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Diet & Nutrition > Foods > Potatoes

A staple in peoples diets over much of the world The word potato refers to the whole plant, but only the root or tuber is edible and there are many varieties available.  Affectionately known as 'spuds' in some countries the potato is best known for its carbohydrate content and it's a major component in the Western diet.

Potatoes have a fibre content similar to that of whole grain breads, pastas, and cereals,  and they contain essential micronutrients, especially vitamin C.  Just one medium-sized potato  provides nearly half the daily adult requirement of vitamin C when eaten with its skin.

Common use

Potatoes can be eaten raw, but they are difficult to digest, so most prefer them cooked as a substantial and delicious portion of many meals.


  1. Boiling is the most common method of potato preparation worldwide.
    Wash, cut away any bruises or defects, cut into small pieces,  immerse in water, salt to taste and bring to a gentle boil (simmer) and cooking takes 10 - 20 minutes. Whole potatoes may take 40 minutes or more depending on size.
    • Boiling causes a significant loss of nutrients, especially when potatoes are peeled.
    • Boiled potatoes can be eaten whole or mashed as a starch/carbohydrate portion of  any meal.
  2. Baking; is a popular way to cook potatoes as it intensifies the flavour.
    Wash and cut away any bruises or defects or select well formed potatoes of uniform size. Place in a baking tray and into a hot oven (~180° C) and depending on size cook for 30 - 45 minutes.  Large potatoes may be cut into smaller pieces for quicker cooking and spuds may be hollowed and stuffed with any favourite filling.
    • In general, baking causes slightly lower losses of nutrients except vitamin C which may deplete more.
    • Baked potatoes can be eaten whole as a starch/carbohydrate portion of  any meal.  If the oven is too hot, or they are over cooked, the skin may become charred and inedible.

Potatoes contain some vitamins and minerals and a freshly harvested medium-sized potato or a serving of 150 g (5.3 oz) potato with the skin provides:

  • Dietary fibre
  • 27 mg of vitamin C
  • 620 mg of potassium
  • Vitamins B1, B3 and B6
  • 2.8 mg of protein
  • trace amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, folate, pantothenic acid and zinc.


The predominant form of carbohydrate is starch, in many with weak digestion and in meat eaters,  a small but significant portion of the starch is resistant to digestion by enzymes in the stomach and small intestine, so it reaches the large intestine essentially intact.  In vegetarians this is no problem, it's simply bulk but in meat eaters,  as it sits in the large intestine, it is mixed with partially digested animal protein and new ew  many holistic health practitioners consider this an ideal breeding environment for colon cancer.  "Plausible"

Modern medical experts say that this undigested starch provides beneficial effects by providing bulk and some protection against colon cancer, improves glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, lowers plasma cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations, increases satiety, and possibly even reduces fat storage. "Yeah, right". Most eat spuds with butter or other fats and of course excess starch is converted to sugar and stored as fat...

Macrobiotic specialists argue that as the potato belongs to the nightshade family, it is mildly toxic and although potatoes themselves although not poisonous, they should only be eaten occasionally in small amounts and not by those recovering from illness. Nightshades typically contain toxic compounds known as alkaloids, of which the most prevalent are solanine and chaconine which effect the nervous system causing weakness and confusion or contribute to diseases like arthritis.


Potatoes stored in the light (daylight or artificial light) will soon turn green and green potatoes are toxic. Potatoes do not keep very well in storage and are vulnerable to moulds which turns them rotten. Generally freshly dug potatoes will keep for several months if stored in a cool dark place, but if conditions are right, they may begin to germinate sending out white roots which are toxic if eaten.

Growing potatoes

Potatoes are easy to grown and yield abundantly with little effort. They will grow almost anywhere the climate is cool and moist enough for the plants to gather sufficient water from the soil to form the starchy tubers. Seed potato's can be sliced into several pieces with each piece having some protruding root. Plant in well drained and aerated soil 12 - 20 inches apart and about 4 inches under the soil. As the plant emerges and grows upward,  heap soil around the growing stem for a heavier crop.

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