healthy ways to prepare potatoes, so I do think that lumping them all together is a little bit unfair to the poor potato," said Emily Johnston, MPH, R.D., CDE, study co-author. "We don't want people to fear the potato, but we want to make sure that they eat it in a healthful way and in a controlled portion size."

The correct portion size according to the researchers is one medium-size potato (which is a good deal smaller than your standard baked potato). And while frying is obviously not the way to go for health, they also advise baking or steaming over boiling. When boiled many of the nutrients, especially potassium, leach out.

If you (like me, after reading this study) are caught with a sudden spud craving, be sure you're preparing them in a way that maximizes their nutritional value. If you're in need of inspiration, these five recipes are good places to start—whether it's Thanksgiving or not.

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