Spud Science – by Jemma O’Hanlon

By Jemma O’Hanlon, Accredited Practising Dietitian
I absolutely adore potatoes. They are one of those foods that we all need in our lives. For me, they bring back memories of Mum’s creamy potato bake or jacket potatoes, fresh from the oven, steaming hot and topped with sour cream and chives. Potatoes bring out the best in us, and make our minds and bodies sing. And that’s no fleeting statement. There’s good science to back it up, which is what the Hort Innovation funded Educating health professionals about Australian potatoes (PU19002) project recently explored. The mission was to pull all the science behind Aussie potatoes together and disseminate it to influential health professionals. So, what are the spud’s secret superpowers?

Resistant Starch

Spuds have a superpower in producing resistant starch when they are cooked and cooled. Resistant starch is a unique type of dietary fibre which Aussies don’t get enough of, and it’s incredibly powerful when it comes to gut health. There are only a few foods that have this superpower – green bananas are another one. Now, in every potato there’s a whopping 7.7g of dietary fibre and 2.2g of this is resistant starch. Not only does resistant starch reduce the risk of cancers like colon cancer, but it has also been found to reduce inflammation and strengthen immunity. It also slows digestion and absorption, lowering the Glycaemic Index (GI) of a meal, helping us feel fuller for longer. Cook your potatoes and cool them in the fridge for 2 hours+ and you’ll reap the extra benefits.

A Lower Carb, Carb

It’s a myth that potatoes are a one of the highest carbohydrate foods. In fact, compared to other carb-containing foods like white and brown rice, pasta and bread, spuds have a lower carb content. Spuds also score top points when it comes to satiety (how full one gets) compared to other foods, and we know that staying full often keeps us away from snacking mindlessfully on unhealthy foods.


When we think of polyphenols, a group of powerful antioxidants that fight diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer, most of us might think of brightly coloured fruits like blueberries and apples. Enter pigmented potatoes – they are packed full of them! Particularly near the skin, which also has 2-3 times the fibre. To get the greatest health benefits from your spuds always keep the skins, but if you need to peel them, set the skins aside and crisp them up in the oven for a delicious snack later.

Good Mood Food

Have you ever wondered why eating a meal with spuds always makes you feel good? Well, it goes beyond just nostalgia. Turns out spuds are packed full of mood-boosting nutrients like folate, vitamin B6, vitamin C and magnesium, which help support psychological function and brain health – essentially making us happier!

I hope this gives you all the science you need to brag about benefits of the not-so-humble spud. With the trend of home cooking back in vogue, why not head into the kitchen and bring those superpowers to life.

Spud Superpowers

Resistant Starch for Gut Health
• Satiety for Weight Management
• Polyphenols to fight Heart Disease, Type 2 Diabetes and Cancer
• Folate, Vitamin C, B6 & Magnesium for a Good Mood

Visit for a host of shareable resources and nutrition information. This project was funded by Hort Innovation using the fresh potato research and development levy funds from the Australian Government. For more information on the fund and strategic levy investment visit

Jemma O’Hanlon is a trusted nutrition expert and Accredited Practising Dietitian with over 16 years’ experience across the food production, foodservice, food manufacturing and public health sectors. Jemma is a Director of Dietitians Australia and was previously the R&D Manager – Health & Nutrition, Food Safety and Value Chain at Hort Innovation. With extensive experience in the media and featuring on national broadcast platforms, Jemma’s passion is championing culinary nutrition and demonstrating how food can be both nutritious and delicious. In her spare time you’ll find Jemma out amongst nature, enjoying a run in the sunshine or whipping up quick & easy meals in the kitchen.

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