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Are all potatoes, potatoes? Are they healthy? Why are there so many kinds of potatoes? What are the best potatoes to use for different types of dishes?

Are potatoes high in carbohydrates? Are they nutritious or not?

Let's find out more about potatoes.
Now You Know
There are over 4000 varieties of potatoes. Plus there are variations in the colours, flavours, and differences in the starch and water contents.
There are also potatoes that are not potatoes.

Sweet potatoes are not potatoes, they are not tubers, they are root vegetables.

Yams are tubers, but they are not sweet potatoes, and they are not potatoes.

Let's unmix this mix-up.
Potatoes, Nightshade Family, Solanaceae L.
Potatoes, of the Nightshade family, originate from the Americas and were brought to Europe in the 16th century by the Spanish.

These potatoes come in my types and colours. They will grow in hot and cold climates and need very little land and water to produce a good crop compared to grain products. They are a great food to grow because you can feed a lot of people with a small plot of potatoes compared to grains.

Potatoes are nutritious. They are not higher in calories than other grains or tubers, they have some protein, fiber, some carbohydrates, and a good amount of vitamins and minerals, and no fat. Much of the potato nutrition is in or near the skin so it is better not to peel your potatoes.

As well, many recipes call for soaking your potatoes to reduce the starch levels, but you also reduce the nutritional value of your potatoes. Instead of soaking, try to match the correct type of potato to the use that you want, as described below.

Potatoes are nutritious, but since 70% of the potatoes eaten in the USA are eaten as either frozen processed potato products, chips, or as french fries, most people eating potatoes are eating potatoes cooked in the least healthy way. Avoiding processed and deep-fried potatoes is the healthiest way to have them in your diet.

There are three basic kinds of potatoes:

  • High starch and low water potatoes like the Russet variety.

  • Medium starch and medium water potatoes like the Yukon Gold variety.

  • Low starch, or waxy, and high water potatoes like the Pink Eye or Southern Gold varieties.
White Potatoes
White potatoes are high in starch. They have a thinish skin and a white to very pale yellow interior. The interior is soft and fluffly when cooked.

Because they are high in starch they are best cooked by baking, pan-frying, roasted, mashing, sauteeing, and deep-frying.
Yellow Potatoes
Yellow potatoes have medium or low starch values, depending on the variety. Yukon Gold is an example of this potato. They tend to have a firmer texture when cooked, compared to white potatoes.

They can mashed, roasted, baked, and grilled, but their best use is in soups, stews, and salads, as they retain their shape and texture better.
Red Potatoes
Red potatoes are generally lower in starch. They are higher in Vitamin A than the white yellow potatoes.

As they have a firm texture, and a nice colour, they are very good in salads, soups, and steww.
Purple Potatoes
Purple potatoes may be harder to find in your regular grocery store, but if you can find them, they are delicious and high in Vitamin A.

Purple potatoes have a medium starch level so they are quite versatile, but do not overcook them as they will get a bit mushy.
New Potatoes
New potatoes are potatoes that are harvested when they are small and have not reached their full size. New potatoes can be of any variety.

The best way to cook them depends on the type of potato that they are.
Fingerlings are long, thin potatoes with low starch levels, a firm texture, and a nutty flavour. They are also less common in our standard grocery stores, but you may be able to fin them.

They are best in soups, salads, and stews because of the firm texture.
What Potatoes Are Not Potatoes?
Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are not a potato, not a tuber. They are a root vegetable of the morning glory family, Convolvulaceae, genus Ipomoea.

Sweet potatoes are a tropical plant so they only grow in warm regions. They are sweet in taste and have a similar protein quantity as potatoes, but they have a little more starch, sugar, and a lot more Vitamin A.
Yams are a tuber, like potatoes, but they are of the family Dioscorea. They have a tough skin, called bark, and a somewhat tougher interior than potatoes or sweet potatoes.

Yams come in different colours and are tropical tubers. 95% of the yams grown in the world are grown in Africa.

Yams have the same amount of protein as potatoes, but a little more starch.
In Africa, yams are commonly boiled, roasted, fried or made into balls.
More About Potatoes
Best Ways To Prepare Potatoes
The glycemic load of boiled potatoes is 82 out of 100 which is high. However, the way you prepare potatoes affects the total number of carbohydrates in the finished dish. Also, eating potatoes as part of a meal will have a different effect on your blood sugar rise compared to eating potatoes by themselves.

1/2 cup of raw potatoes will have 11.8 grams of carbohydrates while baked have 13.1 grams per 1/2 cup. Boiled potatoes have 15.7 grams, microwaved 18 grams, oven-baked 17.8, and french fries 36.5 grams plus being high in fat. (Healthline: Potatoes and Diabetes.)

If you are watching your carbohydrate intake, then you will want to prepare your potatoes in a way that has the lowest carbohydrate value and always eat potatoes with a meal including fat and protein to slow the blood sugar rise.

Of course, you should always follow the advice of your medical professionals.
Health Benefits Of Potatoes
Besides of the good protein, fiber, vitamin, potassium, and mineral contents of potatoes, they also contain resistant starches.

Resistant starches are starches that can not be digested in the stomach or small intestine. They arrive in the colon undigested and act as food for the good bacteria.

Eating potatoes, especially with the skin on, provides healthy food for the healthy bacteria in your gut and helps you build a healthy gut microflora which is very important for immune and overall health.

As well, resistant starches help moderate blood sugar levels and can reduce insulin resistance.

Plus, potatoes keep you feeling full for a long time.

For all of these reasons, consider having potatoes in your diet, but keep the deep-fired and chips variety for the odd occasion, not the usual occasion.
Potato Safety
Potatoes naturally contain small quantities of glycoalkaloids which is fine in small quantities but can irritate the gut in large quantities.

Potatoes that have turned green have a much higher quantity of this substance. Do not eat potatoes that have turned green.
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