By Cat, May 3, 2017 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)
True potatoes (as opposed to sweet potatoes or yams, are members of the nightshade (Solanaceae) family, and come in many colors of peel, and some, like the purple potato may also have colored meat (giving them greater antioxidant content, due to anthocyanins that produce the purple pigment). They are delicious cooked in many different ways, of which Baked, Boiled, or Mashed instructions are included here.
Fried (especially deep-fried) potatoes and potato chips my be delicious, but they are not so good for you, according to an article from Food Revolution (6). More about this, below.
- Includes: 1: Nutritive value of potatoes; 2. Baking potatoes; 3. Roasting potatoes; 4. Boiling/steaming potatoes; 5. Mashed potatoes
- See also: 1. How to store potatoes, sweet potatoes/yams, and true yams; 2. Sides and Condiments Menu; Other Sites: See OChef (2) or Chef’s Thesaurus (3) for more on different types of potatoes.
Nutritive Value of Potatoes
Health problems of potatoes
There is a lot of controversy about the healthfulness of the humble potato; to me the main problem with the potato has to do with how it is cooked. America’s favorite way to eat a potato is as French fries or potato chips: deep fried in hot oil. There are two problems with this:
- Carcinogenic acrylamide forms from the high heat of deep frying, and also from how the potatoes are stored. Most commercial French fries are frozen before being dropped into the hot oil; that very cold temperature of freezing also causes formation of acrylamide. See How to store potatoes, sweet potatoes/yams, and true yams for more.
- It used to be (prior to the 1970s), potatoes were fried in lard. But then saturated fats got a bad rap and lard was replaced with seed oils: corn, soy, cottonseed, and later, canola. But these poly-unsaturated oils are oxidized by the high-heat of frying, turning them into dangerous free radicals that cause all kinds of problems in the gut and the whole body. Fortunately, many restaurants and home cooks are returning to lard or duck/goose fat, now that science has determined the fear of saturated fats was unfounded.
Broiling/grilling potatoes can also be problematic if they are placed directly under/over the heat source; baking potatoes at temperatures above 300F can also produce acrylamide.
Potatoes can also be slow-roasted, boiled or steamed, all of which are better than frying. They can be a base for a great sauce as Potato Dauphinoise (Potatoes Au Gratin). One of my favorite ways to prepare them is Greek-style (see Greek Style Roasted Potatoes, with Garlic, Lemon & Oregano).
They can be high in calories, leading to weight-gain. However, check out this quote from Food Revolution (6):
“It’s not all bad news for spud lovers. According to St. Louis-based registered dietitian Alex Caspero, RD, “…potatoes are not the enemy! How we eat them is.”
While many of us eat veggies, like spinach and broccoli, in their natural state, we eat most of our potatoes processed or fried as chips and french fries. Even our baked or boiled potatoes are often peeled (losing the vitamins, minerals, and fiber found in the skin), mashed with sticks of butter or cream, and loaded with fatty toppings like chili and sour cream.
But, in a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2014 [Cat’s reference #7], researchers found that when people followed healthy recipes, they lost weight even while eating five to seven servings of potatoes per week.”
Glycemic Load for Potato Varieties
From Food Revolution (6):
“The glycemic load indicates the rate at which various amounts of carbohydrates are formed into glucose and released into your bloodstream.
Potatoes have a relatively high glycemic load, but it varies between different types of potatoes.
On a scale of 0 to 100, a baked white potato has a glycemic load of 41-61 (which is considered moderate to high).
And sweet potatoes generally have a GL of 19 (which is considered low).”
Due to their high antioxidant content, colored potatoes (like red and purple) have a lower glycemic load than white.
Health benefits of potatoes
Here are just a few:
- The skin of potatoes contain “vitamins, minerals, and fiber”, so best to leave the skin-on. For example, “the minerals iron, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and zinc in potatoes help the body build and maintain bone structure and strength.” Red and purple potato skins are “packed with antioxidants” (6);
- Kukoamines in potatoes (and tomatoes) lower blood pressure (4);
- They are high in vitamin B6 (pyridoxine as well as other forms), which is involved in more than 100 enzymatic reactions, such as making amino acids, heme (the protein part of hemoglobin), and phospholipids that make up cell walls. It also plays an essential role in methylation – transferring methyl (CH3) groups from one molecule to another – such as for switching genes on or off, or for detox (4).
- Vitamins C, B3, B5 (pantothenic acid) and A; minerals potassium, copper, manganese, and phosphorus, are also present in good amounts (4,5).
- Potato skin is high in fiber, but you have to eat the skin, not toss it on the compost pile.
- The meat of the potato is rich in starch (5), some of which are ‘resistant starch’ (not easily broken down into sugar, so behave more like fiber and can help with insulin resistance.
- The are good at fighting inflammation (5), especially in the digestive system, and many scientists believe most if not all disease starts with inflammation in the gut.
