y relationship with the wellness industry and the trends that consistently spring from it has reached a point of what I would call “healthy skepticism.” But even if I’m not inclined to jump on a bandwagon simply because the bandwagon exists, I still have an insatiable desire to investigate its contents. Whether seeming pseudoscience like celery juice or legitimately helpful like CBD, the newest thing that is purported to make me literally feel like my best self is always going to pique my curiosity, which is why the following conversation sent my down a rabbit hole of epic proportions:
Friend: “You’ll never guess what the next big wellness trend is going to be.”
Friend: “White potatoes.”
Me: “Very funny.”
Friend: “I’m serious. We’ve been conditioned to eat kale non-stop, but when we get these huge salads during the day and eat them in like 15 minutes between meetings, we’re not able to chew them thoroughly enough, which makes us bloated and gives us gas. That’s why so many people complain about stomachaches all the time. But the wellness community is starting to pay more and more attention to digestion, and white potatoes are one of the easiest things to digest. Plus, they actually have a ton of nutrients.”
Though I was fascinated by the prospect of a colorless carbohydrate being the new kale, my skepticism immediately kicked in. Perhaps white potatoes didn’t deserve to be roped in with other pale and therefore less favorable carbs like white rice and white bread, but how could they ever nutritionally compete with sweet potatoes, noted king of the health world.
According to The Food Network, both white potatoes and sweet potatoes have solid nutritional profiles, but white potatoes are notably excellent sources of vitamins C, B6, niacin, folate, potassium (even more than a banana!), manganese, magnesium and phosphorus. Also, per my friend’s point about digestion, white potatoes are easy to digest because they are low in FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols), a collection of molecules that can cause IBS symptoms like bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation.
As for the viability of white potatoes to become a wellness darling, the forecast looks more promising than I originally thought:
“Given their versatility, white potatoes have all the makings of becoming a popular food item,” registered dietician Meghan Carney told me over email. “Think of how many recipes you can find for the popular sweet potato – sweet potato fries, sweet potato buns, sweet potato waffles, sweet potato bowls…the list is endless. In each example you could easily substitute a white potato. Aside from the vitamin A content, a white potato isn’t much different in nutritional value than its trendy counterpart. Choose the potato you enjoy most.”
Now feels like the right time to admit my bias: I really like sweet potatoes, but I love white potatoes. Baked with a little butter and some sea salt? *Chef’s kiss.* Roasted in the oven until golden brown? Addicting. I will go out of my way to get lunch from Smile to Go on Howard street in New York whenever I can because their roasted white potatoes with rosemary are so heavenly. Given their legitimate health benefits, if a white potato wellness bandwagon is congregating, I will undoubtedly be eager to hop aboard.
No matter how you feel about this particular tuber, Carney advises taking a moderate and considered approach to any edible phenomenon: “As a dietitian, I always emphasize that what may work for one person’s diet may not be conducive for the next person. Nutrition is completely individualized; no two bodies are the same. When it comes to trendy food items, don’t get swept up in the flashy headlines; make sure to conduct evidence-based research and seek a nutrition professional’s opinion. Foods you eat should fuel your body and soul.”
White potatoes certainly fuel mine. At this point it’s too soon to tell if they’re explosive wellness trend material, but don’t worry, I set up a Google alert.
Photos by Heidi’s Bridge.