Potatoes are nutritious vegetables that provide vitamin C, fiber and some B vitamins. When you fry them or prepared them with large amounts of cheese and cream, the added saturated fat and calories of these cooking methods eclipses potatoes' health benefits. Cook potatoes in a healthy manner to enjoy their earthy flavor and benefit from their multiple nutrients.
Some nutritionists say potatoes are a no-no for dieters because of their carbohydrate content. Many potato preparations are unhealthy. Potato gratin, scalloped potatoes, mashed potatoes, potato salad and french fries add unnecessary calories to an otherwise healthy food. One medium baked potato contains just 166 calories and no fat. It provides 28 percent of the recommended daily allowance, or RDA, for vitamin C, 27 percent for vitamin B6, 26 percent for potassium and 10 percent for iron. Eat the potato with the skin and get 4 g of fiber to help regulate your digestion, contribute to feelings of satisfaction and potentially lower your cholesterol.
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Baking a potato in the skin adds no extra fat or calories. Serve baked potatoes with plain, non-fat Greek yogurt and salsa or fresh herbs, instead of cheese, sour cream and chili. If you enjoy french fries, baked oven fries are another healthy alternative. Cut russet potatoes into wedges and place on a baking sheet sprayed with olive oil. Spritz olive oil over the top and season with salt and pepper. Bake in a 450-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once to ensure browning on all sides.
You can make a healthy version of mashed potatoes by boiling 1½ lbs. of Yukon gold potatoes with six peeled garlic cloves. Drain and mash the mixture with ½ tsp. salt, black pepper, chopped scallions and 3 tbsp. olive oil. This American Heart Association recipe serves eight, with each serving containing 121 calories, 5 g of fat – only .5 g of which is saturated – and 2 g of fiber. A healthy potato salad includes 2 lbs. of boiled, cubed red potatoes, 1 cup of chopped cucumbers, 1 cup of diced bell peppers and ¼ cup of diced black olives, mixed with a dressing made with 2 tbsp. of canola oil, 1/4 cup of rice vinegar, 1/4 tsp. of salt and cracked black pepper. Canola oil contains heart-healthy unsaturated fats, and the extra vegetables offer additional vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. In a 3/4 cup serving, you get 90 calories and 3 g of fat.
Consuming the skin along with the flesh of the potato provides extra fiber and potassium. A baked potato with the skin provides 4 g of fiber and more than 900 mg of potassium, while consuming the flesh only provides 2 g of fiber and about 600 mg of potassium. Potatoes are a source of carbohydrates, but the 37 g in a medium baked potato amounts to only about 12 percent of your daily needs, based on a 2,000-calorie diet.