Potatoes pile on the nutrition but pamper the budget

Potatoes are one of the best nutritional values in vegetables, according to a new study

What food is high in nutrients, a good source of potassium - and cheap?

You just guessed bananas, right? But the answer is the humble potato, according to a new study.

The study published in the journal PLOS ONE reports that potatoes are one of the best nutritional values per penny in the produce aisle. They are cheaper than most other raw vegetables and deliver one of the most affordable source of potassium, second only to beans and more per serving than bananas.

“We’ve found that potatoes are a better value for your money,” said Adam Drewnowski, director of the nutritional sciences program at the University of Washington in Seattle and lead author of the study. “Greens are low in calories, but are more expensive in terms of being affordable, followed by carrots and broccoli.”

Potatoes often lose points as a healthy eating option because of how they are cooked, topped or consumed. But when prepared in a healthy way, they offer a good source of a fat-free food, according to Meredith Myers, manager of public relations for the United Potatoes Board.

A baked potato that is eaten with the peeling intact maximizes nutrition but keeps calories in line.

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“Some of the essential nutrients are not thought of when people think of potatoes,” Myers said. “A medium potato has only 110 calories has no fat, sodium or cholesterol. Potatoes are also a great source of potassium even more than bananas.”

According to the study, potatoes rank highest in potassium content among the top 20 most frequently consumed raw vegetables and the top 20 most frequently consumed raw fruits. One medium potato with the skin contains 620 mg of potassium. That’s compared to 422 mg in a banana.

“Not only are potatoes an excellent source of potassium, they also provide a lot vitamin C and vitamin B6 as well,“ said Torey Jones, registered dietician and account supervisor for FleishmanHillard’s Health & Wellness practice in Chicago. One medium potato with skin has 70 percent of our daily recommended vitamin C and is a good source for fiber as well.”

The study is geared towards schools as they try to provide healthier school meals without increasing costs, said Drewnowski. It also is geared towards consumers trying to save their money.

“With the study I wanted to make sure the affordability was considered for families trying to stretch their food dollar,” Drewnowski said.

“Consumers are usually concerned how much they are spending when they are at the grocery store,” Myers said. “This is great news because it’s a way for shoppers to get a very nutritious meal in a economical way.”