Potatoes got a bad reputation due to the popularity of low-carb diets and fad diets like the Paleolithic diet. They're high in starchy carbohydrates and low in protein. That doesn't mean that potatoes are bad for you, though, because they're still a good source of fiber, potassium and vitamin C, especially if you eat the skin.
One medium plain potato has about 150 calories so you have to keep that in mind if you are watching your weight. Potatoes are often served with high-calorie and high-fat toppings like butter or margarine, sour cream, or gravy that may add a lot more calories and unhealthy fats.
French fries are not healthy - for several reasons. Besides having extra fat added to them, potatoes that are fried as chips or French fries may contain acrylamide. This is a toxic substance that forms in starchy foods when they are processed or cooked at high temperatures.
Acrylamide has been shown to cause cancer in lab animals, but we don't know exactly what levels of acrylamide exposures are dangerous for humans. Frying and baking at high temperatures for a long time result in the highest levels of acrylamide, however, those levels may be reduced when potatoes are boiled first or treated with antioxidant solutions.
What about potatoes with a green tint? Potatoes may also contain another chemical called solanine. When potatoes have a green tint to their skin, they may actually have a sun-burn. Potato tubers grow underground and if they are exposed to light, they develop a green tint due to chlorophyll production which normally happens in the stems and the leaves, but not in the tubers.
The chlorophyll is harmless, but the light exposure also causes the potatoes to develop a higher level of an irritating chemical call solanine. This causes the potatoes to taste bitter and some who people claim to be sensitive to solanine believe they may feel increased arthritis-type pain.
While the association between rheumatoid arthritis pain and solanine from dietary sources remains unproven, research does show that solanine may adversely affect the cells that make up the lining of the intestines and could possibly irritate inflammatory bowel disorders. To avoid solanine, don't buy potatoes that have green skin and store them in a dark place in your pantry or kitchen.
Healthy Potato Ideas
- Serve boiled potatoes with salsa or some broccoli and sprinkle about one ounce of shredded cheese on top.
- Make mashed potatoes with low-fat sour cream, skim milk and chives.
- Potatoes cooked in the microwave do not contain acrylamides.
- Try this roasted potato recipe.
- Add potato slices (with skins) to soups and stews.
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