No, Potatoes Are Not Bad For You

It just depends on how you cook them.
These crispy, home-made chippies are a-okay.
These crispy, home-made chippies are a-okay.

Much to the dismay of everyone everywhere, new research has been released reporting people who eat more potatoes have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure.

Baked potatoes, boiled potatoes, steamed potatoes -- everything. How rude.

Potatoes have a pretty bad rap for being the devil of all vegetables and being 'fattening', but according to accredited practising dietitian Nicole Senior, potatoes are a perfectly nutritious food to eat -- as long as they're cooked in a healthy way and you're eating a wide range of other veggies.

"Potatoes are not especially 'fattening', and neither are carbs generally, but the way you eat them matters," Senior told The Huffington Post Australia.

"Sure, most potatoes are higher GI -- there are newer low GI varieties available such as Carisma and Nicola -- but that doesn't discount them from healthy diets. Eating them in moderate portions within a balanced meal with some lean protein and other vegetables helps reduce the GI of the meal and that's what counts."

Cooked and cooled potatoes are high in resistant starch -- a kind of dietary fibre -- that promotes gut health. Potatoes are also a good source of essential nutrients.

I think we need to go easy on criticising potatoes because they have many positive nutrients, such as fibre, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and potassium and they're filling (high satiety index). They're also very versatile, enjoyed by most people and easy to cook.

Just like any vegetable, potatoes contain important nutrients.
Just like any vegetable, potatoes contain important nutrients.

In regards to potatoes being linked to high blood pressure, Senior said the issue of hypertension is caused by many possible factors, which were not all covered in the study.

"This type of study cannot determine causality but simply identify possible issues and food-health relationships to explore further," Senior told HuffPost Australia.

"The trouble with this study is hypertension can be influenced by a variety of factors, some of which we don't fully understand. The study admits the highest potato eaters were less physically active and smoked more -- the potatoes may just be a marker of unhealthy lifestyle that can affect blood pressure."

According to Senior, it may not be high potato intake which is the issue, but that potatoes are taking the place of other coloured vegetables which may be protective.

"The study was on people in the U.S. and they are not known for their healthy eating habits or food supply," Senior said.

"The study found risks associated with eating potatoes four times a week -- that's a lot -- and it indicates a lack of dietary variety within the group studied over the period of the studies (1980s and 90s)."

Putting this study aside, do potatoes deserve their bad reputation?

"No. Vegetables are good for us and potatoes are a vegetable," Senior told HuffPost Australia.

"Focusing on one food is missing the forest for the trees because health benefits are achieved by healthy dietary patterns not individual foods."

To make sure we're using potatoes in healthier ways, Senior recommends leaving the junk food potato products for special occasions.

​"Potato fries and crisps are kilojoule dense, salty and available widely and cheaply, and this invites the possibility of overeating," Senior said.

"They are 'sometimes foods', and chips and gravy is not a balanced meal."

Best to keep French Fries as a treat.
Best to keep French Fries as a treat.

"Cook your potatoes using healthy fats (like olive or canola oil), skip the salt (use herbs like rosemary instead) and enjoy them within a balanced meal."

Sweet potatoes are another great option, but don't feel like you have to replace regular potatoes with them completely.

"Orange sweet potato is a healthy option with higher levels of beta-carotene to add variety to your meals, but there's no need to ditch regular potatoes," Senior said.

"Enjoy a variety of vegetables of different types and colour, including potatoes.

"Enjoy them cooked in healthy oil in modest portions within balanced meals along with other coloured vegetables."