Potatoes are a durable quarantine staple. Not only can they last for several weeks stored in a cool, dark, space, but did you know that potatoes are a good source of Vitamin C?! Potatoes are a low calorie food, but they have a high carbohydrate value. If you have Diabetes, you can lower the glycemic index of potatoes by cooling them after they cook.
Potatoes have a special quality of “resistant starch” which means that the starch is mostly not digested and arrives in your colon undigested to feed your gut bacteria and improve digestive health. This is the concept of “pre-biotic”, because it helps to develop your gut microbiome. Think about your meals as eating for two- yourself and your gizillion bacterial friends living inside you, your microbiome.
While we know that potatoes are rich in carbohydrates, some studies have shown that potatoes can actually increase weight loss by making people feel full earlier and thereby ingest less calories overall. There is even a protein in potatoes that helps to suppress appetite. The high potassium and minerals are thought to improve high blood pressure and cardiac health. A cold potato limits the amount of sugar available to your body and is thereby less glycemic. I knew a patient who was an expert skier and hiker who told me he would pack cold baked potatoes in his backpack. That is probably a better snack than most energy bars!
Potatoes are versatile and can be boiled, steamed, and baked. Leaving the skin on the potato when cooking leads to increased availability of Vitamin C. The potato skin also adds to the fiber benefits of potatoes. Frying potatoes can make them beautiful and delicious, but avoid this temptation as it will often strip many of the nutritional benefits reported above. Do your best to bake, boil, or steam your potatoes.
Charles Dickens once wrote, “Papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes, and prism are all very good words for the lips”. As it turns out, some of these are also good for your guts.