Potatoes can be prepared in many different ways. But how healthy are potatoes exactly? And are they 'fatteners', as many think?

Is the potato a fattener?

Potatoes are a source of starch (complex carbohydrates) and many people think that starch, and therefore also the potato, makes fat. However, one gram of starch only provides 4 kcal while 1 gram of fat gives you 9 kcal. A boiled potato does not contain an ounce of fat and therefore does not deserve the name of fattener.

Some potato preparations, on the other hand, can add extra calories if you regularly put them on the menu. Fries, croquettes and chips absorb a large portion of fat as a result of frying. When you let your portion of potatoes swim again and again in the sauce or add an extra scoop of butter or margarine to puree each time, the calorie pointer also easily shoots up.

Finally, the potato has other assets. It is known as a source of dietary fiber, potassium and vitamins B and C. Here too, the potato has a bone for rice and pasta that do not contain vitamin C.

How many potatoes per person?

Nutritionists recommend eating 3 to 5 pieces of boiled potatoes (150-250 grams) daily. For variation, potatoes can be replaced by rice, pasta or couscous. Do know that a portion of pasta or rice contains almost twice as many calories as a portion of boiled potatoes. Two hundred grams of boiled potatoes provides about 150 kcal, 200 grams of rice or pasta 250 kcal and a modest packet of fries without mayonnaise 700 kcal.

Compared to boiled potatoes, baked or fried preparations provide more calories in the form of fat. Therefore, it is recommended to limit such potato preparations to a maximum of once a week.

Preparing potatoes

The potato is certainly not a boring tuber. Worldwide there are a total of more than 250 different potato varieties. Just as we eat different types of vegetables, we can also try different types of potatoes. Potatoes can also be prepared in many ways: boiled or steamed, with or without skin, in a potato salad, as a mash with milk or broth, in a stew with (many) vegetables, puffed in the oven and then filled with various ingredients, etc.

Some preparation tips:

  • Potatoes cooked or steamed in the skin lose fewer vitamins, minerals and taste. You can taste the difference with boiled peeled potatoes. Potatoes prepared in the skin must be thoroughly brushed thoroughly under running water beforehand to remove leftover soil.
  • New harvest potatoes are best in the skin. The skin is edible provided it has been thoroughly washed.
  • Potatoes boiled in the skin peel more easily if they are first startled under cold running water.
  • For the preparation in the microwave of potatoes in the skin, the skin must be pierced with a fork or the tip of a knife. This is to prevent the potatoes from popping into the microwave.
  • The preparation of peeled potatoes: peel, wash and cut the potatoes into equal pieces just before cooking, then cook them until tender in a small amount of water.
  • Never leave potatoes in water; wash shortly before cooking.
  • Bring water to boil and only then add the potatoes. This way you limit the leaching of vitamins and minerals in the cooking liquid.
  • Potatoes are cooked faster in the pressure cooker or in the microwave (covered in a bowl with little water).
  • Do not use boiling liquid from potatoes in further preparations as it may contain small amounts of solanine.
  • The taste of potatoes can be increased by boiling them in broth or together with a bay leaf.

Storing potatoes

  • The vitamins in potatoes are sensitive to heat, air, light and water. Therefore, store potatoes in a cool, dark and dry place.
  • Never store potatoes in the refrigerator.
  • If stored too cold: the potatoes dry out quickly and the starch converts into sugar; the potatoes thus acquire an unpleasant sweet taste. When baking and frying, they also brown too quickly.
  • If stored too hot and for too long: the tubers get suckers or sprouts that make the potato tough and reduce the vitamin content in the potato.
  • If stored too moist: more mold and rotting.
  • If stored in too much light: more formation of solanine and suckers.
  • Potatoes are best stored in a perforated paper bag, in a net or in an open basket in a well-ventilated dark cellar (cupboard) between 2 and 10 °C (± 7 °C). Shake them occasionally.
  • Remove damp potatoes to avoid affecting the other potatoes.
  • Never store potatoes in a plastic bag. In a plastic bag without holes, condensation quickly forms, causing the potatoes to rot faster.
  • In addition, potatoes in a plastic bag are more exposed to light, which also promotes vitamin breakdown and green coloration.
  • Treat potatoes carefully. If they are roughly thrown on the ground or in a storage container, they easily bruise. These bumps are not harmful and do not affect the taste. They do turn brown-black when cooking, which is not attractive.
  • Do not store peeled potatoes in water, otherwise the quality of the potatoes will quickly deteriorate.
  • The vitamin C content of the potatoes decreases, among other things, by leaching into the water.

Avoiding green potatoes

Green potatoes are not suitable for consumption because they contain too many alkaloids, including solanine. Alkaloids (a bitter substance) are a natural repellent of the potato plant against the feeding of certain fungi and insects. The highest content of the alkaloids is in the green plant parts or the foliage that is not used in the kitchen. Its concentration in the potato itself normally does not cause any problems and, moreover, largely disappears with peeling and removing the eyes.

Symptoms of poisoning in humans may occur with an intake of 2.5 mg of alkaloids per kg of body weight per day. For a person of 50 kg, the danger limit is therefore 125 mg of alkaloids, which corresponds to 1.8 kg of unpeeled potatoes or 4 kg of peeled potatoes. A serving that far exceeds the recommended daily allowance of 150-250 g.

Light encourages the formation of alkaloids. Due to the action of light, the content of chlorophyll increases and the potato turns green. When the amount of chlorophyll quadruples, the amount of potato alkaloids also doubles. The green color is therefore a good indication of the presence of too many alkaloids and indicates that the potato is no longer suitable for use. Finally, alkaloids are not destroyed during preparation (cooking, steaming, baking,...).

Therefore, never buy and eat green or bitter potatoes and always store and prepare potatoes as described in the box articles.

Bruises, unlike green spots, are not harmful to health. Bruises, also called bumps, occur as a result of careless treatment during the harvesting, transport or processing of the tubers. In the event of bumps or falls, cells and cell parts are damaged. As a result, the broken cells let oxygen in and the amino acid tyrosine and other phenols are converted into the blue-black melanin. Bruises do not affect the taste but do give the potato a less attractive appearance. Therefore, it is best to cut them away during peeling.