Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about potatoes

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We understand that potatoes can be quite versatile and sometimes mysterious, so we’re here to shed light
on everything you’ve ever wanted to know about these starchy and vegetable wonders.

Whether you’re a seasoned potato enthusiast or just getting started with your culinary adventures, this FAQ section will provide you with valuable insights to make the most of your potato knowledge and experiences.

So, let’s dive into the world of potatoes and uncover the answers to your burning questions. Potato lovers, unite!


Are potatoes fattening?

Concerned that adding a potato to lunch might tip the bathroom scale in the wrong direction? Potatoes are a nutrient-rich food that provides important minerals like potassium and chromium. Contrary to popular belief, boiled potatoes with their skin are naturally fat-free, high in complex carbohydrates and low in sodium. A medium-sized potato offers approximately 498kJ and around 24g of carbohydrates, equivalent to one and a half carbohydrate servings.

According to Professor Esté Vorster, Director of the Africa Unit for Transdisciplinary Health Research, boiled potatoes with skin have low energy values and are suitable for weight management. Remember, the kilojoule content of potatoes can be affected by the fillings and cooking methods used. Opt for nutritious, low-fat toppings to maintain a balanced approach to eating and listen to your body’s needs for long-term health benefits.


What are the correct portion guidelines for potatoes?

Potatoes are one such food that can be enjoyed as part of a weight loss eating plan, when portion control is noted. The correct portion of potato is a 90-180 g serving, which would be equivalent to 1-2 slices of bread. Be sure to keep the skin of the potato on for added nutrients and fibre, which will also keep you fuller!

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What is the difference between a “starch” and a “carb”?

These terms are often used interchangeably, which is incorrect.
All food is grouped according to three main groups or macronutrients:


Within the carbohydrate group, foods are further divided into four sub-categories.


Yes, you read correctly: vegetables are also carbohydrates! Each carbohydrate sub-group contributes its own unique nutrients or attributes to the diet.

Starch, a sub-category of the carbohydrates food group, includes foods such as rice, bread, cereals, potatoes, crackers, pasta, quinoa, couscous,
and a variety of other grains. These foods are a great source of energy in the diet and high-quality options that are higher in fibre with a variety
of B-vitamins. In order to get the benefits from starches, be sure to choose whole food options.

Always remember that the preparation does matter. Take care when preparing starches to limit fat or oil. Also be sure to check packaging information on starches and aim to select starch options that have a higher fibre content. The aim is to choose starches with fibre higher
than 6 g per 100 g.


Do I need carbohydrates in my diet?

While high-protein, low-carbohydrate eating plans may show some external physical results, it is not necessarily doing us any favours in the long-term. Low carbohydrate diets can result in fatigue and dehydration caused by increased protein metabolism, which also places strain on our kidneys. By restricting our intake of carbohydrates we also starve the body of the dietary fibre that is important for healthy digestion. The starch in potatoes yields glucose that is essential for our mental and physical energy, so yes, you really do need carbohydrates in your diet and potatoes are an ideal source.

Your body needs a variety of foods in a balanced diet. But use a little nutrition sense when selecting starches. Choose starchy foods that contain dietary fibre, are close to their natural form (not overly processed), and are high in key nutrients.


Are potatoes rich in nutrients?

Potatoes, cooked with skin, provide a wide range of nutrients. They are high in carbohydrates and the mineral chromium.
They also have one of the highest levels of potassium when compared to other vegetables and starchy foods.
Below is a list of the vitamins and minerals contained in 1 medium potato.

Vitamin B2 (mg)0.15%
Niacin (mg)**2.415%
Vitamin B6 (mg)**0.529%
Vitamin C (mg)8.28%
Pantothenic acid (mg)**0.817%
Copper (mg)0.227%
Chromium (ug)1.543%
Iron (mg)1.810%
Magnesium (mg)39.19%
Manganese (mg)0.314%
Phosphorus (mg)98.98%
Potassium (mg)710**
Zinc (mg)1.513%

Information for cooked potato with skin
*Nutrient Reference values (NRV’s) for individuals 4 years and older expressed per single serving.
**NO NRV available


How should potatoes be stored?

Potatoes should be stored in a dark, dry and cool place that is well-ventilated. Keep them separate from pungent vegetables (which give off gases that promote decay in potatoes). Take them out of plastic bags.


