Potatoes on St Patrick's Day

Irish potatoes St Patrick's Day

For some reason, many of us here in Ireland seem to have lost that tradition. So what are we missing out on?

Blog written by respected dietitian and ambassador for 'Potatoes: More Than A Bit On The Side', Aoife Hearne.

A look back on times gone by:

Let’s look back in history a little first regarding our potato intake. Historically potatoes played an essential role in the diet especially pre-famine providing a healthy balance of unprocessed carbohydrates for energy. It is believe that the average male consumed 5,700 calories per day (largely from potatoes) in 1839 (Michael Turner, After the Famine).  In addition to this the potato and milk based diet provided essential sources of calcium, essential vitamins and minerals.  In fact Arthur Young noted in 1779 that ‘the potato was largely responsible for the healthiness of the Irish’ (Joel Mokyr, Why Ireland Starved). And some historians suggest that the potato was responsible for the Irish being on average 1.5cm taller that the British in the 1800’s (Kane 1845). So it is true to say that the potato played a very important role in our heritage.

Here’s the science bit:

Potatoes are part of the carbohydrate family. Carbohydrates are an essential nutrient in the body whose  main function is for energy. It is important not to forget that it is the only energy source that is readily available for the brain to use. Therefore, adequate carbohydrate intake is essential for brain function. 

Despite the many myths out there, carbohydrates are not bad for you. In fact they are an essential part of a balanced and varied diet. Just like with other macronutrients (protein and fat) it is the amount and type you eat that is important.

Why eat potatoes:

Even in 21st century Ireland, potatoes are an essential part of a healthy diet.  Not only are potatoes an important source of energy, but they also provide a great source of potassium, vitamin C and a variety of B vitamins.  In fact according to recent research on the current intake of the Irish population potatoes account for 27% vitamin C intake, 17% Folate intake, 10% Iron intake, 20% Dietary Fibre, 11% Energy, 17% Carbohydrate , 7% fat intake, 6% protein intake. As you can see potatoes contribute quiet a lot of benefits to our daily intake and go a long way to ensure we are adequately nourished.

This St Patrick’s Day, why not celebrate with a traditional recipe with a twist - Potato Skins with Bacon and Cabbage

The great thing about this recipe is that the potato skin is part of the meal, in addition to the combination with vegetables and protein.  Did you know that the potato skin is a great source of fibre and an average baked potato in its skin has more fibre than 2 slices of wholemeal bread?  Team that with the fibre content in the cabbage and you’re on to a winner. In fact this recipe alone provides 20% of your daily recommended intake for fibre.

The eggs, cheese and ham in this recipe provide a great source of protein. The combination of carbohydrates and protein at meals and snacks provides slow release energy.  So you can be guaranteed that this meal will keep your energy levels topped up right through the afternoon or evening.

The cabbage adds great benefits to this recipe also. Cabbage is part of the brassica family of vegetables.  And provides a great source of fibre and even more importantly a valuable source of folate.  We see that the many Irish women do not eat enough folic acid/folate in their diet, this can have serious implications during pregnancy.  This recipe provides one third of your daily recommended intake for folate.

Considering the fact that most Irish people are not eating enough fibre  and folate in their diet this is a simple, traditional and tasty way to keep your St Patrick’s Day menu nutritious and healthy.

Once you've tried this recipe, check out our other recipes too.