Saturday, September 20, 2014
Photo Credit: Jenny
Potatoes often have a bad reputation in the diet community. Contrary to popular belief, white potatoes are healthy; they are full of nutrients just like any other vegetable, are virtually fat-free, and they don’t contribute to the development of any major disease (obesity for example). Of course, potatoes quickly become unhealthy when one deep-fries them or smothers them with butter and salt.
Although potatoes are primarily composed of carbohydrates (~75% weight, ~90% energy), potatoes have ~20% fewer calories compared to rice or pasta. Potatoes are virtually fat-free (about 0.1% of its weight is fat), and most of that tiny bit of fat is composed of polyunsaturated fats (healthy fats). Overall, potatoes have less fat than pasta or rice.
Potatoes have little protein (~1-2% weight), far less than pasta or rice, but the quality of protein in potatoes are excellent, comparable to egg protein.
Potatoes are not considered high-fiber, but they do contain more dietary fiber than white rice or whole wheat cereal.
White potatoes are rich in potassium (544 mg per 100 g (about the size of a small potato), 12% recommended daily intake) and magnesium (27 mg per 100g, 7% recommended daily intake).
The bioavailability of iron and zinc is higher in potatoes compared to other plant foods due to the lack of the phytate form of phosphorus. 
Potatoes provide a substantial amount of ascorbic acid (aka vitamin C). A small potato (~100 g) provides roughly 13 mg vitamin C, or about 14% of the recommended daily intake. Also, vitamin C levels vary depending on cooking method. For example, baking and microwaving allow roughly twice as much vitamin C compared to boiling or frying.
Potatoes also provide significant amounts of vitamin B6 (one small potato provides approximately 15% of the recommended daily intake).
Like all vegetables, potatoes contain important phytochemicals which provide antioxidant properties.
Although French fry consumption is associated with weight gain, there is no study that definitively links potato consumption to increased risk of obesity. Likewise, most research suggests there is no association between potato consumption and increased risk of type-2 diabetes.  
A component in potato (a glycoalkaloid called α-solanine) was found to have positive effects against pancreatic cancer. Scientists demonstrated that α-solanine inhibited proliferation and increased apoptosis (programmed cell death) of pancreatic cancer cells using cell lines as well as mouse tumor models. It’s not to say that eating potatoes will cure or prevent cancer necessarily, but it’s interesting to know that a simple food like potato can have very powerful anticancer properties.
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