Consumer Watchdog: Keep eyes peeled for potatoes

By Celeste Gorrell Anstiss

Potatoes have a lot more vitamins than rice and pasta.
Photo / Thinkstock
Potatoes have a lot more vitamins than rice and pasta. Photo / Thinkstock

Spuds are quiet achievers, offering twice the vitamin C of blueberries

They're called super foods, but nutrition experts are urging people not to fall completely for the hype.

They point out the humble potato is more nutritious than many so-called super foods, with more vitamin C than blueberries, more B-group vitamins than green vegetables and nearly twice the potassium of bananas.

Super foods - often expensive, exotic and out of season - have come into vogue because of their high antioxidant and vitamin values. They include almonds, avocado, chia seeds, cacao beans and oily fish.

But tests reveal the potato is just as good: in 500mg servings, it has twice the vitamin C of blueberries and around the same amount of dietary fibre as a banana.

Nutrition Foundation chief executive Sue Pollard says potatoes are also one of the cheapest health foods available.

"Potatoes have a lot more vitamins than rice and pasta," she says.

Potatoes contain more fibre than rice and pasta, and have a higher "satiety index" rating, which indicates how long the feeling of fullness lasts. "It is a good, standard food to have every day."

Pollard is not a fan of the "super food" craze because it gives people the impression that specific foods are better than others.

"All fruits and vegetables are good, including potatoes. Each of them has unique values."

Someone who eats blueberries every day on their porridge would be better off alternating with other fruit to get a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals, she adds.

Nutritionist Nikki Hart agrees potatoes are hugely underrated by diet-conscious consumers.

"They are a much maligned food. But it's what we do to potatoes that give them a bad reputation.

"People often deep-fry or douse them in oil or put cupfuls of mayonnaise on them."

She says a recent study has shown a cold, boiled potato is particularly high in "resistance starch", a type of fibre good for the digestive system.

Hart recommends leaving the skin on and buying small potatoes that don't need slicing to maximise health benefits. Otherwise "you're going to lose some of the goodness".

Benefits of the potato

Frozen blueberries, chia seeds, raw cocoa powder and salmon are some of the "super" foods on Stephanie Hatten's weekly shopping list.

She has done her research - reading books and attending health food retreats - and is sure she owes her good health to her antioxidant-rich diet. "I got into it about a year and a half ago," the 22-year-old says. "I definitely feel better for it."

However, Hatten was stunned to learn potatoes were just as nutritious as many of the expensive products she buys at health stores.

"It's not that I intentionally avoid them, I just don't seek them out. I wouldn't usually buy them. I think I'll have to go read up on them now," she says.

The benefit of the potato comes as no surprise to farmer Terry Olsen, whose family has grown potatoes for two generations.

"I don't know about the super foods, but I've never had any health issues," he says.

"My favourite would probably be a cold, boiled potato on its own. I don't peel them. All the goodness is in the skin."

- Herald on Sunday

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