A study looked at the effect of eating potatoes every day, compared to eating the same number of calories in refined grains.
Potatoes are the most commonly consumed vegetable in the U.S., yet they often get a bad rap. Most are eaten the form of fries or chips, so many people consider them an unhealthy food.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Eating one medium-size potato a day can be part of a healthy diet and doesn’t increase cardiometabolic risk — the chances of having diabetes, heart disease or stroke — as long as the potato is steamed or baked, and prepared without adding too much salt or saturated fat, a study by nutritionists at The Pennsylvania State University found.
Consuming non-fried potatoes also led to higher potassium and fiber intake compared to eating refined grains, like white rice, white bread or pasta, they noted. The results were published last month in the British Journal of Nutrition.
“Certainly eating chips or french fries should be discouraged, but there are healthy ways to prepare potatoes, so I do think that lumping them all together is a little bit unfair to the poor potato,” Emily Johnston, study co-author and a doctoral student in the department of nutritional sciences at Penn State, told TODAY.
“We don’t want people to fear the potato, but we want to make sure that they eat it in a healthful way and in a controlled portion size.”
Prepared with minimal added salt and fat
For the study, researchers looked at the effect of eating potatoes every day, compared to eating the same number of calories in refined grains.
They recruited 50 healthy adults, whose baseline blood pressure and arterial stiffness were measured at the start of the study, and whose blood samples were checked for fasting glucose, cholesterol, insulin and other markers. Those checks were repeated throughout the study.
The participants were then randomly assigned to replace their usual main meal starchy side dish with a study side dish: either 200 calories worth of potatoes or refined grains, as prepared by the Metabolic Diet Study Center at Penn State. They ate this way every day for four weeks.