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Healthy potatoes

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nutrition-healthy-eat-mostheart_foundation_imageThe New Zealand Ministry of Health Guidelines include potatoes in their recommendation of three vegetable serves per day. For good health it is essential to eat five or more servings of fresh fruit and vegetables each day.

Baked, boiled, microwaved or mashed potatoes are a great way to get one serving towards your 5 a day target. Remember, a serving is about a handful – what will fit in the palm of your hand. However, common sense should prevail and consumers are not encouraged to include products which have a high fat content e.g. crisps or fries. Anecdotal experience has shown that most consumers understand this to be the case in exactly the same way as they would not count a slice of apricot cheesecake as a piece of fruit.

The Heart Foundation classes potatoes as a carbohydrate along with kumara, corn, taro, rice, pasta and bread.

 

 

Eating plenty of vegetables and fruit reduces the risk of coronary heart disease.

Potatoes are a valuable source of nutrients including a range of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre (refer full Nutrition Information Panel for details). Nutrients are important in a well balanced diet to aid a variety of bodily functions, see below some of the key nutritional benefits of potatoes.

Potatoes contain 10% or more of the recommended dietary intake (RDI) of the following nutrients:

  • vitamin C
  • folate
  • thiamin
  • niacin
  • pantothenic acid, and
  • potassium.
Potatoes are also a source of dietary fibre and contain a diverse range of phytonutrients. Refer to our Potato Nutrition Booklet for more information.
Remember to retain the nutritional benefits of potatoes by cooking and eating them in healthy ways. For more information view the preparing and cooking potatoes page.
Read what Deb Sue, Heart Foundation and Sarah Hanrahan, Nutrition Foundation say about the nutritional content of potatoes.

Nutrients in a potato

Vitamins and minerals

Potatoes contain around 10% or more of the recommended dietary intake (RDI) of the following nutrients:

  • Potassium
  • Vitamin C
  • Folate
  • Niacin
  • Thiamin
  • Pantothenic acid

Potassium

Potatoes are a good sources of potassium. It is a mineral that is part of every cell in the body. It helps regulate fluid and mineral balance in and out of cells, and in doing so, helps and counteracts the negative effects of sodium.

Studies show that people who get plenty of potassium in their diet are less likely to suffer from high blood pressure and this will reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes.

Potassium also:

  • contributes to growth and development in children
  • helps in normal functioning of the nervous system
  • contributes to muscle function in the body

Most New Zealanders do not get enough potassium as they do not eat enough fruit and vegetables. Potatoes have more potassium than other vegetables and contain 602mg per 150g serve of boiled potatoes (402mg per 100g serve), which is more than a banana (358mg per 100g serve, according to USDA figures).

Vitamin C

A healthy body needs a regular source of vitamin C. Potatoes are a good source of vitamin C with levels of 9-19mg per 100g. This equates to between 34% and 71% RDI per 150g serve. Vitamin C is water soluble and cannot be stored in the body so it is necessary to have some every day.

Vitamin C is necessary for:

  • blood vessel structure and function
  • normal neurological and psychological function
  • healthy connective tissue structure and function – e.g. gums, tendons, ligaments, skin, bone and cartilage.

Vitamin C contributes to:

  • growth and development in children
  • collagen formation for the structure of cartilage and bones
  • collagen formation for the function of skin, teeth and gums
  • immune system function
  • the reduction of tiredness and fatigue
  • cell protection from free radical damage.

Vitamin C:

  • assists healing processes such as fighting infections
  • helps the body absorb iron from food.
  • is an antioxidant which has protective roles against some chronic diseases.

Most New Zealanders get around 30% of all their vitamin C from potatoes. A baked potato has more vitamin C than an apple. Rice and pasta contain no vitamin C.

B group vitamins

Folate (B9)

Potatoes are a source of folate and supply 11-17% of the RDI in a 150g serve. Folate is necessary for normal blood formation and cell division, and contributes to:

  • growth and development in children
  • maternal tissue growth during pregnancy
  • amino acid synthesis
  • immune system function
  • the reduction of tiredness and fatigue.

Niacin (B3)

Potatoes are a good source of niacin and supply up to 25% RDI in a 150g serve. Niacin (vitamin B3) is necessary for:

  • normal neurological function
  • energy release from food
  • structure and function of skin and mucous membranes
  • the reduction of tiredness and fatigue.

Niacin contributes to:

  • growth and development in children
  • normal psychological function
  • the reduction of tiredness and fatigue.

Pantothenic acid (B5)

Potatoes are a source of pantothenic acid and supply 10-12% RDI in a 150g serve. Pantothenic acid is necessary for normal fat metabolism and contributes to:

  • normal mental performance
  • the reduction of tiredness and fatigue.

Thiamin (B1)

Potatoes are a source of thiamin and can supply up to 10% RDI in a 150g serve. Thiamin is necessary for normal carbohydrate metabolism and normal neurological and cardiac function as well as contributing to psychological function.

Source: The composition and health benefits of potatoes – an update (2009-2013), Lister C.E., October 2013. The report is available for download.