I’m a Dietitian, This Is the One Vegetable I Never Leave the Grocery Store Without
I buy lots of fruits and veggies at the store, but the humble potato is always stocked at my house. Here’s why I think potatoes deserve a spot on your plate, too.
I'm a dietitian, but my shopping cart is filled with more than kale and organic apples. Sure, I buy lots of vegetables, but also processed foods, pasta and desserts (because I'm human, too). I try to create a flexible meal plan every week, and mix up my vegetables based on what's on the menu. But there's one vegetable that always makes the cut—the humble potato. And not just sweet potatoes, which typically get lots of nutrition love, I love all kinds of potatoes, purple, white, red and every color in between.
When it comes to eating enough vegetables, most Americans don't get enough. Potatoes happen to be the most consumed vegetable in the U.S. (followed by tomatoes) and that's mostly because we love french fries and pizza sauce. I'm not advocating for eating more french fries, though they are delicious. But potatoes go far beyond fries and they have a bad reputation because they're a starchy vegetable (read, not low carb) that's often fried. I've always loved potatoes and here's why I never leave the grocery store without them.
Why I love potatoes
Potatoes are more nutritious than you might think. One medium russet potato gives you:
- 164 calories
- 0 g fat
- 37 g carbohydrate
- 4 g fiber
- 2 g sugars
- 5 g protein
- 24 mg sodium
- 926 mg potassium
- 14 mg vitamin C
Yes the carb count is on the high side for a vegetable, but look at the amazing nutrients you're getting. 4 grams of heart-healthy fiber, 5 grams of plant-based protein and about 35% of your daily potassium needs. Potassium is an important nutrient for blood pressure, bone density and even plays a role in insulin secretion in our body. Potatoes are also considered a complex carbohydrate, because they're nutrient rich and take longer to digest than simple carbs.
Potatoes are also a source of resistant starch, which is important for a healthy gut and helps your body burn fat.
Related: Are Potatoes Healthy?
One barrier to healthy eating is that it can be expensive, especially if you're buying lots of fresh produce. Luckily, potatoes are relatively inexpensive. You can buy a 5-pound bag of potatoes for around $3. That's a lot of nutrition bang for your buck, especially compared to other fresh vegetables. (In fact, they're one of our top picks for healthy and cheap foods to buy).
If you find yourself wondering what to do with limp lettuce or are throwing away moldy cucumbers at the end of every week, consider the potato your best friend. Potatoes can last two to three months, when you store them the right way (here's our guide to storing potatoes but the gist is, don't put them in the fridge or bright sun!). I love that this vegetable will last a long time, so if plans change and we don't make roasted potatoes one night, our potatoes won't go bad.
Related: Healthy Potato Side Dish Recipes
Ways to enjoy
Paired with protein, like salmon or chicken, and a non-starchy vegetable, like broccoli or Brussels sprouts, they're part of an easy and balanced dinner. There are so many different ways to enjoy potatoes. There's the classic baked potato, hash browns, mashed potatoes and simply roasted as a side dish. They work well in soups, curries, or cooked up in the air-fryer. The sky is the limit when it comes to potatoes—they are one versatile vegetable.
Eating a variety of vegetables is important for better health. They all provide important vitamins and minerals and antioxidants. It pains me when people shun potatoes as "empty carbs" or "too high in calories" because this spud is healthy and deserves some of the nutrition love we constantly lavish on other vegetables. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to make some melting potatoes (yum!).
Welcome to The Beet. A weekly column where nutrition editor and registered dietitian Lisa Valente tackles buzzy nutrition topics and tells you what you need to know, with science and a little bit of sass.