Is there any veggie better than the humble and versatile potato? It is and always has been my very favourite comfort food. Potato pancakes with those crispy brown edges, twice-baked stuffed potatoes oozing with cottage-cheesey goodness, those exquisite first-of-the-season new potatoes tossed in my mother’s incomparable dill sauce, creamy garlic mashed at Sunday dinner – heaven, absolute heaven, every single forkful!
But potatoes sometimes get a bad rap for being fattening (especially given all the goop we like to scoop or pour or melt over them) and not quite as healthy as, say, the boring broccoli floret. Not so for Chris Voigt, executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission. Chris ate nothing but potatoes throughout October and November of 2010 (that’s about 20 5-ounce potatoes a day for 60 days) to help publicize the nutritional value of potatoes. He varied his clinically-supervised menu by eating things like potato pickles and even (seriously!) potato ice cream. (Read on for some of my favourite – and more conventional! – heart-healthy potato recipes!)
Chris Voigt’s publicity stunt prompted Carol Deppe, author of The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times to tell her own story about the winter she and her hubby basically lived on 1,200 pounds of their homegrown potatoes.
Make no mistake – I’m not endorsing any type of all-one-food diet here. But the humble potato is actually a surprisingly nutritious package. For example, Carol explains:
“If I am eating nothing but 2,000 calories per day of potatoes, I would get 55 grams of protein. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein for adult women is 46 grams.”
That 2,000-calorie allotment of fresh potatoes would also contain about 680 milligrams of vitamin C, well above the RDA, plus more than the RDAs for several other important vitamins and minerals – thiamin, niacin, B6, folate, iron, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, manganese, and copper.
A high-fibre potato may look big in size, but water accounts for about 70-80% of its weight. So the belief that you become fat by eating potatoes is a misconception (unless you’re piling on the butter, sour cream or gravy!)
The concentration of minerals like potassium is higher in the skin and just beneath it, so try to eat your potato with its skin on.
In fact, Carol maintains that an all-potato diet comes as close to being nutritionally balanced as any all-one-food diet you can imagine, with just a couple exceptions:
“It isn’t a complete diet. Most notably, it lacks fat, including essential fatty acids, and Vitamin A/carotene. It may also be low in calcium, but calcium requirements are controversial.”
To address those deficiencies, Carol says she and her hubby once or twice a week bought a bit of cheese, meat, or canned fish to eat along with their spuds. And she bought butter, as well as a full range of spices. They also ate occasional kale, cabbage, sauerkraut, carrots, winter squash,or eggs from her free-range backyard laying flock.
Here in Canada, we grow potatoes in every province, but we are probably most famous for our Prince Edward Island potatoes. (Learn more about PEI spuds – including some intriguing recipes like Potato and Chicken Lasagna).
And even if you’re not quite ready for Chris Voigt’s extreme potato love-in, here are a few of my favourite heart-healthy potato recipes for you to enjoy:
♥ Heart-Healthy Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Makes 4 servings
- 2 large potatoes (about 1 lb), quartered, peeled only if you really insist
- 1 c. skim (non-fat) milk
- 2-3 cloves garlic, large, chopped
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
1. Steam or boil potatoes, covered, in small amount of boiling water for 20–25 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat. Drain and recover.
2. Meanwhile, in small saucepan over low heat, cook garlic in milk until soft (about 30 minutes).
3. Add milk-garlic mixture and white pepper to potatoes. Beat with electric mixer on low speed, or mash with potato masher, until smooth.
Serving size: 3/4 cup – each serving provides: Calories: 142; total fat: less than 1 g; saturated fat: less than 1 g; cholesterol: 2 mg; sodium: 69 mg; total fibre: 2 g; protein: 6 g; carbohydrates: 29 g; potassium: 577 mg
♥ Heart-Healthy Mashed ‘Faux’ Potatoes
Makes 4-6 servings. Here’s the delicious cauliflower version of garlic mashed for those watching their carbs.
