You’ve no doubt heard about the dangers of eating the humble white potato… that this starchy vegetable causes weight gain, wreaks havoc with your blood sugar, and puts you in danger of Type-2 diabetes. But is it true?
You see, there’s no real evidence potatoes cause any of these problems. In fact, they’re packed with nutrients, loaded with health benefits, and can actually help you lose weight. Here’s the truth about potatoes that, if you’re a baked potato lover, will no doubt have you grinning from ear to ear…
Potatoes have endured a bad rap over decades, but many experts believe it’s time for a rethink.
Potatoes are a rich source of micronutrients as well as vitamin C, B6 and folate, iron, magnesium, and potassium. They also contain a variety of phytonutrients, most notably carotenoids and phenolic acids.
They’re affordable, gluten free, contribute a significant amount of fiber to the diet, and are more filling than other starchy carbohydrates, such as pasta and rice. Moreover, they contain just 110 calories per 5.3 oz serving. So, what’s not to like?
No Real Evidence of Harm
The white potato’s bad reputation comes from its high rank on the glycemic index (GI), which shows how foods affect blood sugar levels after they’re eaten. This is thought to be the reason why some studies link potatoes to obesity, higher risk of Type-2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.
However, nutritional scientists at the University of Toronto wrote that the way the glycemic index is applied to potatoes is misleading and “has led to premature and possibly counterproductive dietary guidance.” This is borne out by a research review published in 2016 that couldn’t find any conclusive evidence linking potatoes with the risk of developing obesity and Type-2 diabetes.
As for high blood pressure, given their high potassium and very low sodium content, far from being a risk, potatoes would seem to be an ideal food for helping to prevent or treat the condition.
In a well-publicized population study linking potatoes with hypertension, the results were in fact mixed, both increasing and lowering the risk depending on which groups of people were studied. In contrast, an experimental trial found potatoes favorably impacted blood pressure.
What’s more, two new studies confirm that, far from giving potatoes the cold shoulder, we should be embracing them.
Lose Weight with Little Effort
The first study comes from Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The study involved 36 participants between the ages of 18 and 60 who were either overweight or obese or had insulin resistance, which increases the risk of diabetes.
They were split into two groups and fed precisely controlled diets. One group ate a diet that included beans and peas with meat or fish. The other group substituted beans and peas with potatoes. An estimated 40 percent of typical meat consumption was replaced by the beans, peas, or potatoes.
The findings are summed up and explained by first author Candida Rebello. “We demonstrated that contrary to common belief, potatoes do not negatively impact blood glucose levels. In fact, the individuals who participated in our study lost weight.
“People tend to eat the same weight of food regardless of calorie content in order to feel full. By eating foods with a heavier weight that are low in calories, you can easily reduce the number of calories you consume.
“The key aspect of our study is that we did not reduce the portion size of meals but lowered their caloric content by including potatoes. Each participant’s meal was tailored to their personalized caloric needs, yet by replacing some meat content with potato, participants found themselves fuller, quicker, and often did not even finish their meal. In effect, you can lose weight with little effort.”
The second study was conducted by researchers at Edith Cowan University in Western Australia. Their results prove that potatoes’ health danger might not come from simply eating them, but what you eat on them…
Don’t Slather Potatoes with Butter or Cream
Researchers analyzed data on 54,793 adults over 16.3 years to examine the relationship between intake of vegetables and the incidence of Type-2 diabetes.
The findings showed those who consumed the most vegetables were 21 percent less likely to develop Type-2 diabetes than those who consumed the least vegetables. And while potatoes were not among the vegetables that lowered the risk, neither did they increase it.
First author Pratik Pokharel explains, saying, “In previous studies, potatoes have been positively linked to incidence of diabetes, regardless of how they’re prepared — but we found that’s not true.
“When we separated boiled potatoes from mashed potatoes, fries or crisps, boiled potatoes were no longer associated with a higher risk of diabetes.”
He went on to explain that people who ate the most potatoes also consumed more butter, red meat, and soft drinks, all of which increase the risk of Type-2 diabetes. For example, people tend to eat mashed potatoes mixed with butter or cream.
He describes potatoes as “a good quality carbohydrate [with] fiber and nutrients, which are good for you.”
His advice is to “take care how you prepare them: don’t eat fries, or mash with extras in it all the time. Just boil them and eat them like other greens or other foods — and you don’t need to have it with red meat all the time.”