The Truth About Potatoes

Potatoes have gotten a bad rap. But they're an important part of a healthy diet; here's why.
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twice-baked potatoes

Twice Baked Potatoes

Photo by: Tara Donne ©Tara Donne

Tara Donne, Tara Donne

There has been plenty of talk about potatoes in recent media. Are they good for you? Should they be allowed in school lunches? Is the potato, a vegetable, bad? I am here to set the record straight, even though the beloved potato can speak for itself and the nutrition label says it all. So here it is, the truth about potatoes.

You may be surprised to learn that the potato is a nutritional powerhouse. A medium-sized spud weighs in at 110 calories and has no fat or cholesterol. Sounds great, right? Well it gets better. Potatoes contain 45% of the daily recommended value for vitamin C and have as much or more potassium (620 mg) than bananas, broccoli and spinach. With less than 3 % of Americans consuming the recommend intake of potassium, potatoes are the most inexpensive source in the produce aisle. Potatoes are gluten free and a good source of fiber, antioxidants and B Vitamins as well. Still not convinced? Potatoes are an affordable, well liked and versatile component to many meals. Plus, there are thousands of varieties found within the seven types of potatoes -- one for each day of the week.

How to Select:

Purchase potatoes that are clean, smooth, and firm to touch and have no bruises, cuts, or discoloration

How to Store:

Store potatoes in a cool, dark place like a drawer or in the pantry (NOT in the fridge or a place that gets warm and humid like under the sink or next to the oven). Don’t wash potatoes until you are ready to use them.

Sprouts are a sign the potato is trying to grow. If they are green, simply cut them away before using. Pale, dry sprouts may be an indication the potato is old and should not be used.

The Seven Types:

Russets: This brown-skinned potato is the most popular type in the US. A crisp skin and light, fluffy center is the result of baking this potato. Russets are also great for mashing and pair well with many creative flavor profiles.

Reds: Great in soups and stews as the waxy, white flesh stays firm during cooking and the vibrant red skin add color to any dish. They also work well in potato salads and mashed.

Whites: An all-purpose potato, whites have white skin and flesh and work well in soups, stews, in mashes and on the grill. Like the reds, the flesh becomes tender but holds it shape during cooking. Using the potato with its skin on adds a nice touch of texture to any dish.

Yellows: Well known in Europe, yellow potatoes have a golden skin and flesh that boasts a buttery flavor. Grilling brings outs its natural, sweet flavor and this potato also lends well to baked and roasted dishes.

Purples/Blues: Their deep purple skin and flesh which ranges from purple to blue and white makes this potato unique. Its moist, firm flesh hold its shape during cooking and the vibrant color makes it perfect for salads and side dishes. Try roasting or grilling this potato, or mixing it with other types of potatoes to add a pop of color to an ordinary dish.

Fingerlings: Ranging from 2-4inches in length, fingerlings come in a variety of skin and flesh colors. They have a firm, waxy texture that is great for pan-frying and roasting.

Petites: Small, bite-sized versions or their full size cousins, they share similar characteristics in flavor, texture and color to the other types, just packaged a bit smaller which lends well to quick cooking.

For photos and more about these potato types check out this article from Food Network Magazine.

For more information on the potato types check out my videos and a wealth of knowledge on potatoes.

Recipes to try:
Twice-Baked Potatoes (pictured above)
Tell us: What is your favorite potato type and recipe?

Katie Cavuto Boyle, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, personal chef and owner of HealthyBites, LLC. See Katie's full bio »

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