Are potato skins edible?

Yes, potato skins are edible and can be consumed.
Potato skins are rich in dietary fibre, vitamins, and minerals and contain significant amounts of potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and antioxidants. The skin also provides roughage that aids in digestion and helps maintain bowel regularity.
Potato skins also have a slightly chewy texture compared to the softer flesh of the potato.
They can add a pleasant, earthy flavour to dishes, especially when cooked or roasted.

curry potato skin recipe

Is it safe to eat green potatoes?

The green colour that is often seen in potatoes is caused by chlorophyll (a green pigment found in plants that plays a crucial role in photosynthesis) and indicates that solanine (a natural toxin that can be harmful only in significant amounts) is present. This typically occurs when potatoes are exposed to light. However, if you do notice green parts on a potato, simply remove and discard those portions, and proceed to prepare the rest of the potato as you normally would.


Is it safe to eat sprouted potatoes?

Sprouting potatoes are typically not fresh but can be eaten if you break off the sprouts.


Do potatoes have a high glycemic index (GI)?

Potatoes have often been unfairly criticised for their ranking on the Glycemic Index (GI), which measures the effect of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels. However, the GI is not a fixed characteristic of a food but rather varies depending on several factors.

  • Processing/preparation: How potatoes are cooked or prepared can affect their GI
  • Variety, origin, maturation: Different types of potatoes and their growing conditions can influence the GI
  • Addition of other macronutrients: Combining potatoes with protein-rich foods like low-fat cottage cheese or tuna can lower the overall GI of a meal
  • Allowing potatoes to cool after cooking: Cooling cooked potatoes can further decrease their GI

In a hydrolysis index test conducted by Potatoes South Africa, it was found that different potato cultivars, with varying dry matter and starch contents, could have different GI values. This suggests that factors such as cultivar, growing region, and growth conditions can impact the GI of potatoes.
While the GI has gained popularity, its effectiveness as a dietary tool for weight loss, disease prevention and overall health promotion is still under scrutiny. The complexity of the GI and the various factors influencing it make it challenging to apply in everyday food choices. Further research is needed to better understand the role of the GI in different circumstances and disease conditions. In the meantime, it is recommended that South Africans follow the food-based dietary guidelines for overall health and well-being.


What about the satiety index?

Satiety is crucial for weight management. High-sugar and high-fat foods are easier to overeat due to their palatability and energy density. Conversely, high-fibre and high-water foods are harder to over consume because they increase satiety. The satiety index measures a food’s ability to reduce hunger, increase fullness and reduce calorie intake. Foods with a low satiety index lead to quick hunger and overconsumption, while foods high on the index, like potatoes, leave you feeling full and satisfied without excess calorie intake.


Do potatoes cause diabetes?

Absolutely not. Diabetes is a metabolic disorder influenced by various factors, including genetics, lifestyle and overall diet. While it’s true that potatoes are a starchy vegetable and contain carbohydrates, they can be part of a healthy diet for individuals with diabetes when consumed in moderation and prepared in a healthy manner.


Do potatoes contain gluten?

No, potatoes are naturally gluten-free. Gluten is a protein found in certain grains such as wheat, barley and rye. Potatoes belong to the nightshade family of vegetables and are not grains, so they do not contain gluten.


Are potatoes good for heart health?

Love your heart, love potatoes When it comes to choosing heart-healthy foods, you can put a big tick next to cooked potatoes with the skin on. Besides being naturally free of cholesterol and fat, potatoes also contain potassium, are very low in sodium and provide 3g of fibre per medium cooked potato with skin. All these requirements make for heart-healthy food.

Of course, as mentioned above, it is what you put on your potato and how you cook it that may cause your doctors’ blood pressure to rise and heart to palpitate. But, if you stick to the rule and cook your potato with skin on, using a moist heat method (no oil) and fill it with a low fat, low sugar filling, you can create a delicious meal that your heart and your mouth will love.


Do potatoes have less nutrients than other vegetables?

Potatoes are nutrient powerhouses, often underestimated compared to colourful vegetables. They are rich in important nutrients, including potassium, surpassing even bananas in potassium content per serving. With low sodium and high potassium levels, potatoes are an excellent choice for individuals aiming to improve blood pressure. They also contain beneficial phytochemicals like carotenoids, flavonoids and phenolic acids, contributing to overall health.