The humble potato is one of the best values in the produce department, both in terms of nutrition and cost. A 2013 study indicates that potatoes are a good value, providing more nutrition per penny than most other raw vegetables.
While dark green vegetables had the highest nutrient density scores, beans and potatoes provided more nutrition per dollar spent. Potatoes provide one of the least expensive sources of four key nutrients: potassium, fiber, vitamin C and magnesium. Both the 2005 and 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines identified potassium as a shortfall nutrient in the diets of Americans, and fiber was identified as lacking in American diets as per the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines.
Potatoes contain more potassium than bananas, and potassium is essential for optimal muscle performance and a healthy nervous system. The skin of the potato is loaded with fiber (so scrub the potatoes and prepare them with the skin on). One medium potato (about 5-6 oz) also contains almost half the vitamin C requirement for the day, and about 10% of the daily requirement for vitamin B6, along with 2 grams of very digestible vegetable protein (about the same amount as half a glass of milk). Potatoes also contain trace amounts of thiamine, riboflavin, folate, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, and zinc.
Surprise! Did you know that potatoes contain antioxidants? The amount and type of antioxidants depend on the variety of potato, but the predominant antioxidants are certain carotenoids and anthocyanins.
No fat, no sodium, no cholesterol; 110 calories. Of course, if you fry the potatoes you are adding fat and calories, and if you drown them in butter, sour cream, bacon bits, etc you are adding more fat and calories. There are plenty of quick and easy ways to fix potatoes without adding lots of fat and calories. You could top a baked potato with salsa, or with low fat sour cream or Greek yogurt, or with some Bad Mother BBQ Sauce. Instead of adding milk and butter to your mashed potatoes, mash them with some vegetable broth (and then top with a little butter or some Greek yogurt). You could cut potato wedges and roast them in the oven with some olive oil, garlic, and herbs.
If you want something slightly fancier, you could make this recipe for microwave potatoes au gratin. I have never had that much luck with microwaving potatoes (it’s a texture thing) but if you slice the potatoes very thinly and then push them around in the casserole halfway through the cooking time, they should be OK. I think this is still a dish best prepared in the oven, but if you are pressed for time or don’t want to heat up the kitchen in the summer, this is quite acceptable.
Microwaved potatoes au gratin
- 4 medium potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed well and thinly sliced
- 1/2 onion, chopped finely
- 3 T flour
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
- 1 cup milk
- 2 T butter
Arrange half the potatoes and half the onions in the bottom of a 1.5 quart, microwave save baking dish. Mix flour and salt in a small bowl and sprinkle half of this over the potato/onion mixture. Now sprinkle half the cheese on top of all this.
Layer the rest of the potatoes and onions over this, sprinkle rest of flour mixture and cheese over everything. Pour the milk over the entire thing, dot with bits of the butter, and cook on high for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring (pushing the potatoes around, really) at least once during the cooking time, until the potatoes are tender.
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