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  • Writer's pictureAnna Rathbun, NC

3 Recipes for the Humble Potato

Soft and creamy, the perfect palette for butter, salt and some crispy heat – the humble potato. I usually buy red or yellow potatoes because they're creamier and more flavorful than russets. In the summer I steam them in a pot with an inch of water and a lid and in the winter I coat them in oil and set them in the oven in a cast iron pan. They are done when a fork is inserted easily. I precook potatoes and place them in the fridge to cool so they are ready to make into any dish quickly. I don’t have the time to cook then roast, fry or mash potatoes at one meal. During the rest of the week I have a bowl of potatoes to work from for any easy meal.

Smash browns – heat 1 tablespoon bacon grease, butter or coconut oil in a cast iron pan and sprinkle with salt. Place a whole cooked potato in the hot pan then use the back of a strong spatula to ‘smash’ the potato into the pan. Brown that side, then flip and brown the other side.

Oven fries – slice the precooked potatoes in wedge shapes and place on greased cookie sheet. Sprinkle with oil (avocado oil or coconut oil for the high heat), salt and pepper and grated garlic. Cook at 450° for half hour or more until they are golden brown.

Mashed potatoes – slice cooked potatoes in quarters and place in a pot with an inch of chicken stock or water. Steam until they are warm then mash with a masher – pushing straight down with the tool. don’t whip them as this will turn the starches gooey. Add butter and salt to taste.

Precooked potatoes are perfect for potato salad or twice baked potatoes.

How my lazy potato method improves health

This cooking and cooling technique has another benefit – it converts part of the potato to resistant starch. When a starch like potatoes (and pasta or rice) is cooked and then cooled some of the starch is converted to resistant starch. Resistant starch doesn’t absorb into the bloodstream thereby lowering the blood sugar rise from these potatoes. Resistant starch stays in the gut where it feeds good bacteria further improving health by boosting the microbiome of beneficial bacteria in the gut. I was just being lazy by precooking potatoes, turns out it was a health tip!

Potatoes and histamine intolerance

Don’t precook potatoes if you’re dealing with any histamine or mast cell issues. Any food that sits around starts growing histamines so food should be consumed fresh. There are other ways to reduce the histamine response, but when cooking potatoes just don’t add to your histamine load.

Potatoes and blood sugar

Potato is the carbohydrate, blood sugar raising, part of a meal. Eating a plain russet potato raises the blood sugar as much as a tablespoon of straight sugar! Cook, cool and reheat the potato and it won’t raise blood sugar as fast, the carbs take longer to break down. Eat the russet potato with butter, roast chicken and a side of broccoli and it will provide a healthy, slow rise in blood sugar plus a nutritious meal. The creamier potatoes like red, yellow or fingerling potatoes have a smaller effect on blood sugar to begin with. The blood sugar effect is lowered by heating and cooling and lowered again by combining the potato with protein, fiber and fat.

My potatoes are sprouting!

Potato sprouts are poisonous, along with all the leafy parts of all nightshade vegetables. When a potato has just begun sprouting it’s ok to slice off and discard the sprout and cook the potato. If the sprout is over a half inch then the potato is only suitable for planting. Simply cut up the potato with 1 sprout to each chunk of potato, set it in the dirt and water it. Potatoes are easy to grow and can be grown year-round.

Potato production and French fries

Over half of United States' potatoes are grown in Idaho and Washington: Over half of United States' potatoes are processed into frozen french fries, wedges and other instant potato items. From a nutritional standpoint, purchasing these frozen fries to cook in your oven at home is much healthier than deep fried french fries that you find in a restaurant – why? The frying process to create french fries and potato chips damages hot oil which creates trans-fats which are damaging to our cells and liver. When you take the same potato, coat it in oil and cook it in the oven -there is no frying oil and no trans-fats as long as you're using an oil that can handle high heat such as avocado, coconut oil, butter or bacon fat.

Potatoes and joint pain

For some people, potatoes are a major contributor to joint pain. Potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, all peppers, goji berries, ashwaganda and tobacco are all nightshades. They contain a phytochemical called solanine which contributes to joint pain in some people. Blueberries, huckleberries, Okra and artichoke are not botanically related, but they also contain solanine. Sweet potatoes and yams are a different species and don’t contain solanine.

If you suffer from arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, fibromyalgia, Lymes disease or any joint pain then it’s worth doing a trial of strictly avoiding all of these foods for 2 weeks to see if your pain improves. After 2 weeks enjoy potatoes and other solanine foods and watch for any change in body pain for a full three days. The change in body pain will be dramatic if you’re sensitive to solanine. Other foods can contribute to joint pain and an effective elimination diet would remove and then reintroduce all suspect foods.

Special diets and the humble potato

Potatoes are naturally vegetarian and gluten free and can be a staple in a healthy diet as long as the potato isn’t deep fried. Save deep fried french fries and chips for occasional treats.

Low carb - Potatoes are straight carbohydrate which raises blood sugar so they would be limited to a certain amount for low carb or diabetic food plans and avoided on a keto plan.

On the other end of the spectrum is a weight loss plan called the potato diet which advocates eating nothing but potatoes and water without any condiments for 3-5 days for fast weight loss. I wouldn’t recommend it as this extremism is psychologically and physically dangerous.

A therapeutic Paleo, autoimmune, or elimination diet, designed to alleviate autoimmune issues with joint pain would remove potatoes and nightshades on a trial basis. For some people joint pain as in rheumatoid arthritis, Lyme or fibromyalgia is triggered by potatoes and for other people it isn’t a factor at all. If potatoes cause joint pain you will be motivated to avoid them. Occasionally potatoes will sneak in, as potato starch in a pastry or as a thickener in an innocent looking soup and within 3 days your joints will be stiff and sore. If there is no change in your joint pain then there’s no reason to avoid healthy and delicious potatoes. Other, non-solanine foods may be a factor in joint pain as well.

I would love to be an avid gardener, but somehow preparing the soil and planting seeds doesn’t come naturally to me. Even with this, I have a batch of potatoes growing in the back corner of the yard right now. A bag of red potatoes started sprouting so I cut them up and stuffed them in the dirt. Right now there are little sprouts peaking up and in a month I’ll dig up 2 plants at a time to steam and keep in the fridge for smashed potatoes, roasted oven fries and twice baked potatoes.


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