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"The potato is a nutrient-dense vegetable that provides important, critically under-consumed nutrients to adolescent diets," said Victor Fulgoni, co-author of the study.

"Given their popularity--more than half (56 per cent) of those surveyed reported eating some form of potatoes as there are opportunities to lean into these findings to make it easier for young people to find, cook and enjoy potatoes as part of a healthy dietary pattern," added Fulgoni.

Researchers gathered dietary information from 16,633 nine to 18-year-olds participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001-2018.

This study used the Healthy Eating Index-2015 (HEI), a validated measure of diet quality, to determine how closely the participants' diets adhered to the “2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans”.

Although differences in HEI scores between potato consumers and non-consumers were statistically significant, the changes were modest; for many nutrients, intake and adequacy improved with increasing potato consumption.

According to the stats of the survey, HEI scores were 4.7 per cent higher among those who consumed potatoes that were whether boiled, mashed or eaten as part of a mixed dish compared to those who ate no potatoes.

HEI scores were 2 per cent and 1.6 per cent higher than potato non-consumers, respectively, among adolescents who ate either fried potatoes or those who ate fried potatoes or potato chips.

"Our findings show that potatoes play an important role in helping adolescents better meet the recommendations set forth in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans," noted Fulgoni.

"This is an important goal as, according to the USDA Agricultural Research Service, children and adolescents have the lowest HEI scores among any age group in the US - just 53 out of an ideal HEI score of 100," added Fulgoni.

"Our results also bring attention to the 'company potatoes keep'. Fried potatoes and potato chips are often paired with less nutrient-dense foods, which can't be teased out in this type of study but may explain the slightly lower diet quality scores among these groups of potato eaters as compared to the people who prefer baked or boiled potatoes. Additional clinical trials are needed to better elucidate this situation," she concluded.

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