Rather than deep-frying potatoes to make chips, choose to boil, steam or roast potatoes.
For as long as we can remember, the potato has been dubbed the enemy of the plate when it comes to our health.

But now, potato lovers will be happy to know that many experts have cleared it from being a health hazard, but only if cooked right.

Potatoes SA has recently received an endorsement from the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA that potatoes may be good for your heart.

“Consumers can now experience potatoes in a whole fresh light: quick and easy to prepare, economical and one healthy yet delicious bite at a time,” says Doctor André Jooste, chief executive of Potatoes SA.

“The Heart mark for us is significantly important as it identifies foods that are inherently healthy. The inclusion of fresh potatoes speaks volumes because the humble potato in its natural form, with skin on and correctly prepared, is versatile,” said Jooste.

Local celebrity chef Siba Mtongana agrees that potatoes are not bad for our health if they are steamed, boiled or baked.

“Many restaurants have been leaning towards that and have been serving the potatoes with skin because it’s a healthier option,” she said.

But an American study published in the British Medical Journal in 2016 has linked high intake of baked, boiled or mashed spuds and chips with high risk of hypertension, both in adult men and women.

According to the study, even though both sexes were affected by the adverse effects of potatoes, women were particularly at risk of developing hypertension.

On the other hand, a 13-year-long study of 69000 Swedes published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that potato intake is not associated with higher risk of heart attacks, stroke or heart failure.

Monique Piderit, a registered dietitian from Natural Solutions, said many people are worried that potatoes can cause weight gain.

She said potatoes in their natural form and with their skins on are fat-free, provide the body with loads of vital energy and are a superior source of potassium.

“There is no convincing evidence to suggest an association between intake of potatoes and risks of obesity, diabetes or heart disease.

“Fried chips may be associated with increased risks of obesity and diabetes. This is why it is important to prepare the potato in the right way.”

Piderit said an average potato serving of 150-180g contains virtually no fat, 3g of fibre, 3g of protein and around 24g of carbohydrate. Compared with other high-energy foods, potatoes are considered a better option because of their high water content.

Among the nutrients contained by potatoes are potassium, vitamin C, chromium, phosphorus, magnesium, folate, dietary fibre and polyphenols (antioxidants). Potassium plays a role in water balance and interacts with sodium to manage blood pressure.

Piderit said choosing the correct cooking method will have a significant impact on the healthfulness of your potato.

“Rather than deep-frying potatoes to make chips, choose to boil or steam potatoes, or roast with a quick drizzle of olive oil and fresh herbs like rosemary. You can also prepare potatoes in the microwave by pricking them a few times with a fork and placing on a dish with water in the microwave.

“Wrap potatoes in foil with a touch of margarine or butter, salt, pepper and fresh herbs and place in the coals of the next braai you enjoy with friends,” suggests Piderit.

As with any food, portion control is important.

The correct portion for potatoes is around 90-180g. Talk to a registered dietitian who can help you include potatoes as part of a healthy and balanced meal plan.