Are potatoes healthy? This article tries to settle the debate over sweet vs ‘regular’ once and for all. Kids can be pretty fussy when eating vegetables. Many turn their noses up at turnips, Brussel sprouts, beets and eggplants.

The potato, on the other hand, is one veggie that’s practically universally loved. Both picky kids and adults can find something to love. French fries? Mashed potatoes? Hashbrowns? The flavors and frying forms are endlessly versatile and offer a great excuse to load up on cheese, sour cream or ketchup.

But are these root vegetables healthy? Here’s what we found out about the most nutrient-dense type of potato.

Which potatoes are healthiest?

As with any vegetable, the healthiest potato will generally be the most colorful one. Deep reds and purples indicate higher amounts of antioxidants like anthocyanin, registered dietitian Danielle Crumble Smith tells USA TODAY. Antioxidants help neutralize the free radicals in our bodies which, when imbalanced, can cause cell damage and disease.

Her favorite is the Okinawan sweet potato. Brought to Japan from South America in the 1600s, these vegetables look like your average potato from the outside but have a deep purple color on the inside. Other colorful options include sweet potatoes and red and purple potatoes.

But any kind of potato is a nutritious option that will bring something different to the table, Crumble Smith says. For example, you’ll get more vitamin A, fiber and fewer carbs in sweet potatoes but more vitamin C in a Yukon gold potato.

“I would encourage people, in order to get a variety of nutrients, to consume a variety of the different types of potatoes,” she says.

Are potatoes healthy?

So, are potatoes healthy or unhealthy? Potatoes are inexpensive vegetables that make a healthy addition to the average diet. These starchy veggies sometimes get a bad rap because they’re more calorically dense than other vegetables and are a source of carbohydrates, but Crumble Smith says that’s not a reason to cut them out. Potatoes are largely made of complex carbohydrates, which take longer to digest and give more lasting energy than simple sugars.

“We should not limit foods just because of their caloric content because starchy foods play a role in feeling satisfied and being a key component of the balanced meal,” she says. “The great thing about potatoes is that there are other nutrients provided.”

Potatoes, especially the skins, are a great source of fiber, for example. Fiber keeps you fuller for longer and regulates your appetite. It also helps control blood sugar levels, supports heart health and aids in weight management.

Potatoes are also rich in potassium, an essential mineral that helps regulate the heart’s electrical activity and fluid exchange within cells, maintains normal blood pressure and facilitates proper nerve function. Individuals with chronic kidney disease should consult their doctor about potatoes so they don’t exceed the recommended potassium intake, Crumble Smith advises.

“When you think about a diet as a whole, if you’re consuming foods that are going to keep you satisfied, help regulate your appetite and prevent having those sweet cravings or wanting to snack on foods that don’t provide any nutrient benefit, things like potatoes should not be feared at all,” Crumble Smith says.

When cooked and cooled, potatoes contain resistant starch, which improves gut health because it doesn’t raise glucose.

“For people with diabetes, I would definitely recommend going the meal prep route where you make your potatoes ahead of time, keep them in the refrigerator and then reheat the next day,” Crumble Smith says. “Those are going to have a lower glycemic index.”

But you can still eat cooked potatoes if you have insulin resistance or diabetes, just make sure to pair it with a protein, healthy fat and other non-starchy veggies. Crumble Smith recommends testing your blood sugar levels after an hour and a half to two hours to see how your body responds.

Are sweet potatoes healthy?

Sweet potatoes are healthy vegetables and have a lower glycemic index than “regular” potatoes, Crumble Smith says. They’re a good source of fiber and beta-carotene, a pigment found in orange and yellow fruits and vegetables that converts into vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is important for eye and skin health and immune system support.

“Because of the variety of color they have more nutrients,” Crumble Smith says.

Healthy ways to cook potatoes

French fries are responsible for the potato’s other bad reputation. Deep frying potatoes in oil makes the vegetable even more calorically dense and inflammatory, Crumble Smith says.

But while delicious, French fries are not the only way to consume potatoes. A healthier option would be roasting, baking, boiling or cooking in a soup or stew. Crumble Smith’s favorite way to eat potatoes is sliced thinly, roasted and added to a salad.

“If you’re just using a little bit of a healthy fat source and maybe some seasonings to flavor, then you’re not altering the potato that much,” Crumble Smith says.

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