Potatoes – the healthy choice?

November 12, 2012

Potatoes – the healthy choice?

The potato is often disregarded as a “diet” food due to its starchy content and reputation for being fried or filled with butter.

Mainstream thinking concerning the humble potato is that it is, very often a ‘bad guy’ – a carbohydrate which contributes to obesity and its’ associated health problems. The problems the reputation of potatoes are only worsened by what we do with them – frying, roasting, dousing with liberal amounts of butter, cream and cheese all contribute to making potato an unhealthy choice on most occasions.

Recent study by chemistry professor

A recent study by Professor Vinson of Scranton University appears to show a total contradiction of the understood effects potatoes have on the human body. The professor carried out a study on a group of obese volunteers who ate potatoes every day for a period of one month – at the end of which it was noted that they had lowered blood pressure and no weight gain. Professor Vinson concluded that the healthy antioxidants present in potatoes are often destroyed by cooking method such as frying, in his study he used micro waved potatoes which, he claims, retain the antioxidants’, polyphenols and vitamins.

Small study

The study carried out by Professor Vinson was small – using only 18 volunteers who ate between six and eight purple potatoes twice daily for a period of one month. Vinson’s interest in this area of study was sparked by some earlier research he had carried out on the beneficial compounds found in coffee. He then discovered that potatoes also contain high levels of one of the major compounds found in coffee – namely chlorogenic acid. Having established that the volunteers in his initial study experienced a 4.3% drop in blood pressure after just one month Professor Vinson feels that further study is essential and intends to use different varieties of potato next time.

Contradiction from Harvard researchers

A recent report from researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health however is more in line with the usual line of thinking indicating that potatoes are a major contributor to weight gain – and in fact pose a higher risk of obesity than do red meat or sugary drinks.

Potatoes and health

Potatoes have, in fact, long been recognised as having many health benefits – not least, because they are an excellent source of Vitamin C, folic acid, potassium and iron. Potatoes were used in the prevention of scurvy on long sea voyages and remain a diet staple for millions of people across the globe.

Whilst it seems unlikely that micro waved potatoes will appeal to people on a large scale it does seem sensible to consider the way we prepare our potatoes. Certainly, the increased intake of fries, chips and loaded skins are not healthy options when eaten frequently. However, a fluffy baked potato with some salad or baked beans is a wonderfully healthy, nutritious and filling meal.

As with many scientific studies it seems that, for the lay person, the middle ground is the way forward – everything in moderation because a little bit of what you fancy does you good. No one would want to eat micro waved potatoes every day but nor should we be consuming vast amounts of the fried variety either.

Category: Articles