All Potatoes Are Not Created Equal

by Melissa Gellert

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday October 30, 2020

All Potatoes Are Not Created Equal
  (Source:Getty Images)

First of all, this isn't a carb-shaming article. Carbs, and potatoes specifically, have been vilified for years, but I'm here to tell you that they aren't all bad, and the oft-touted preferred alternative, sweet potatoes, have their issues as well. (If you're confused about whether you should be eating carbohydrates or how many you should be aiming for in a day, working with a nutritional consultant can give you some clarity.)

Potatoes are a good source of vitamin B6, potassium, copper, vitamin C, manganese, and phosphorus. They also have a compound called kukoamines that has been shown to lower blood pressure. Potatoes, along with tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant are part of the nightshade family, which may be problematic and inflammatory for people with arthritis, IBD, and autoimmune diseases. Working with a qualified professional can help you with an elimination diet to pinpoint problematic foods if this is a concern. Everyone is different, so eliminating whole food groups without guidance can be akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Additionally, potatoes contain 'resistant starch,' which has recently been shown to help feed the good bacteria in the gut without actually spiking the blood sugar under specific conditions. (Cooked, then cooled, and not re-heated.)

There are three main types of potatoes that each of the varieties falls under: Waxy (Adirondack Blue, New Potatoes, Fingerlings), Starchy (Russet), All-Purpose (Yukon, Purple Peruvian).

Waxy is better for roasting and potato salads — any application where you want them to hold their shape. Starchy potatoes are good for soups, and as the name implies, all-purpose can handle most applications.

Sweet potatoes, a root vegetable, come in different varieties too (around 400!), and the varied-colored flesh have differing amounts of anthocyanins, which are anti-inflammatory. They're high in beta carotene, vitamin C, manganese, and copper. Sweet potatoes are known for their ability to regulate blood sugar, and they're a great starchy option if you're sensitive to potatoes. And, if you're confused about the difference between yams and sweet potatoes, you're not alone. True yams are not easily found in the United States, so if you see a sign at the grocery store, you can assume it's likely a sweet potato.

If you're looking for another starchy root vegetable option to add variety to your diet, cassava (also known as yuca) is worth trying. However, it's more calorie-dense and less vitamin-rich than sweet potatoes. Cassava is another vegetable that contains resistant starch, but there are some potential dangers if prepared improperly, most notably cyanide poisoning! To reduce the possible adverse effects from the anti-nutrients it contains, peeling, soaking, and thoroughly cooking cassava is recommended, as well as making sure to pair it with protein (which helps the body deal with cyanide).

You might be asking yourself at this point, what are anti-nutrients? Anti-nutrients are substances found mostly in grains, legumes, and other plant foods. Lectins, phytates and tannins are a few anti-nutrients to be aware of because they can bind to minerals, prevent their absorption, and irritate the stomach lining.

White potatoes contain both phytates and lectins, and sweet potatoes contain lectins but no phytates, cassava is low in phytates, high in tannins, and its lectins are neutralized during cooking. The critical thing to remember is that proper preparation helps neutralize anti-nutrients, and eating a variety of foods will prevent exposure to an overabundance of any one of the anti-nutrients. (PSA: You may want to avoid lectins if you're dealing with any digestive issues or autoimmune conditions.)

Greek Lemon-Roasted Potatoes
(Source: Getty Images)

Greek Lemon-Roasted Potatoes

Adapted from a recipe from marthastewart.com

Serves 8

4 large russet baking potatoes (8 medium), quartered
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
1 cup filtered water
1 tablespoon dried oregano, preferably Greek oregano
2 teaspoons pink Himalayan salt

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Place potatoes in a parchment-lined rimmed half-sheet pan large enough to fit potatoes in a single layer. Combine 1 cup water, olive oil, lemon juice, dried oregano, salt, and pepper in a measuring cup. Stir until the salt is dissolved. Pour over the potatoes and make sure all surfaces are well coated.

Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, then turn the potatoes, so another surface is face-down. Cook another 25 minutes until easily pierced with a knife and nicely browned. (Add water mid-way if all the liquid has been absorbed.)

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Recommendations are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from health care practitioners.

Melissa Gellert is a Certified Nutritional Consultant and private chef based in New York City. chefmelissagellert.com

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