- “Potatoes contain ‘resistant starch,’ a particular kind of starch that isn’t broken down by the small intestine. Instead, it reaches the large intestine and feeds your body’s beneficial bacteria. When resistant starch reaches the large intestine, your body’s beneficial bacteria turn it into short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate.” (8) [Cat’s Note: see my article on Butyrate (and Tributryn for more about this important nutrient.]
Types of Potatoes and Their Different Health Benefits
See Food Revolution article (6) for this info. I may eventually include that info in this article.
Basic Cooking Methods for Potatoes
These instructions are adapted from my old Betty Crocker Cookbook (1). Russets or other bakers are best (see photo, above right), as they are drier and more starchy (not waxy) and thus more fluffy when baked.
Recipe: Wash and pat dry potatoes, and leave the skins on. If desired, wrap in bakers’ parchment and foil. Bake in preheated oven until tender; the lower the baking temperature, the less acrylamide that is formed. Baking times at various temperatures:
- 375°F, 1 – 1¼ hour; or
- 350°F, 1¼ – 1½ hours; or
- 325°F, about 1½ hours
Roasting at a hot, dry heat produces carcinogenic acrylamide. But roasting in presence of moisture at lower temperatures (i.e., slow-roasting) will minimize acrylamide production. To slow-roasting them:
- Parboil whole potatoes (skin-on) until they begin to tenderize – a toothpick will penetrate about ¼” (optional);
- Cut potatoes into wedges (leave skins on), and place skin-down in baking/roasting pan;
- Coat with a dressing made of olive oil, lemon juice and optional herbs;.
- Roast at 300°F until tender, turning and basting several times.
See Greek-Style Roasted Potatoes for more detail.
(Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)
This recipe is adapted from my old Betty Crocker Cookbook (1). New potatoes (round or fingerling) are best, such as Yukon golds, reds or fingerlings. These potatoes are waxy when cooked (their meat creamy rather than fluffy).
- boiling potatoes, whole and washed. I recommend leaving the peels on, or you can pare a narrow strip around centers (save the strip of peel for potato peel broth).
- filtered water (enough to be 1″ deep in saucepan)
- ½ tsp unrefined sea salt per cup of water for boiling
- Fill saucepan with 1″ filtered water; add salt (½ tsp unrefined sea salt per cup filtered water) and bring to a boil. Add prepped potatoes, and return to a boil, then reduce heat to a slow boil, and cook until done, 20 – 25 minutes. (Alternately, you can steam them until done, about 18 – 22 minutes, but I don’t think they mash as well when steamed).
- Off heat; remove potatoes, and keep warm until ready to serve. If desired, gently toss them in a bit of melted butter, or butter/garlic combination.
This recipe is adapted from my old Betty Crocker Cookbook (1), and my own learnings from mashing potatoes for making lefse (potato flatbread).
You want to use a drier, starchy variety of potato, rather than a waxy potato. Russets and other bakers are best; yukon golds have a bit of wax, but can be used in a pinch. Do not use red boiling potatoes, new potatoes, or fingerlings, as they are all too waxy and will not be fluffy when mashed. NOTE: If mashing for lefse, do not steam them.
You can add minced & mashed garlic, or other herbs and spices if desired.
Recipe (to serve 4):
- 1 ½ lb potatoes, whole (about 4 medium); leaving the peel on until after cooking keeps the potato from taking up too much water
- filtered water (enough to be 1″ deep in saucepan)
- ½ tsp unrefined sea salt per cup of water for boiling
- 4 Tbsp real butter
- ¼ – ½ cup milk or cream, or a mix, to your preferred texture
- salt and pepper to taste
- paprika or other herbs/spices, to taste (optional)
- Fill saucepan with 1″ filtered water; add salt (½ tsp unrefined sea salt per cup filtered water) and bring to a boil. Add whole potatoes, with peel, and return to a boil, then reduce heat to a slow boil, and cook until done, 20 – 25 minutes. (Alternately, you can steam them until done, about 30 minutes, but I don’t think they mash as well when steamed).
- Off heat; remove potatoes (retain water in pan for later), and let cool enough to handle.
- Remove peel and save for Potato Peel Broth (for another time).
- Mash potatoes (or rice them) in medium bowl, enough to make 2 cups; add butter and milk/cream, whipping with a fork. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, and any desired spices/herbs.
- Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, © 1986,1978, 1969 by General Mills, Inc; Published by Golden Press/New York, Western Publishing Company, Inc., Racine, WI
- OChef: ochef.com/167.htm
- Chef”s Thesaurus: foodsubs.com/Potatoes.html
- World Healthiest Foods on potatoes: whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=48
- Organic Facts on potatoes: organicfacts.net/health-benefits/vegetable/health-benefits-of-potato.html
- Food Revolution: foodrevolution.org/blog/are-potatoes-healthy/
- Science Daily (quoted in Food Revoution article (6)) sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141022123350.htm
- NCBI (published study), Microbial Degradation of Complex Carbohydrates in the Gut: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22572875