Potatoes – What’s under the skin?

In the run-up to National Potato Day (6th October), TV dietitian Aoife Hearne gives us the low-down.

It may be a surprise to some, but potatoes are the long-standing hero of mine when it comes to carbohydrates. Not only are they unprocessed, but eating them with the skin on makes them a great source of fibre in the Irish diet. They’re fat-free, but also gluten-free, meaning they’re a great carbohydrate choice for people with coeliac disease. Best of all, they’re delicious!

Here comes the science bit…

Potatoes are part of the carbohydrate family – an essential nutrient for energy. In fact, it’s the only energy source readily available for the brain to use. They are a valued part of a balanced and varied diet. And just like other macronutrients - protein and fat - it is the quality and quantity of all these nutrients that is important.

And more science...got a gut feeling? Potatoes are FODMAP friendly

Gut health is a hugely popular topic at the moment, with a wealth of research behind it pointing to one conclusion – a healthy gut with a good variety of bacteria is vital for protecting against disease. These ‘good’ bacteria carry out many necessary roles in supporting immunity, and can be found in a diet rich in fibrous foods such as potatoes, fruit and vegetables. Current research shows a connection between good gut health and a range of illnesses, such as cancer, diabetes, obesity, allergies, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols) are a collection of short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols found in foods naturally or as food additives, which some people have difficulty absorbing. They are an area of increasing interest to scientists.

A Low ‘FODMAP’ diet under the guidance of a dietitian is a successful strategy to help manage conditions such as IBS. This involves removing all FODMAP foods from someone’s diet, and slowly re-introducing these foods to identify the ‘trigger’ foods. The great news is potatoes are a low FODMAP food and can be enjoyed by most people.

There are further great benefits of potatoes hidden under the skin:

  • Source of potassium for normal blood pressure. 
  • Excellent source of vitamin C to support the immune system.
  • Contain a variety of B vitamins for metabolism.
  • Source of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus in smaller amounts

‘Babypotatoes – healthy for children and adults

Potatoes are a healthy option for adults and children alike. They can even be a great first food when introducing solids at 6 months. Many experts now recommend a baby-led feeding approach to introducing solids, which allows the baby to hold foods and exclusively self-feed from the start. Steamed potato fingers can be a great place to start with this. The fact the potato is soft in texture, salt and fat-free means it is a great option for young children. As children grow, potatoes should continue to be a staple in their diet as an essential energy source for growing bodies and active lifestyles. Potatoes are a good source of fibre and in my opinion the ultimate natural, unprocessed carbohydrate source.  

What better time to start eating more potatoes than in the run-up to National Potato Day on the 6th October 2017.

Head to Potato.IE's health section to find out more on the nutritional qualities of the potato.


Master your skills with our tasty recipe videos

Check out our selection of simple recipe videos showing you just how quick and easy these delicious dishes are to make. Mix up your week and give them a go!

As part of the 'Potatoes: More than a bit on the side' campaign we have created an exciting selection of new delicious, healthy and quick to cook dishes. Explore our new recipes today.