You’ve heard them all: potatoes are not a vegetable, potatoes are just a starchy carb, potatoes are not nutritious at all. APRIL FOOLS! These are all potato myths.
The Truth About Potatoes: Yes, Potatoes Are A Vegetable!
We agree that this is a bad April fools joke, but so is the bad reputation potatoes have had to endure over the past 20 – 30 years. What has occurred in potato history, and what may have lead to this reputation and more importantly, are these claims just a fool’s joke?
Potatoes haven’t always had a bad reputation. In fact, they were an important part in our survival and history as far back as 200 B.C. Originating in the mountains of the Andes of Peru and Bolivia, potatoes were first cultivated and consumed by the Peru’s Inca Indians. Potatoes were more than just a source of food but a measurement of time determined by how long it took for a potato to cook.
Eager for quick and easy ways for weight-conscious consumers, several fad diets were developed by celebrities, fitness gurus and medical doctors claiming to provide the best recipe for weight loss. The Atkins Diet, developed by Dr. Robert Atkins in 1972, was one of the first diets to attack carbohydrates and restrict them all together to lose weight. Another popular diet was The Beverly Hills Diet, a 6-week program that began with eating nothing but fruit for 10 days. Whether these diets were effective or not, consumers were made to believe that carbs of any kind were our weight loss enemy.
Despite the impact of these fad diets, potatoes appear to still be a popular item. In 2015, the average American consumed 110 lbs of potatoes per year in every imaginable form including potato chips, hash browns, fries, mashed, baked, and stuffed. In 2014, the USDA reported that Canadians consumption has leveled off in the last few years with an average of 21 kg person (USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, Canada Potatoes and Potato Products Annual 2015).
So, if our civilization depended on the potato for survival and we continue to consume copious amounts, then why does it continue to have to fight for a good reputation?
The Great Debate
For decades, nutritionists and consumers have debated over whether potatoes are good for you. The Canadian Food Guide 2017 lists potatoes under the vegetable category and recommends 4-5 serving per day. According to Registered Dietitian, Karen Ansel, ‘USDA researchers found potatoes are loaded with Kukoamines, plant chemicals that lower blood pressure’ (Prevention.com Nov 2011). These researchers tested 100 different varieties of potatoes and found that they contained over 60 different vitamins and phytochemicals, and flavonoids, which are credited with improving heart health. Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Emma Andrews from Pineapple Collective also says that, Little potatoes in particular, provide some amazing nutrients to keep your heart in tip-top shape:
One of our body’s main electrolytes, potassium is important to both the cellular and electrical functioning in our body. Secondly, it also plays a role in how our nerves fire, directly impacting muscle contraction and heartbeat. (Feb 22, 2017 Little Potatoes.com Blog post – Emma Andrews, RHN, Pineapple Collective).
Fiber is a carbohydrate that is found in fruits and vegetables. Fiber helps to slow down our digestion, helping to keep us fuller, longer, and in turn, promotes a healthy weight (a major plus for a healthy heart!) (Feb 22, 2017 Little Potatoes.com Blogpost – Emma Andrews, RHN, Pineapple Collective).
Iron-deficient anemia is a type of anemia where the blood lack sufficient red blood cells (the cells that carry oxygen from our lungs to our tissues). When we don’t have enough red blood cells, our heart must pump harder and faster to compensate for the lack of oxygen.
The potato has endured its up and downs over history. A hero in one era to a scoundrel in another. From these recent nutritional research findings, it appears that potatoes do provide nutrition important for our day-to-day bodily functions. Potatoes don’t have to hide in the shadows any longer and can be seen for the healthy alternative they are. Potatoes – you are nobody’s fool!
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