The Vitamin-Packed Carb Registered Dietitians Are No Longer Telling Their Clients To Avoid

French fries, hash browns, potato chips—for decades, potatoes have been vilified. They're one of those veggies packed with carbs and often prepared in such unhealthy ways that they've practically become synonymous with weight gain. And even worse, because they're usually fried or drenched in oil, consuming potato-based products has been linked with heart disease, cancer and dementia.

But is the potato itself unhealthy? Not so much. Actually, this starchy veggie is packed with vitamin C, potassium and fiber. In fact, because they contain so many nutrients, people historically relied on the hearty potato as an important food source to help prevent scurvy when other fruits and vegetables were scarce.

Here's what's so great about potatoes—and why you should consider eating more of them.

Why Registered Dietitians Want You To Eat More Potatoes

Maggie Michalczyk, RD and founder of Once Upon a Pumpkin, emphasizes the impressive nutritional content of potatoes. "Potatoes are a versatile and widely consumed vegetable that often get a bad rap due to unhealthy preparations like deep frying or excessive butter and cheese toppings," she says. "When prepared in a healthy way, potatoes can offer several health benefits—they’re a good source of essential vitamins like vitamin C which is a powerful antioxidant, and minerals, like potassium which helps the body maintain proper fluid balance."

Plus, she explains, potatoes are a great source of carbohydrates—and that's actually not a bad thing. "Carbs are the primary fuel for your brain and a key source of energy for muscles to help perform and recover from exercise," she says.

While Michalczyk is all for the consumption of the classic white potato, sweet potatoes have even more nutrients.

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"White potatoes are an excellent source of potassium and vitamin C but are lower in other nutrients like vitamin A and fiber that sweet potatoes are higher in," she says. "Sweet potatoes are rich in fiber, vitamin C and vitamin A thanks to their orange color. Both white and sweet potatoes contain antioxidants that help combat oxidative stress and reduce the risk of chronic diseases, including certain cancers and heart disease. All types of potatoes can be included in a healthy balanced diet."

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The Preparation Methods That Make Potatoes Unhealthy

As Michalczyk stated above, the main reason potatoes get such a bad reputation is because they're often prepared in unhealthy ways.

"Deep-frying potatoes in unhealthy oils can significantly increase their calorie and fat content, promoting weight gain and increasing the risk of cardiovascular problems," she says. "Opt for healthier cooking methods like boiling, baking or steaming rather than deep frying. These methods preserve the nutritional value of potatoes while minimizing the addition of unhealthy fats and calories. Opt for toppings like plain Greek yogurt and herbs and spices to complement their flavor in a healthy way."

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How Many Potatoes Are Too Many Potatoes?

While people may have literally lived off potatoes in the old days, that's probably not the best move in 2023. But, you can eat them every day if you want, Michalczyk says.

"Just like with most foods, ideal consumption of potatoes depends on factors such as individual dietary needs, overall calorie intake and physical activity levels," she says. "Considering preparation methods and portion sizes is important when adding them into your diet on a daily basis."

She also suggests balancing potato consumption with other nutrient-rich veggies can ensure a well-rounded intake of essential nutrients.

Long story short: When incorporated into your diet in a healthy way, potatoes can be an inexpensive, delicious way to eat a nutrient-rich diet. Just skip the McDonald's fries when you can.

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