Potatoes Make Junk Food —but They're Not Junk
Mark Bittman: Corn, potatoes don't deserve their bad rap
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 22, 2012 10:17 AM CST
Packages of Pringles potato chips are displayed on a shelf at a market on April 5, 2011 in San Francisco, California.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Corn and potatoes get a bad rap, due to the fact that we mainly consume them in junk food form. But corn and potatoes themselves are, Mark Bittman reminds us in the New York Times, "real food"—unlike, say, Pringles, which are potato chips that contain just 42% actual potato. That brand was just sold to Kellogg's for $2.7 billion last week, and Bittman uses the transaction as a reason to examine our relationship with the crops. "Don’t make the mistake of blaming the potato for Pringles," Bittman urges. "Nor should you blame corn for nachos or, for that matter, metal for guns."

Two-thirds of potatoes are now processed, Bittman writes, most for French fries—which means that though our potato consumption is way up, our consumption of fresh (aka "unprocessed, real") potatoes is way down. Potatoes in and of themselves contain just 22 calories per ounce; that number is 24 for corn. Compare that to the 150 calories contained in one ounce of Pringles, or the 139 calories contained in one ounce of corn chips. "We process so many real foods that we barely see them in a natural state," Bittman writes. If we could change that, we just might "look better, as would our health care bills, which in general rise along with Big Food’s influence and profits."