DENVER—Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the release of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. A strong emphasis is made on reducing calorie consumption and increasing physical activity. Additionally, the other two areas of strong focus are consuming more "healthy foods" like fruits and vegetables, as well as consuming less sodium, saturated and trans fats, added sugars and refined grains. Potatoes fit squarely among all the recommendations.
Overweight and obesity in the U.S. exceeds two-thirds of the population, so it's no surprise the 2010 Dietary Guidelines highlight the importance of weight management. A recent study scientifically demonstrated people can include potatoes in their weight loss regimen. This research, completed by the University of California, Davis and the National Center for Food Safety and Technology, Illinois Institute of Technology, demonstrated it's not the elimination of certain foods or food groups that matter in weight loss and management—it's the calories that count.
Not only can America's favorite vegetable be part of a healthy weight-loss program, potatoes also provide two of the key "shortfall" nutrients identified by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee—potassium and fiber—which are nutrients currently consumed in inadequate amounts by Americans. The No. 1 food source of potassium listed is potatoes, with 738 mg for a standard portion.
The guidelines go on to list potential strategies for managing sodium consumption, and one of those is: "Get more potassium in your diet. Food sources of potassium include potatoes, cantaloupe, bananas, beans and yogurt." Dietary potassium can lower blood pressure by blunting the adverse effects of sodium. Other possible benefits of potassium include a decreased risk of developing kidney stones and decreased bone loss.
The U.S. potato industry has more good news to share as it relates to potatoes and potassium. Recently completed research using data from the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) shows potatoes provide the largest and most affordable source of potassium of any vegetable or fruit.
"It is crucial that Americans increase their intake of potassium," said lead NHANES researcher Adam Drenowski, PhD, "and potatoes not only provide one of the most significant but also the most affordable source of potassium for any vegetable or fruit."
In addition to potassium, one medium-size (5.3 ounce) skin-on potato contains just 110 calories per serving, provides almost half the daily value of vitamin C (45 percent), and contains no fat, sodium or cholesterol.
The USPB commends the USDA for recognizing the need for change in the overall food environment. The potato industry is proud to be a part of the effort to help Americans make healthier choices and looks forward to the opportunities to promote the availability of a wide range of healthy and affordable potato products. To get started, please visit www.potatogoodness.com for potato nutrition information, how-to cooking videos and a database of healthy potato recipes.