January 07, 2012

Nutrition in White Potatoes

At my current dietetic internship rotation, I had to write a letter to a state congressman about a topic that I was passionate about. I chose to write about white potatoes. The reason is because WIC (women, infants, and children), which is a program that gives free food to pregnant women, babies, and children up to 5, does not allow potatoes. Each mom and child are given a certain monetary value that they can spend on fresh fruits and vegetables here in Michigan and they can pretty much get any fruit or vegetable except for white potatoes. I wrote a letter explaining why white potatoes can be a good choice for people.

Sometimes it feels as though the legislators who are in control of national and state assistance programs have little to no knowledge of nutrition. Those with a health science degree who have studied, and even those have not, can point out obvious problem with the way these programs function. One of the main problems with the system is the things that are eligible to be covered by coupons, vouchers and food stamps. Chips and candy are covered while many types of tea are not. You can buy soda anywhere that accepts EBT, but you cannot use food stamps at many fruit stands. The heavy corporate hand in the nutrition industry has made it very difficult for those who lives on a small budget to eat in a healthy manner.  National food programs need to be updated with the best interest of their clients in mind, continuing to structure them around libel, lobbying and subsidies is sentencing children around the nation to a lifetime of obesity and poor health.

Here is some of the information on why white potatoes are healthy when enjoyed in moderation:
   White potatoes have many nutritional benefits. A medium sized white potato has 4.3 grams of
protein. This is a higher level of protein than almost any vegetable. The body needs protein to
help build enzymes and tissues in the body. It also contains 4 grams of fiber which is 15% of
your daily requirement. Fiber helps to keep you full and helps with digestion. It contains 926
mg of potassium (27% daily value). Potassium helps to contract the heart muscle and with water
balance. It is also full of vitamin C (27% of the daily value). Vitamin C helps to protect the cells
from byproducts.

   Sweet potatoes are very similar in terms of nutrition except that they also have
lots of vitamin A. Even though the sweet potato has more vitamin A, regular white potatoes still
have important nutrients that should not be discounted.
   White potatoes are very versatile. They can be eaten for any of the three meals during the day.
There are healthy ways to prepare them such as boiling, baking, roasting, etc. The white potato
often gets a bad rap because they can be used in unhealthy dishes such as potato chips or French
fries. Many times, people top a baked potato with unhealthy options such as cheese, sour
cream, or bacon. Although these options are not very healthy, there are plenty of options that are.

   A white potato can be included as part of a healthy meal. It is often thought that white potatoes
contribute to an expanding waistline. This is not true unless you are eating more calories than
your body is burning. An example of a balanced and healthy meal that contains a baked potato
is: 3 ounces cooked garlic chicken, 1/2 cup roasted green beans, 8 ounces of skim milk, and
1 medium baked potato.

   A potato should be treated like a starch more than a vegetable and
consumers need to realize that potatoes (sweet or white), are going to contain more calories than
most other vegetables but can still be eaten as part of a healthy diet.

As you can see, there are many different benefits of eating a white potato. It is not a food to fear and it does not alone make you fat. Enjoy a healthy white potato as part of a balanced diet!

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