Not only are US potatoes actually good for our health, they’re NECESSARY to those of us who work out regularly, live an active lifestyle, or are into sports. Here’s why.
Featured | Food | By Trixie Reyna on October 19, 2017

Working out without maintaining a healthy diet is pretty pointless; both go hand in hand. And remember, a healthy diet doesn’t mean depriving ourselves of the good stuff—like our favorite carbs.

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My beach yoga photo by Love Train Studios

Our wedding day is two months away, and I’m working out double time. And by working out, I mean doing yoga at least three times a week, doing an hour of spinning at home when I don’t go to yoga class, and doing around 150 crunches every day. Whether or not you think this is enough of a workout, my body thinks so, and I’m almost always hungry.

If I give in to my body’s every craving for food, I’ll cancel out all the effort I’ve made. So, while working out makes me hungry, it’s what I feed my body that’s key to seeing and maintaining results. And what anybody who works out needs are carbohydrates, energy, and potassium. Get these from the right sources, and the body will be satisfied without undoing your progress.

There’s one food source that gives us all of this in one go, and that’s US potatoes. As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, US potatoes actually help us get in shape so we shouldn’t be excluding it from our diet when we’re trying to lose weight by working out.

Just think of it this way: We work out so we can burn everything we ate, tone our muscles, and be stronger and healthier. But we can’t reach peak performance in our choice of workout if we don’t nourish the body with the nutrients it needs to keep going. If we supply the body the carbohydrates, energy, potassium, and other nutrients it needs, it will perform better as it burns everything we put into it, and we end up looking and feeling better.

Beyond just “allowing” ourselves to eat US potatoes, we actually should be telling ourselves our bodies need US potatoes to perform best when we work out, or even when we play sports (at least for those who do—I’m really not very athletic).

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Photo courtesy of Potatoes USA Philippines Facebook page

US potatoes as energy source for our workout and training

By now, I’ve proven that going on a crash diet without working out never gets me my desired results. I only end up miserable, and while I sometimes may lose weight, the weightloss never looks healthy. I would always bounce back after I get past my reason for going on a crash diet in the first place—usually a beach trip or a formal affair where I need to wear a long gown.

The most effective way for me to lose weight in a way that looks and feels good—and with lasting results—is to work out. And my choice of fitness activity, as mentioned, is yoga because I’m not really built for sports or high intensity exercises like CrossFit or even running.

Whatever workout or sport we do, we need energy to sustain this and last throughout the gym session, run, training, or yoga class. And what we need for athletic performance and endurance is Vitamin B6. Eating US potatoes provides us Vitamin B6, which is necessary for the breakdown of glycogen, the form in which sugar is stored in our muscle cells and liver.

Also, did you know carbohydrates are the primary fuel for your brain and a key source of energy for your muscles? Carbs are important for optimal physical and mental performance, according to the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics, American College of Sports Medicine and the Dietitians of Canada. This is why you must always have a regular supply of carbs in your diet. US potatoes are more energy-packed than any other popular vegetable, with a medium (5.2 ounce) skin-on US potato containing only 110 calories that are not from fat. The National Academy of Science recommends that both adults and children consume 130g of carbohydrates a day, and US potatoes can provide these carbohydrates along with essential vitamins and minerals—including Vitamin C, which is needed for endurance and overall health.

I never feel guilty about indulging in US potatoes at least one hour before my yoga practice because I feel that it really gives me the energy I need to push myself to do every pose in a 60- to 90-minute hot yoga class where I’ll burn all the carbs anyway.

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Photographing myself while doing the sleeping hero pose

US potatoes help prevent cramping

When I don’t get enough potassium in my body, I definitely get cramps after, or worse, during my yoga practice. This also happens to me whenever I go for a swim. My problem was, I don’t like bananas, which is a good source of potassium. I’m glad I found out that US potatoes are actually a better source of potassium: a medium skin-on US potato contains more potassium (620 milligrams!) than a banana!

Victoria Jarzabkowski, a nutritionist with the Fitness Institute of Texas at The University of Texas at Austin, told livescience.com, “Potatoes can help restore electrolyte balance. Sodium and potassium, which are found in potato skin, are two important electrolytes, and athletes lose them in sweat.” And it’s a lack of electrolytes that causes cramps, in case you didn’t know.

Potassium is also known to aid in muscle hydration and recovery, and even in nervous system and cardiovascular function—it helps lower blood pressure, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines recommends consuming food with high levels of potassium, like US potatoes.

So, thanks to US potatoes, I don’t have to force myself to eat a banana before yoga class. I just make sure to include more US potatoes in my meals so I don’t have to worry about cramps as I bend my body in different directions and play with the limits of my flexibility.

Best way to prepare US potatoes to maximize nutrients

According to Runners World, all varieties of US potatoes—russet, red, yellow and purple—contain large quantities of vitamins and minerals, and they’re easy to digest and prepare. Baked, mashed, or boiled US potatoes actually provide more energy-delivering carbohydrates than pasta. These are the best ways of preparing US potatoes because they cause the least amount of nutrients lost. It’s always best to leave the skin on because not only does it contain most of the potassium, the skin also helps keep most of the water-soluble nutrients of potatoes in.

Ever since I found out that much of the potassium content of US potatoes is in the skin, I make sure to eat and make more skin-on US potato dishes. My favorite? Quick and easy mashed potatoes baked in the microwave, which I learned from this video:

I have since made my customizations to it. I followed the steps, from microwaving the potatoes and mashing it with the skin on, and then adding non-fat milk, unsalted butter, a pinch of salt, and a dash of black pepper. But then, I go crazy with the garlic: I cut up an entire large garlic head (several cloves) and mix it into the potatoes, and then sometimes top it with cheese! My fiance loves my cheesy garlic mashed potatoes so much, he says it’s the best he’s ever had! Whenever we eat out, he says my mashed potatoes still trump those we try in restaurants. Haha! I’m happy to know my first-ever winning dish is my favorite thing to eat: garlic mashed potatoes!

There are seven US potato type categories: russet, red, white, yellow, blue/purple, fingerling and petite. In the Philippines, red, purple, fingerlings, yellows, and russets are available in supermarkets (SM, Rustan’s, and Robinsons Supermarkets). US potatoes also come in several forms to fit various needs—fresh, dehydrated, frozen, and refrigerated. Learn more here.

Frozen US potatoes by the kilo in SM freezer

Frozen US potatoes by the kilo in SM freezer (photo by Trixie Reyna)

US frozen potatoes come in different variety and are easily available in leading supermarkets nationwide (SM Supermarkets, Rustan’s Supermarkets, Robinsons Supermarkets, Cherry Foodarama, and S&R). Some of the cuts available are frozen half shells, wedges, slices, straight cuts, crinkle cuts, loop/curly or popularly known as twister fries, lattice/basket weave, tater tots, and hash browns. There are several variants that have the skin on.

US processors use state-of-the-art technology to meet high industry standards. The finished product is instantly quick-frozen to lock in the flavor and nutrients of fresh US potatoes. To ensure food safety, every US potato processor meets stringent requirements of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The United States is the only country in the world with mandatory USDA Grading Standards for frozen US potatoes.

For more information on how US potatoes can help support your own workout or athletic training and performance, check out the Potatoes USA Philippines Facebook page. Share your own experience of how US potatoes boost your workout—tag @trixiereyna and use #USPotatoPowerPH.

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