The index of the classic cookbook, The Joy of Cooking, lists a grand total of 67 uses for potatoes.
There are potato dumplings. Chantilly potatoes. Boiled, baked, and fried potatoes. Grated and pan-broiled, au gratin, O’Brien and Dauphine. And then there are all the mixed dishes.
Potatoes are a very versatile starchy staple—and it helps that they are downright cheap. According to Peapod, the online grocery store, one large baking potato will only set you back 79 cents.
And for being so cheap, they are rich in nutrients.
Potatoes are an easily digestible source of energy (about 80 percent of a fresh potato is water, and 60 to 80 percent of the remaining solid matter is starch). They are also moderate in calories—a medium baked potato only has about 160.
They are devoid of cholesterol; very low in fat, saturated fat, and sodium; and are an excellent source of vitamin C. In fact, aside from orange juice and tomato sauce, potatoes are the only reliable source of vitamin C in many people’s diets.
Spuds provide good amounts of vitamins B1, B3, and B6, and minerals like potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium. And on top of that, when they’re served in their jackets, they give a healthy dose of fiber.
Looking at nutrition vs. cost, the potato is an excellent bargain.
But is it a food you can enjoy if you have diabetes, or are overweight?
There are a couple of things to consider before you get an answer. First, potatoes are very easily digested. They tend to be high glycemic index foods, meaning the starch turns to sugar (glucose) and enters the blood rapidly, raising blood glucose quickly.
Second, many of the potato products we eat are highly processed and contain a boatload of added fats. Think crinkle fries cooked in oil with salt and ketchup, or baked potatoes with cheese and bacon bits.
But by choosing a reasonable portion of potatoes in their less adulterated and lower GI forms, they can be a very healthful and delicious part of the diet, whether you have diabetes or not. Substitute that cheese and bacon with a tablespoon of light sour cream or low-fat cottage cheese and a sprinkling of chives.
And if you are looking to keep the GI on the lower side, think about adding an acid and eating them cold. Picture a colorful potato and vegetable salad made with a low-fat vinaigrette dressing as a side for lunch.
So sure, go ahead and eat potatoes—in moderation, of course. Like most foods, potatoes can work in any kind of diet, as long as you make the healthy choices.