This step-child of the veggie world often gets a bad rap. Many people seem to have the misunderstanding that potatoes aren't nutritious. I guess it's because they're not leafy or dark green, but actually potatoes are loaded with vitamins and minerals. Did you know that a regular baking potato contains 64% of your daily value of vitamin C and 53% of your daily value of vitamin B6, and a sweet potato has 700% of your daily value of vitamin A? Being prone to calf cramps, the thing I like most about potatoes is that they contain over 1,500mg of potassium. That's three times more than a banana! It's a bit of a myth that you have to eat the skin to get all the vitamins. The skin accounts for about 50% of the potato's fiber, but actually most of the nutrients are inside the spud.
Potatoes are also a great source of complex carbohydrates. Pasta doesn't even have as much! No, they're not as romantic as pasta. And you don't normally have them by candlelight. And Lady and Tramp would have looked kind of funny sucking on opposite ends of a potato, but the fact is, potatoes make a great food for runners.
Now, I know what you're thinking, "Hey but aren't potatoes high on the Glycemic Index?" Yep, they do have a high GI, but for runners that's a good thing. It means they're easily and quickly digested and get into your system to be used as energy quickly. If you have trouble with potatoes spiking your blood sugar too quickly, you can remedy this by eating a little fat or protein along with your potato. Greek yogurt is high in protein and is very similar in consistency to sour cream. Adding a dollop to your spud will help prevent that spike and slow down the digestion helping to provide a steadier stream of energy. You'll get the same result if you add a little Smart Balance margarine which will provide some fat(the good kind--polyunsaturated and monounsaturated). Or try eating a potato with a little chicken or turkey.
After a run, you need to replenish your spent carbs really quickly and that's the perfect time to ingest fast-acting carbs. Potatoes are perfect for this. Add a little protein and you have the perfect post-run recovery snack.
Now beware. Your sedentary friends will be quick to tell you (as they munch on their Mickey D's fries) that potatoes are bad, that they spike your blood sugar, and will turn to fat on you quickly. The sad thing, is that for them, that thinking is exactly right. If you're not active and you're not using those carbs as pre-run fueling or post-run re-fueling, it may very will have all of those negative effects. But I for one am elated, that I can mix-up a little homemade potato salad (using lowfat mayo) and wolf-it down after a run.
So Marsha...I mean Pasta, move aside! Potato Jan is moving into her own!