Potatoes—like white rice and Wonder Bread—are often banished by the health-conscious set for being nutritionally void. We won’t vouch for the other two, but there are good reasons to reinstate spuds to your diet.
One recurring knock on potatoes is that they’re a carb bomb high on the glycemic index, meaning they spike blood sugar and leave you hungry soon after eating. But research suggests that’s not the case. “Potatoes are ranked in several studies as one of the more filling foods you can consume,” says Christy Brissette, a Chicago-based dietitian. Potatoes are high in compounds that may curb appetite, according to a review of research in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. And potatoes are commonly eaten alongside low-GI foods, like vegetables and protein, which mitigate blood sugar spikes—as do the seven grams of fiber in a large one.
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Potatoes are loaded with vitamins and minerals, too. One potato provides more potassium than a banana (the mineral aids in muscle function and fluid balance) and contains half the day’s vitamin B6 needs—which helps break down carbohydrates stored in muscles and the liver that power the body, Brissette says. For many athletes, potatoes are easy on the stomach, making them a valuable pre-race snack for quick energy. Idahos and russets are good before a workout, while waxier varieties like red and fingerling don’t elevate blood sugar as much.
Yet for all of a potato’s virtues, french fries remain nutritionally void. Sorry.