April Fool’s Day is here again, so we figured there’s no better time to pull back the truth on the top five potato myths that have countless people fooled—maybe even you.
After all, there’s plenty of chatter going on about how these tasty spuds aren’t all they’re cut out to be, but we bet you’ll be surprised how much of it is certifiably F.A.L.S.E.
Okay, let’s dig right in to our first slice of potato fiction, shall we?
Myth #1: Potatoes are high in carbs, which means they’ll make you gain weight.
First of all, carbohydrates have an unfairly bum rap. In reality, we all need carbohydrates to live. They’re the primary fuel that our muscles burn to keep us active, and they’re the ONLY source of energy utilized by our brains. And despite what advertisements or fad diets claim, carbohydrates can’t be blamed for extra inches to your waistline.
Fact is, clinical studies show there is no association between potato consumption and obesity.1 These aren’t some fat-laden, processed food. They are a nutrient rich vegetable that—yes—has carbohydrates, but that doesn’t mean they’ll up the number on your bathroom scale. Potatoes can actually be a fantastic addition to any weight management program as they’re highly satisfying and jam-packed with nutrients and filling fiber. Now there’s some food for thought.
Myth #2: Potatoes have a high glycemic index (GI).
This one’s easy because the numbers don’t lie. The GI of potatoes is highly variable, so this whole “Potatoes always have a high GI, so I’m steering clear” thing is totally unreasonable. The glycemic index is not a set property of a food but rather depends on a variety of different factors, including processing and preparation; variety, origin and maturity; and the addition of other macronutrients (protein, fat and fiber). For example, the GI for potato varieties range from a low of 56 for a boiled Pontiac potato grown in Australia to a high of 111 for a baked U.S. Russet Burbank.2 Myth disproven? Yeah, we thought so too.
Myth #3: All of potatoes’ nutrients are found in the skin.
Wrong again. There are countless potato lovers who insist that peeling a potato reduces the nutritional value to next-to-nothing. But the truth is, the only nutrient that’s significantly lost when you peel a potato is fiber (you’ll go from about 2g to 1g after peeling). The good news is that the majority of a potato’s valuable potassium and vitamin C are found in the flesh.
Myth #4: Sweet potatoes are healthier than white ones.
For this particular myth, it all comes down to prep and perception. First off, white potatoes are commonly consumed in a highly processed form, like French fries for instance, while sweet potatoes tend to be enjoyed in a more natural state. Of course this discrepancy makes a difference to the nutrition value of a dish, but we can’t credit that to the potatoes themselves, but rather the preparation method and added ingredients.
What’s more, there is very comparable nutrition between sweet and white potatoes, but it’s just focused on different things. For instance, where sweet potatoes have more fiber and vitamin A, white potatoes have more iron and magnesium. So it’s really more of a tradeoff than a competition.
Myth #5: Potatoes are just empty calories.
We’re going to keep this one short simply because this idea is just downright ridiculous. Yes, potatoes are starchy, but that doesn’t mean they have nothing more to offer than calories. The average unpeeled spud is actually incredibly nutrient dense with 3g of protein, 620mg of potassium, 2 g of fiber, 45% DV of vitamin C, 10% DV of vitamin B6, plus ZERO sodium, ZERO fat and only 110 calories. Case closed.
So, we hope that helps clear up some of the untruths surrounding spuds these days. Next time someone brings up one of these potato myths, you can tell them they’re full of sprouts! Happy April Fool’s Day!
1 Center for Disease Control, Economic Research Service, USDA, Vegetables and Specialties Situation and Outlook Yearbook, 2008; CDC 2008
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by wenday