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Why you shouldn't feel guilty about eating those spuds, according to experts.

Lauren Wicks
November 14, 2018

After years of back and forth over the nutritional profile of the humble potato, a report by Consumer Reports has finally settled the debate. It turns out, potatoes can be staples of a healthy diet...depending on how you prepare them.

This report explains that an unadulterated potato is considered healthy due to its high fiber, vitamin, and mineral content. One medium-sized potato packs four grams of fiber, 26 percent of our daily potassium needs, and 15 percent of our daily magnesium needs. As the report highlights, Americans struggle to meet the recommended minimums of these nutrients on a regular basis.

“Potatoes have gotten a bad rap because of the way they’ve been eaten and processed in the modern food system,” Charles Mueller, Ph.D., a clinical associate professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at New York University, told Consumer Reports.

Almost three-quarters of potato intake in the U.S. is related to processed foods, such as french fries and chips. Even when baked, most health benefits can be minimized by adding popular toppings such as butter, sour cream, and bacon bits.

Wanting to learn more about potatoes?

Consumer Reports illustrates that toppings are the real issue behind this widely circulated 2016 Harvard study, which named increased potato consumption as a risk factor in developing type 2 diabetes, excess weight gain, and high blood pressure, even though potatoes are rich in nutrients proven to actually help lower risks for diabetes and blood pressure.

Potatoes have also previously been demonized because of their high ranking on the glycemic index, which ranks carbohydrates on a scale of 0-100 based on how much they raise blood sugar levels after consumption. A high-ranking carbohydrate can potentially cause overeating or increase risks for weight and blood pressure issues.

However, there are ways to decrease the potato’s impact on blood sugar, like serving it alongside protein and serving it cool, or cold, or reheating before eating. It's also important to note that previous studies have shown the unreliability of the glycemic index for determining which foods you should prioritize.

While you can enjoy a bowl of spuds with a sigh of relief, Mueller reminds home cooks that a serving of potatoes isn't equal to a serving of vegetables—but rather as a serving of carbohydrates. Potatoes have a vastly different nutritional profile than most vegetables, and should not be a replacement for leafy greens or other root vegetables.

There are also a wide variety of potatoes to try, from sweet potatoes, a perennial favorite, to purple-fleshed varieties. Colorful varieties possess the added bonus of phytochemicals, which give these funkier potatoes a boost of high-antioxidant properties. Mixing up your potato intake throughout the month will help you obtain more of the nutrients you need.

When making potatoes at home, think outside the box. Skipping toppings such as butter, sour cream, brown sugar, or marshmallows opens the door to more healthful and flavorful options.

Here are five healthy ways to enjoy potatoes at home:

Roasted Potatoes With Salsa

Jennifer Causey

This recipe is simple, easy, and makes a perfect addition to taco night. All it takes is a little roasting and seasoning to make potatoes a mouth-watering dish.

Get the Recipe: Roasted Potatoes With Salsa

Beef and Broccoli Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Photo: Rachel Johnson

Stuffed sweet potatoes can be a whole meal in itself, and this beef and broccoli stuffed recipe adds a boost of greens and protein for a well-rounded dish. It makes for an easy clean up too!

Get the Recipe: Beef and Broccoli Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Potato and Leek Gratin

Photo: Jennifer Causey

This gratin only tastes indulgent, as it is lower in calories and fat than most gratin dishes. A rustic, comforting dish like this is perfect on chilly nights.

Get the Recipe: Potato and Leek Gratin

Sweet Potato Casserole with Crunchy Oat Topping

Photo: Jennifer Causey

You can still have your sweet potato casserole and eat it too this holiday season. The crunchy oat topping is a satisfying replacement for the typical butter-laden and marshmallow versions.

Get the Recipe: Sweet Potato Casserole with Crunchy Oat Topping

Fingerling Potato Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

Photo: Jennifer Causey

This dish is an easy way to incorporate a wider variety of potatoes into your diet. The mustard vinaigrette can be made in bulk to top other types of salads too.

Get the Recipe: Fingerling Potato Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette