Don't Judge a Food By Its Color: Put Some White in Your Bite

Bonnie Taub-Dix
May 16, 2013

We've been told that the more color a fruit or vegetable displays, the more nutrients you'll find within. Although this may be true for some produce, "White Vegetables: A Forgotten Source of Nutrients" - published this month in the American Society for Nutrition's journal Advances in Nutrition - reminds us that when it comes to veggies, we ought to pay attention to white.

The new research shows that there is not as strong a relationship between color and the vegetable's nutrient and polyphenol composition as previously believed. Even colorless or white veggies, like potatoes, onions, turnips, parsnips, cauliflower and mushrooms, make a generous contribution to the many essential nutrients we lack in our diets - particularly fiber, potassium and magnesium. These also help improve overall veggie intake among children, teens and adults.

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The potassium content of a potato is especially attractive, since 97 percent of Americans don't get enough of this important nutrient, which plays a key role in managing blood pressure. We often rely on the banana's reputation as the potassium king, but actually, a small, plain baked potato with skin (138 grams) provides 738 milligrams of potassium and only 128 calories. A large banana (136 grams) provides a similar number of calories, but considerably less potassium: 487 milligrams.

A medium potato with skin also provides nearly 4 grams of fiber, another nutrient we're often short in. That's equivalent to the amount of fiber in half a cup of broccoli. Potatoes also contain vitamin C, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, thiamin, riboflavin, zinc, boron, copper and folate, which make it a great gateway veggie. It's well-liked by all age groups and is easy on your wallet. Here's how you can bring out the best in your spuds:

-- Top a steamy baked potato with Greek yogurt, part-skim cheese or your favorite bean dip as a quick lunch or super side-dish at dinner.

-- Combine potatoes of varying colors with other veggies, then add your favorite spices, drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven.

-- Trim the calories and boost the nutrients in homemade mashed potatoes by leaving the skins on and mashing them with sodium-reduced chicken broth, skim milk or pureed veggies instead of peeling and smashing with butter and cream.

-- Cut the amount of mayo in potato salad by combining it with Greek yogurt. In addition to ditching fat calories, this will add protein and calcium.

-- Cooking techniques have a significant impact on nutrient value. Baking, roasting or microwaving will provide a more potent potato than boiling.

Now that summer is right around the corner, get ready to put some white on and in your body. White vegetables are nutrient powerhouses, so it's time to make room on your plate alongside their colorful counterparts.

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Bonnie Taub-Dix consults with the Alliance for Potato Research & Education to provide nutritional information about potatoes.

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Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN, has been owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC, for more than three decades and she is the author of Read It Before You Eat It. As a renowned motivational speaker, author, media personality, and award-winning dietitian, Taub-Dix has found a way to communicate how to make sense of science. Her website is