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The Secret to Great Potato Salad

This article ran in the Reading Eagle on Wednesday, July 30, 2014.

Attaining good health is actually much simpler than most of us imagine. Think of it this way, every food we eat fits into one of three categories: animal based, plant-based, or processed. Only one of these categories contains anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, immune-enhancing capabilities; not ironically, the others have no scientifically proven capability for producing the same health benefits.

Nearly every day, scientific researchers make exciting discoveries about how food can help fight disease. We all know that berries are natural antioxidants, but did you know that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish can help ease anxiety or that local honey can help control seasonal hay fever and allergy symptoms?

In case you missed it, the very foods we eat can lead us toward optimum health, but only if we consume plant-based food that contain a variety of antioxidants and complex carbohydrates (including dietary fiber).

Recently I overheard someone say they were not eating potatoes because they are trying to avoid carbs. Unfortunately, this misconception is due in part to the misleading marketing campaigns of some of the largest processed food manufacturers in our country. While refined carbs should be avoided as much as possible, it is important to note that both simple carbs and complex carbs that are found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are essential for good health. A potato is a complex carbohydrate, a “good” carb. A potato chip (or a corn chip, or a vegetable chip for that matter) is a processed food, a refined carb containing added oils, salts, and sugars, making it a “bad” carb. Remember, when oil is processed under high heat, the molecular structure changes (for more on the harmful effects of partial and full hydrogenation, pick up a copy of my book). Conversely, the nutrients found in complex carbs not only lower blood cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar, and improve the immune system, but the balance of all plant-based foods and their interactions together inside our bodies explain why they prevent and reverse disease. (1, 2)

Based on fundamental, scientific evidence, eating whole, plant-based foods provides all the protein, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fat that people of all ages need for optimal health. I wish I would have known that a little sooner! But you know what the saying is: hindsight is always 20/20. This recipe is one of my mother’s best summer staples. She would have turned 64 tomorrow. Each July 31 I feel inspired to honor her memory by sharing one of her best recipes in my column. Thanks mom, for indulging my passion for good food so I can share my enthusiasm like a true Italian.
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Potato Salad
3-5 lbs of small new potatoes
1/2 cup of plain non-dairy or greek yogurt
1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise (I like Follow Your Heart Vegenaise)
2 tablespoons dijon mustard such as grey poupon
2 tablespoons grainy mustard
5 stalks of peeled, chopped celery
2-4 tbsp. finely chopped red onion
1-2 tbsp. chopped fresh dill or parsley
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preparation
The secret to great potato salad is cooking the potatoes perfectly. To do so, quarter the small potatoes so they are all about the same size. Add the potatoes to your pot first, and then fill it with water to just cover all the potatoes. Put a lid on the pot and bring to a boil over high heat (should take about 10 minutes) then once the water has reached a rolling boil, turn off the heat completely and leave the lid on for exactly 10 more minutes. Strain into a colander immediately and add a sprinkle of salt. While the potatoes are boiling, mix the yogurt, mustard, and dill or parsley in a separate bowl. For this recipe, I mash the chopped red onion through a garlic press to get the flavor without the chunks of raw onion. Allow the potatoes to cool to room temperature before adding the dressing and chopped celery. Refrigerate a few hours or overnight for the flavors to blend together.
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Step 1: Cook the Potatoes
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Step 2: Chop the celery and parsley
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Step 3: Mix the dressing
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References
1. Jannalagadda, S, et al. “Putting the Whole Grain Puzzle Together: Health Benefits Associated with Whole Grains – Summary of American Society for Nutrition 2010 Satellite Symposium.” J Nutrition, May 2011, Vol. 141 No. 5:1011S-1022S.

2. Slavin J, et al. “Whole Grains: Definition, Dietary Recommendations, and Health Benefits.” Cereal Foods World, July-August 2013, Vol. 58 No. 4:191-198.

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