Potatoes: Bad Guys or Cancer-Fighters?

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Read an article about foods you shouldn’t eat and white potatoes may well be on the list. The starchy staple is linked in some studies to overweight and obesity and we lag far behind in getting enough non-starchy veggies, like leafy greens, summer squash, broccoli and colorful peppers, all shown to lower risk for several kinds of cancer. But are potatoes so nutrition-poor we should never eat them?

Potatoes’ bad nutritional reputation probably stems more from how we are eating them, rather than the spud itself. share-of-potato-sources-for-us-consumersA recent report from the USDA Economic Research Service shows that, depending on where we eat them, one-third to two-thirds of our potatoes are chips or fries. Even at home, we eat potatoes as chips more than any other way.

Consider that a small serving of fries or chips is double the small potato’s calories, 10 times the fat and less than half the vitamin C. We just need to re-think the potato on our plate, not eliminate.

Here’s what you get when you eat a small boiled potato with the skin: about 130 calories, 3 grams cancer-fighting fiber, at least 20 percent of daily potassium and vitamin C needs, and significant amounts of niacin, folate and magnesium. That’s pretty similar to nutrients in a very large banana. And research shows potatoes contain phytochemicals such as phenolics, flavonoids and carotenoids.

At AICR, we do encourage you to eat more cancer-preventive colorful, non-starchy vegetables, but we don’t shy away from including the white potato on the New American Plate. Here’s the key – keep the skin, limit the add-ons and pair with other colorful veggies for a powerful cancer-fighting meal.

Try these healthy and delicious potato recipes:

Green Peas and Red Potatoes with Fresh Dill

Summer Veggie Soup

Country Potato Salad

Cauliflower-Potato Bake


Author: Alice RD

Alice G. Bender, MS, RDN, is the Director of Nutrition Programs at AICR. She helps put the science of cancer prevention into action by providing tips and tools to choose nutritious and delicious foods. Alice has guided thousands of individuals to healthier lives through diet changes and choices.

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