Most Valuable Ingredient: Potatoes

Spuds, taters, tubers: Whatever you call potatoes, this dinnertime staple provides tremendous nutritional value.
PotatoesMost Valuable Ingredient
The Score
A fact we love about potatoes: They come in so many shapes and sizes. The one most of us conjure up when we think potato is a russet, the standard for baking, mashing and (oven) frying. But Yukon golds are also suitable for mashed and fries, and their buttery, smooth texture needs less seasoning (i.e., fat and calories) to taste special. Small varieties like fingerlings, new potatoes and round reds hold their shape when cooked and are ideal for salads or roasting.

When buying, make sure they’re firm and sprout-free, and that the skin has no greenish tint or blemishes. Wrinkles mean they’re past their prime. Never buy washed potatoes, as they’ll go bad faster.

Sturdy potatoes like russets or Yukon golds will last for weeks, even months, if kept in a cool, dry, dark place like a cupboard or basement (but don’t refrigerate). Exposure to light creates a greenish tint, indicating the growth of a toxin called solanine — the potatoes are still safe to eat, but you’ll have to carefully cut away any green parts. And if you’re concerned about that five-pound bag rotting before you can cook them all, store the bag with an apple tucked inside; the spuds should hold for at least eight weeks. More delicate varieties, like new and red-skinned potatoes, should be consumed within one week. Whatever you do, don’t store potatoes near onions: When kept close together, they emit gases that will make both spoil sooner.

The Stats
  • An average potato, eaten with the skin, provides 45 percent of the daily requirement of Vitamin C and is a better source of potassium than bananas. It’s also a good source of fiber, iron and magnesium.
  • Unless you’re buying an heirloom variety at a farmer’s market, potatoes are hard to beat price-wise. When bought individually, they generally cost around $1 a pound, but five-pound bags are $2.50 to $4.
  • Three ounces of potatoes have 2 PointsPlus™ values, so a five-pound bag has about 46 PointsPlus values — which clocks in at as little as $.05 per PointsPlus value!
In Play
As often as possible, eat the potato with the peel — just rinse and scrub. While it’s not true that all the potato’s nutrition is found in the peel, much of the fiber is, which aids digestion and helps you feel full longer.
Always cut away any blemishes, eyes or green areas.
If you’re cutting potatoes to be cooked, discoloration may occur as the insides are exposed to oxygen — this isn’t harmful, but it’s not as visually appealing. The simplest solution: As you cut them, put the potatoes into a bowl of cold water.
There are as many ways to use potatoes as there are people who love to eat them. Here are some tasty ideas:
  • You can’t beat baked: Rinse and scrub a russet potato, then dry thoroughly. Prick several times with a fork. If you want a softer skin, rub with oil or butter (but be sure to count the additional PointsPlus values). Place in a 400°F oven for 45 minutes — to test doneness, put on a potholder and squeeze the potato gently. If it gives easily, it’s done.
  • For low-fat, low-calorie mashed potatoes, peel and cut 1 pound of Yukon golds. Place in a saucepan with low-sodium chicken broth to cover, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes — potatoes are ready when a fork penetrates smoothly. Drain, but reserve broth. Mash the potatoes, adding reserved broth as necessary, and season with salt and pepper. To make creamier, add 1/2 cup of 1% milk and 1 tablespoon of butter.
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