A frequently expressed concern in the ongoing public health debate is that fresh fruits and vegetables, particularly those that are nutrient dense, are not affordable to the average consumer. Research presented today at the American Dietetic Association’s (ADA) Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) demonstrates that potatoes are one of the best nutritional values in the produce department, providing significantly better nutritional value per dollar than most other raw vegetables. Per serving, white potatoes were the largest and most affordable source of potassium of any vegetable or fruit.
Dr. Adam Drewnowski and colleagues from the University of Washington merged nutrient composition data from the USDA Food and Nutrition Database for Dietary Studies (FNDDS 2.0) with the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) national food prices database. Frequency of consumption data was obtained from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES 2003-4). The Affordable Nutrition Index (ANI) was the metric used to assess nutritional value per dollar for potatoes and for other vegetables.
Potatoes were the lowest cost source of dietary potassium, a nutrient identified by the 2010 Dietary Guidelines as lacking in the American diet. The high cost of meeting federal dietary guidelines for potassium, 4,700 mg per person per day, presents a challenge for consumers and health professionals, alike. However, the cost of potassium-rich white potatoes was half that of most other vegetables.
“Potatoes deserve credit for contributing to higher diet quality and increasing vegetable consumption,” said lead researcher Adam Drewnowski, PhD. “Potatoes also play an important role in providing affordable nutrition to Americans. You CAN afford to meet key dietary guidelines IF you include potatoes in your diet.”
Further analyses of NHANES dietary intake showed that putting potatoes on the plate did improve overall diet quality. Individuals who consumed potatoes (baked, boiled and roasted) had higher intakes of potassium and vitamin C and consumed more total vegetables in a day compared to those who did not consume potatoes.
The study was funded by Potatoes USA and adds to the growing database of nutrition science that supports potatoes in a healthful diet. In addition, one medium-size (5.3 ounce) skin-on potato contains just 110 calories per serving, boasts more potassium (620g) than a banana, provides almost half the daily value of vitamin C (45 percent), and contains no fat, sodium or cholesterol.