Thursday, November 7, 2013

Why You Should Eat More Potatoes

<3 Potatoes
In recent years, the white potato has gotten a bad rap. There are plenty of reasons why, some more valid than others... they've got the high glycemic index, the white color that people tend to associate with "bad" foods, the fact that people are generally down on carbs these days. But I've gotta tell ya... it just doesn't deserve the bad press, the potato is an incredibly healthy food! And here's why.

The glycemic index of potatoes is misleading.The glycemic index is a measure of how quickly a carbohydrate food is digested and how much it subsequently raises your blood sugar. According to the theory, high glycemic foods increase blood sugar more than other foods, hence increasing insulin and leading to a blood sugar crash soon after. But there are a few problems in there.

First, the "glycemic score" is based on a 50 gram carbohydrate serving. But what it neglects, however, is how likely we are to actually consume a given food at that level. To get 50 gram of carbohydrate from potatoes, you'd need 253 grams of the stuff, or for the Americans, more than 1/2 pound. That's a hefty potato... probably bigger than you're willing to eat (unless of course you add bacon and cheese, but that's another story entirely). For another high glycemic carb, like white bread, you only need 100 grams of the stuff to get 50 carbs. And to go even further, you'd only need a 16 fl oz serving of soda for that many carbs, or a 1/2 cup of vanilla ice cream, or less than 2 ounces of cotton candy. What I'm getting at, is that the amount of carbohydrates matters too. And the fact is, we're not going to eat nearly the quantity in potatoes that we would of another high glycemic food.

There's also the fact that we rarely (okay, never) eat potatoes in isolation. You see, the glycemic index only takes into account that one food; it disregards the rest of your meal. And it just so happens that other things in that meal, like fat, protein, and fiber, will slow down the digestion process. Having dinner out at a fancy restaurant... let's say you're having a filet mignon, a baked potato with butter, and some roasted broccoli... all of the other components of the meal make the glycemic index of the potato pretty much negligible.

Glycemic index shmycemic shmindex. It's useful in some cases, but for potatoes? It's irrelevant.

Potatoes are the most satiating food per calorie.
Second, and somewhat related, is the satiety index of potatoes. According to a blog post by Stephan Guyenet over at Whole Health Source, potatoes are the single most filling food there is! He cites a study in which researchers tested the "satiety index" of common foods by feeding subjects 240 calorie portions and measuring subjective feelings of fullness, as well as how much food they ate at a subsequent meal.  In Stephan's words:

"The more palatable the food, the less filling per calorie, and the relationship was quite strong for a study of this nature. This is consistent with the evidence that highly palatable foods shut down the mechanisms in the brain that constrain food intake. Croissants had the lowest SI (47), while potatoes had the highest (323). Overall, baked goods and candy had the lowest SI. They didn't test sweet potatoes, but I suspect they would have been at least as filling as potatoes. Other foods with a high SI include meat/fish, whole grain foods, fruit and porridge."

Wait a minute... I thought high glycemic foods were supposed to cause a blood sugar crash, leaving us tired and hungry? Not true with potatoes. Quite the contrary; they fill us up more than anything else. Sounds like a good weight loss food, huh?

They're nutrient-dense!
In addition to all of this, potatoes are full of nutrition!! First of all, they're actually a complete protein, which is rare for a plant food. They may not have a lot of protein, but it's good quality. Then there's the vitamin C, the folate, the vitamin B6. There's the mineral content, full of iron, magnesium, phosphorous, and manganese. And perhaps most importantly, it's extremely high in potassium! Screw bananas, potatoes are a far better source of potassium. If you're concerned about your blood pressure, potatoes sport a phenomenally high potassium:sodium ratio, and they should be your best friend!

Compare the nutrient density of potatoes with that of another common carbohydrate source like grains... even whole grains... and it's no comparison. Potatoes are a far better choice!

So please, lay off the potato-hating, and enjoy them in all varieties: russet, white, Yukon gold, red, blue, fingerling... eat it all! Short of just straight up disliking the taste, there's no reason to avoid them. Eat 'em up!


  1. Does it matter if they are organic or not? I've heard some pretty bad things about non-organic potatoes but have not confirmed


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