- Heather Eiler
The Potato Isn’t the Problem
Somewhere along the way, whether it’s been through the media, the food industry, or our own misconceptions, the Potato has gotten a bad rap: “Eating Potatoes is making us fat!”
Potato. But come on, we inherently know the plain ole’ Potato, in and of itself, is not making the population overweight and obese. This harmless starch found in the dirt offers as little as 125 calories for a small potato (approximately 2″ in diameter) and only about 160 calories if we eat a medium-sized one (approximately 3″ in diameter). Not to mention, Potatoes are an excellent source of potassium, vitamin C, and provide a good source of fiber and iron as well.
So how is it this nutritious, natural food source is causing so much grief? Is it because the Potato scores high on the Glycemic Index, which means it more rapidly affects our blood sugar levels than many other foods…can this be the reason it has been shunned? Or is it possible the blame is being misinterpreted? Are we really packing on the pounds by eating too many plain baked potatoes, one after the other?
Well, not many of us can even recall eating more than one plain baked Potato at a sitting…unless of course that Potato becomes the French Fry, the twice-baked Potato, the Au Gratin Potato, the mashed with loads of Butter and gravy Potato, a bag of Potato chips, or the loaded with cheese and bacon Potato. (Note: each of these would provide anywhere from 500-700 calories alone!!!)
Corn. And how about another farming staple — the ear of Corn. Many have removed it from their diets because it’s believed that Corn is wreaking havoc on our health and waistlines. Corn, officially known as Maize, is likely familiar to all of us by driving passed farms with acres upon acres of tall stalks. Or maybe some of us have had closer encounters by walking through a Corn Maze with our families in the fall. However we came to recognize it, Corn is a grain produced off of these stalks that ultimately become the kernel.
One ear of Corn accounts for only about 80 calories and provides us with fiber, vitamins, antioxidants and minerals.
So how is it that this innocent little grain is so detrimental? How is it that we can’t stop ourselves from eating boiled corn ear after ear, meal after meal so the calories add up and cause weight gain?
Or maybe it’s something else. Maybe it’s the way we eat corn…the corn on the cob with huge amounts of salt and butter or margarine…that flavor will definitely motivate us to eat more than one ear. Or maybe it’s the delicious cream corn. Or the couple of corn tortillas with greasy beef, sour cream, melted cheese and more? Or maybe it’s the corn syrup that is made from corn and added as a sweetener into thousands of products, many of which we consume on a daily basis.
We know better…we understand that a plain serving of Corn is not the problem. It is the consumption of ill-prepared or a derivative of this natural grain that is playing a role in the massive weight gain. (Hey, that rhymes!)
Pasta. Let’s take a look at one more product we know so well that has been condemned in the media by countless experts warning us to avoid at all cost…pasta. Yes, the noodle is a processed food rather than a natural food…there is no angel hair pasta vine or rigatoni noodle tree in the Mediterranean. However, if we were to consume one cup of plain, cooked pasta noodles as the “starch/grain portion” of our meal, we would only be taking in about 200 calories, close to the same number of calories one cup of plain cooked rice would provide. And many of these products are enriched with beneficial vitamins and minerals.
So again, how is the noodle so detrimental?
Well, let’s be honest about how we prepare that pasta. When’s the last time any of us has eaten a huge bowl of “just plain cooked” noodles? But when we juice it up a little, we’ll have no problem eating one cup of noodles, and it’s likely we’ll have two, three or even four cups. We know how it typically goes: we make a rich red sauce (300 calories)…and maybe add in some meatballs and cheese (another 400 calories).
Pasta sauce and meatballs without bread and butter, come on…that’s a must (another 300 calories). How about a couple glasses of Cabernet with what’s becoming a beautiful meal (another 260 calories)? And our once 200-calorie starch/grain portion has turned into an entire meal at close to 1500 calories (and that’s without even including a side salad.)
So…is the plain boiled noodle actually a culprit in the weight epidemic, or is what we know deep down inside to be true: we just like our noodles loaded up (as in a 1000-1500 calorie pasta dish)?
We could go on about other foods that have gotten an unjustified bad wrap. But what we know is eating a plain baked potato each day, an ear of boiled Corn cob, or a cup of boiled pasta noodles are not by themselves inflicting huge amounts of damage. Instead, it’s most often ill-prepared versions, derivatives, and other unfavorable foods that often accompany them that are the real culprits.