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Diet blog: in defence of the spud

Judith Wills / 13 December 2018

The humble potato has been unfairly maligned in recent years, argues our diet expert.

Relatively low calorie and packed with vitamins, is it time to put spuds back on the menu?
Relatively low calorie and packed with vitamins, is it time to put spuds back on the menu?

This hasn’t been a great season for potatoes in more ways than one.  Not only have they suffered a bad year in our gardens and fields – the summer drought made them grow smaller than usual – but apparently they are also suffering an image crisis.

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Ever since lower-carb eating had a renaissance a few years ago, with apparent benefits  both for weight loss and health, spud sales in the UK have dipped  -  by over 5% since 2015 according to the trade bible, The Grocer magazine.

However, low-carb isn’t the whole picture. Sales of rice and noodles have actually increased, perceived as they are to be quicker and easier to prepare as well as more versatile in the dishes many of us choose today.

So here, I have to come out in defence of our potatoes. I’ve never grown rice or pasta (which does grow on trees, doesn’t it?).   But I’ve always enjoyed the humble spud whether dug from the veggie patch, bought at the local market or neat and clean from the supermarket.

Here is my defence summary. 

- An average portion of potato contains around 175 calories – while pasta comes in at around 350 calories and rice 365.

- An average portion of potato contains around a third of your day’s Vitamin C needs – rice and pasta contains none.

- An average portion contains a third of your daily Vitamin B6 needs plus others from the B group – white rice and pasta contain virtually none.

-  An average portion of potato contains 3.6g fibre – double that of white rice and pasta.

And for those of us who are environmentally aware – which I do hope, Your Honour, is all of us, I would also like to say that according to the UK Irrigation Association, it takes 2,500lt of water to grow 1kg or rice, 1,800lt for 1kg of pasta – and only 28 lt for 1kg of spuds.

Oh, and before I go, can I also mention that back in the summer a large study covering 25 years and published in The Lancet found that people who eat carbs live up to four years longer than those on a low-carb diet.

Case dismissed. Potatoes allowed to leave the court.  

Thank you, Your Honour. 

Find all our potato recipes here

Healthy tips for potatoes

And here are a few of my favourite ways to serve hassle-free and totally tasty potatoes suitable for most of us watching our weight (as part of a healthy balanced diet, as they say…):

Home-made oven chips – don’t peel, cut into large chunks and toss with cold-pressed rapeseed oil (do try it, it is gorgeous) and, if you like, a little season-all or salt.  Arrange on baking tray, bake at 200C, turning once, until golden.  For me, Maris Piper make the best oven chips.

Smashed – roughly chop them (don’t peel), steam or boil until just tender, drain, put back over the heat for a few seconds to dry off, add a little cold-pressed rapeseed oil and seasoning and smash with a fork.  

Quick fishcakes – mash old cooked potatoes with chopped coriander leaves, chopped spring onions, a little chopped fresh red chilli, a tbsp of mayonnaise, seasoning and plenty of flaked raw salmon fillet.  Form into fairly thin cakes and cook in a non-stick pan in a little oil over medium high heat for 8 minutes, turning halfway through, until golden.          If the cakes are thin-ish the salmon will cook through without pre-cooking. Serve with large mixed green salad or asparagus or broccoli and green beans. 


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.