In recent years, you may have heard a lot about the dangers of carbohydrates from proponents of various fad diets. It's true that sugary carbohydrate-rich sweet treats are mostly empty calories and are not very beneficial for your health. However, it's not true that all carbohydrates are bad for you. In fact, carbohydrates are the body's primary source of fuel for energy and are an important part of a healthy diet. Experts say at least 50 percent of our daily body fuel should come from carbohydrates, and one of the best sources is the potato.
The potato is a nutrient-dense food. In other words, for the amount of calories it contains, it provides a good nutritional return. For example, if you eat one medium-size potato, it will provide you with:
37 grams of carbohydrates (the good kind -- complex carbohydrates)
4g of protein
4g of dietary fiber
45% of the recommended daily value of Vitamin C
620 mg potassium (comparable to bananas, spinach and broccoli)
10 percent of the recommended daily value of Vitamin B6
0g of fat
0g of cholesterol
Other essential nutrients: niacin, folate, magnesium , thiamine, calcium, iron and zinc
All this for just 110 calories.
Simple vs. Complex Carbohydrates
There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates include sugars found naturally in fruits, but not so naturally in dairy products and sweet treats. Simple carbohydrates are quickly broken down and absorbed by the body for a quick burst of energy. Complex carbohydrates come from starches such as breads, cereals, pasta, beans and potatoes. These carbohydrates provide a more gradual energy release and generally more nutritional value than simple carbohydrates.
Health Benefits of the Potato
Potatoes not only provide healthy fuel for the body, but also provide essential vitamins and minerals. Vitamin C is one of the most important vitamins in potatoes, as it strengthens the immune system, acts as an antioxidant that prevents damage from free radicals in the body that may help prevent some cancers, and reduces the risk of heart disease by preventing cholesterol from oxidizing in the bloodstream. The vitamin B6 in potatoes assists with the health of the nervous system and reduces levels of homocysteine, a chemical that can contribute to atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases. If the skins of the potato are eaten, this provides a significant amount of dietary fiber, which helps reduce the risk of gastrointestinal and cardiovascular diseases.
Potatoes often get a bad rap because of the heavy foods they are associated with, e.g. butter, sour cream, cheese, bacon and fatty oils. For this reason, potatoes have been blamed for weight gain. The fact is that without the heavy toppings, the potato contains no fat or cholesterol and is a healthy choice in any diet.
The potato plays an important role in a healthy diet, providing fuel, fiber and essential vitamins and minerals. The potato is a complex carbohydrate. Foods that contain added sugars--such as soft drinks, fruit drinks, candy, baked goods and dairy-based desserts--are simple carbohydrates. While these foods may offer a quick burst of energy, they provide few nutrients. Next time your body is asking for a healthy fuel, choose the potato.