THE talk might be all about the turkey, but really it’s the roast potatoes that most of us actually fight over at Christmas dinner.
Crispy on the outside, fluffy in the middle and the perfect soaker-upper of gravy, there’s nothing better than a roastie.
The average Brit will eat around 103kg of potatoes a year, whether mashed, baked or as chips dunked in mayo, according to potato packers W Moore & Son.
Now a new study by the Pennington Bio-medical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana has revealed that potatoes are not only packed with key nutrients, they don’t actually contribute to type 2 diabetes either.
The Center’s Professor Candida Rebello said: “We demonstrated that contrary to common belief, potatoes do not negatively impact blood glucose levels.
“In fact, the individuals who participated in our study lost weight.”
What’s more, scientists at Edith Cowan University in Australia found health issues associated with potatoes may actually be down to how people prepare and eat them, and if you boil them, they are “no longer associated with a higher risk of diabetes”.
Meanwhile scientists at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland have discovered bioactive compounds called glycoalkaloids found in potatoes could have the potential to treat cancer.
Feeling hungry now? Here are just some of the other ways potatoes are good for you . . .
SKIN IN THE GAME
Spuds are rich in nutrients, but Becky Graham, nutritionist and health specialist at online food shop Get More Vits, said: “Always remember that most of the nutrition comes from the skin.
“Jacket potatoes are your best friend, so quit peeling them.
“Potatoes contain key vitamins and minerals, including almost 30 per cent of the recommended daily allowance for vitamins C and B6 as well as potassium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, niacin (B3, which helps your body turn food into energy) and folate (B9).
“Vitamin C is an antioxidant and potatoes contain even more anti-oxidants in the form of flavonoids, carotenoids and phenolic acids.
“Antioxidants are crucial for helping to mop up free radicals (unstable particles that can damage cells) in the body, which are created as a result of normal bodily processes as well as diet, stress, smoking, alcohol, exercise, medications and pollutants.
Not all potatoes are created equal though. Becky said: “You’ll get even more nutritional bang for your buck with sweet and purple potatoes.
“Generally the more colourful the fruit and veg, the greater the concentration of nutrients.”
A happy gut micro-biome — the “good” bacteria in our digestive system — is vital for overall mental and physical health, and potatoes can help.
Becky said: “Potatoes contain resistance starch, which is not broken down by the body during digestion and can reach the large intestine intact.
“Resistance starch is a prebiotic, meaning it can be used as fuel to feed beneficial bacteria.
“This produces short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate, which provide an energy source for cells in the large intestine.
“Butyrate has been found to help manage inflammation and keep your bowel healthy.
“To maximise resistance starch, make potato salad and store it in the fridge. The content increases as potatoes cool.”
OFF THE SCALE
Trying to lose weight? Potatoes can be a great help with managing appetite.
Becky said: “They contain fibre which helps us feel full up.
“They are also low in calories and virtually fat free at only around 0.1g per 100g.
“Unfortunately, this does not extend to crisps and chips, as they are usually deep fried in oils which bump the fat and calories right up, so stick to boiled or baked if you’re weight-watching.”
Saba Stone, nutritionist at sport coaching website sportsession. com, said: “A medium-sized potato contains 40 per cent more potassium than an average banana.
“Potassium is an electrolyte that supports nerve and muscle function, as well as negating the effects of sodium on raising blood pressure.
“Studies show it may boost a good night’s sleep, so it’s a good idea to include some steamed baby potatoes or a medium-size baked potato with your dinner.”
Spuds are good for keeping you going, thanks to their starch.
Saba said: “Starch is a type of carbohydrate that breaks down into glucose and provides quick energy for the body to use, so potatoes are a good source of calories if a quick, filling meal is needed.”
Starch tends to be our main source of carbohydrates, but don’t overdo it — they should be included as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
Eating too many carbs can lead to weight gain and sugar crashes.
HOW TO EAT THEM
Saba said: “They are budget-friendly, are extremely versatile and have a good shelf-life, provided they are stored somewhere cool, dark and dry.
“A little tip is to store them in a brown paper bag — they’ll last much longer than they would in plastic.”
But do bear in mind that how you cook them is crucial if you want to bag their health benefits.
Saba said: “Potatoes can be a healthy addition to a balanced diet if they are steamed, boiled or baked and consumed with the skin on.
“Don’t top them with cheese or rich, creamy sauces. Instead, drizzle them with olive oil and top with Greek yoghurt with herbs and garlic.
“Just remember, like everything, portion control is the key.”
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