Jim Carpentier, CSCS STACK
The common potato is back in the news again for those enjoying dining at Taco Bell. CNN Business Reporter Danielle Wiener-Bronne mentioned that Taco Bell brings back its favorite spuds due to popular demand. This includes Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes topped with nacho cheese and sour cream and Taco Bell Spicy Potato Tacos comprising fried potatoes, cheddar cheese, lettuce, etc., spicy chipotle sauce. But before heading for a Taco Bell location near you and placing an order of those tasty potatoes, it’s worth considering their nutritional value.
Let’s examine the potato and whether those listed on the Taco Bell menu are the right choice for athletes and non-athletes alike. An ordinary complex carbohydrate-rich potato is a powerhouse of nutrients, including antioxidant-rich vitamin C to better aid the immune system and sports and exercise recovery), and potassium for optimizing muscle, cardiovascular and nervous system functioning, a beneficial source of dietary fiber (especially in the potato skins), and a super source of energy when consumed before workouts, sports practices or games. It’s also a great post-workout snack accompanied with protein to enhance muscle recovery following intense weight training and support muscle growth. However, things get a little tricky depending on the way the potato is prepared (e.g. fried, overly processed, or topped with high-calorie or high-sodium foods such as bacon bits and cheese).
French fries and potato chips are less heart-friendly due to their higher fat content and frying method, and oils. Simply microwaved or oven-roasted, or mashed potatoes topped with a little olive oil and butter. Even more nourishing is topping your baked or roasted potato with salsa (diced onions, tomatoes, peppers) and a little sour cream, chives, parsley, and pepper.
Sour cream contains bone-building calcium, as does cheddar cheese. Each includes some muscle-building protein topping Taco Bell’s potatoes. The cheese and sour cream are beneficial. The lettuce and hot peppers from the Taco Bell Spicy Potato Taco’s chipotle sauce have vitamin C. This helps your immune system and provides sports and exercise recovery-boosting antioxidants.
So, yes, once in a while, do treat yourself to Taco Bell’s potato selections. More often, though, opt for healthier baked, mashed, or oven-roasted potatoes you can make at home. If you’re on the go, prepare a baked potato in the microwave before your workout. It’s easy to reheat it after exercise, and top with some protein-rich Greek yogurt, a drizzle of olive oil and dab of butter, and chopped peppers or tomatoes! Now you’ve really created a super spud – super for the athlete’s and non-athletes hearts and muscles for enabling peak performance on the field and in the weight room!