Not Just Small Potatoes

While I typically try to focus on foods that are surprisingly good for us, I realize that the winter is a time when many of us want comfort foods. Foods that make us feel warm on the inside during cold, stormy days. Especially with everything happening here in Israel as of late. I even heard Rabbanit Yemima Mizrahi mention in a shiur that as Shabbos comes in we should know that good food brings comfort.

When I think of the classic comfort food I can’t help but think of potatoes. Mash ’em, scallop ’em, French fry ’em, in every form potatoes bring comfort. So it will probably come as a surprise to you that potatoes are actually quite healthy. These poor spuds often get a bad rap because they are often fried or because, being a starch, they have a high glycemic index. Let’s first understand what’s good about them.

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photo credit: Tommy Hemmert Olesen

The first thing that stands out about potatoes is that they have a very high B6 content. B6 is one of the most essential vitamins our bodies need to perform hundreds of functions, and for that alone potatoes could be thought of as a Superfood. Another thing worth noting about potatoes is that they are also a good source of vitamin C. As a matter of fact, the Spanish used to store them on ships to prevent Scurvy. They are also a good source of potassium and other B vitamins.

As with all vegetables, potatoes are also a great source of fiber. The key is to leave the skin on. Fiber is crucial in our bodies for slowing down digestion, expelling waste from the body, and lowering blood pressure as well as cholesterol. If peeling the skin, try to peel as little as possible since most of the nutrients are close to the skin.

I always find it shocking how many things go on inside a vegetable. Potatoes are filled with lots of good-for-us anti-oxidants like carotenoids and flavonoids. Inside a seemingly simple piece of fruit or vegetable are hundreds or even thousands of compound molecules that science has not yet identified. Only recently, it was discovered that potatoes make a blood pressure reducing compound known as kukoamines which had previously only been thought to exist in Lycium chinense. Ma rabu ma’asecha!

Once again, we see that things from Hashem’s kitchen can be served to our families with the confidence that they will supply them with the good stuff they need. The caveat is that processing generally gets rid of the good stuff and just leaves us with the empty calories. So if you can find a way not to fry or peel, potatoes are a great compliment to a good protein main course because eating a potato along side a protein will help lower its overall glycemic impact.

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