Simply take a medium-sized head of cauliflower, wash well, chop roughly into small chunks and throw them into a saucepan with one scrubbed medium unpeeled potato, also chopped, and enough cold water to cover most of the veggies. (I think the potato is merely a psychological addition – it always makes me feel like this is actually a potato dish!) You can also throw in a few garlic cloves if you like at this point. Bring all to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until everything is very well cooked. Drain and mash with about half a cup of fat-free sour cream. (I like to whip this with my electric mixer to make it extra creamy). Add lots of ground black pepper, and then grate a bit of low-fat cheddar over the top just before serving hot. These amazingly yummy “potatoes” make a wonderful topping for shephard’s pie, too.
♥ Heart-Healthy Potato Latkes
Makes 2-3 servings
- 1 small onion, cut in half
- 1 large potato, skin on
- 2 tbsp. whole wheat flour
- 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
- 2 eggs (or one egg plus one egg white)
- 5 tbsp. powdered skim (non fat) milk
- 2 tsp. Mrs. Dash no-salt seasoning blend (original flavour or your favourite)
- canola or sunflower oil
1. Preheat oven to 450° F and place a baking sheets into the oven.
2. Coarsely grate onion and potato into large bowl. Mix in flour, parsley, eggs, powdered milk and spices. Stir well.
3. Spray the hot baking sheet with oil (or drizzle the oil on it and spread around with a wooden spoon). Spoon small mounds of potato mixture onto the baking sheet to form little 2-1/2 inch pancakes, leaving 1 inch between each. Bake-fry the latkes in the oven until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes per side, turning once with a spatula. (When you turn the latkes, try to flip them onto spots on the baking sheet that still have oil.)
5. Transfer to plates or a platter and serve immediately with low-fat sour cream, plain yogurt and/or unsweetened applesauce.
Each serving provides: calories: 190; total fat: 4 g; saturated fat: <1 g; sodium: 80 mg; carbohydrates: 35 g; fibre: 4 g; protein: 11 g (that’s right, 25% of your daily protein requirement!)
♥ Heart-Healthy Stuffed Baked Potatoes
Makes six servings
- three large Russet or Yukon Gold baking potatoes
- 1 c. non-fat cottage cheese, mashed (or low-fat sour cream)
- 1/2 c. grated light sharp cheddar (21% M.F.)
- 1/2 tsp. paprika
- 1/2 tsp. Mrs. Dash Extra Spicy no-salt seasoning blend, more or less to taste.
1. Preheat the oven to 375° F.
2. Wash the potatoes and pierce with a fork. Place in the oven and bake about 1 hour or until fork-tender. Remove from the oven – and then crank the oven up to 400° F.
3. Carefully – potatoes will be very hot ! – cut the potatoes in half and scoop out the pulp into large bowl, leaving about 1/8 inch of the potato flesh attached to the skin.
4. Mash together the potato pulp, cottage cheese, cheddar and spices. Spoon this mixture back into potato skins, sprinkle with paprika. Put them on a baking sheet back into the 400° oven for about 20 minutes until hot.
Per serving: calories: 160; total fat: 4 g; saturated fat: 2 g; cholesterol: 13 mg; sodium 150 mg; fibre: 2 g; protein: 9 g; carbohydrates: 25 g; potassium: 510 mg
♥ Heart-Healthy Crispy Potato Skins
Makes two servings for appetizers
- 4 smallish russet potatoes
- olive oil cooking spray
- 1 tbsp minced fresh rosemary
- 1/2 tsp black pepper or chili powder
1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
2. Wash the potatoes and pierce with a fork. Place in the oven and bake until the skins are crisp, about 1 hour.
3. Carefully – potatoes will be very hot ! – cut the potatoes in half and scoop out the pulp, leaving about 1/8 inch of the potato flesh attached to the skin. Save the potato pulp for another use (like mashing to top a shepherd’s pie perhaps?) Slice the skins into thin strips.
4. Toss the skin strips with 1 tbsp olive oil and spices. Return the skins to the oven in a baking sheet for 15-20 minutes, stirring a few times during baking. Serve immediately as is, or with spicy salsa for dipping.
Serving size: half of this batch – each serving provides: Calories: 114; total fat: 2 g; saturated fat: 0 g; cholesterol: 0 mg; sodium 12 mg; fibre: 4 g; protein: 2 g; carbohydrates: 27 g; potassium: 332 mg
Are you a potato lover too? What’s your favourite way to serve them?