Potato chips are part of most celebrations in the U.S., but today is the day they are celebrated. Yes, March 14th is National Potato Chip Day!
Since the average American consumes about 17 pounds of potato chips a year, there is no need to say anything that might encourage eating more of this fried and salted snack. Instead, I want to talk about their primary ingredient, the potato.
And with St. Patrick's Day in the same week, there is no better time to promote the nutritional and culinary benefits of potatoes.
What's So Good About Potatoes?
On its own, a medium potato (5.3 ounces raw) is one of the best low calorie foods you can buy. For only 110 calories you get 45% of the daily value (DV) for vitamin C and more potassium than a banana (620 mg vs 450 mg). That same potato provides an often overlooked 3 g of protein along with 2 g of fiber, half of which is in the skin.
Though colorful fruits and vegetables get more attention, the white ones, like potatoes, are also a good source of phytonutrients with antioxidant potential. The total antioxidant capacity of russet potatoes ranked fifth out of 42 vegetables tested, ahead of broccoli, cabbage and tomatoes.
One of the best things about potatoes is what they don't contain: No saturated fat, no trans fat, no fat at all. And they have no cholesterol and no sodium, either.
Depending on how you prepare them, a potato can become "stuffed" with even more nutrients. I like to add salsa and cheese or leftover chili to a baked potato for a quick and satisfying lunch. Or I'll stuff one with scrambled eggs for breakfast.
Why Are Potatoes Such a Culinary Staple?
One of the best ways for a food to become a staple in any cuisine is to be available, affordable and versatile. Potatoes are all three.
Potatoes are consumed in some form by people on every continent. In the U.S., frozen is the most popular form, followed by fresh, chips, dehydrated and canned. They can be cooked by baking, boiling, deep frying, grilled, microwaving, pan frying, roasting, and steaming, plus in casseroles and slow cookers. Every cook appreciates that kind of versatility when faced with limited fuel or cooking facilities.
The most common varieties are categorized as russets, reds, whites, yellows (or Yukon's) and purples. The shapes and sizes cover everything from the finger-shaped fingerlings, to round ones ranging in size from golf-balls to baseballs, to the classic oblong russet. That's enough variety to serve them every day and never see the same ones twice in a month!
To tell the truth, the only potato I can't recommend is the couch potato!
Go to PotatoGoodness.com for recipes and videos.
See my related article on white vegetables here.