Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Are potatoes bad?

With all of the talk of obesity, glycemic index, paleo, cholesterol, blood sugar and diabetes on this blog, you might start to get the impression that potatoes are a "never" food.

I disagree.

A nice round whole potato is not a bad thing once in a while.  If it keeps me from eating a processed bag of nonsense from the grocery store, a potato is a whole and natural alternative.

The glycemic index (GI) of a "serving" of baked russet potato is 111.  To put that in context, an average "serving" of baked sweet potato has a GI of 74 (odd huh?  We will get to that later).  For more context, the GI of a serving of hummus - containing those "bad" peas called chickpeas - has a GI of 6.  Finally, a serving of boiled spaghetti (white) has a GI of 46.

So yeah, potatoes are "bad" for blood sugar and glycemic load.  In fact, if you look at this list of GIs from a Harvard U website, they are the "worst" GI food on the list.  Shocking, no?

It's all about starch and russet potatoes are the starchiest.

So I think, in my honest opinion, regular starchy white potatoes are a "sometimes" food.  Once a week wont kill ya.  I'm pretty certain that if a caveman happened upon a white potato that he dug up, he wouldn't have said:  OH NO WAY AM I EATING THAT.  :)  Then again, he wouldn't have come across one probably, well, ever.

Sweet potatoes are an odd bird - they are lower in GI and yet taste sweet?  What gives?

What's really interesting are that aside from GI, sweet and white potatoes are virtually identical in "stats:"
     Sweet potato:  90 calories, 21 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein
     White potato:  92 calories, 21 grams of carbs, 2.3 grams of dietary fiber, 2.3 g of protein


I tried to dig deeper to see why white potatoes are taboo and sweet potatoes are "in."  Aside from the soluble fiber in sweet potato and glycemic index, they are not that different.  And the fact is that research hasn't determined whether sweet potatoes are better for us in the long run since they have come into "food vogue" quite recently.  It is certainly true that sweet pots have more antioxidants and vits/minerals.  I don't argue that.  And if you're watching your blood sugar, definitely reach for the sweet potato.    But if you're an average Joe with no health issues who is not following a prescribed diet - and if you realize that eating ANYTHING deep fried is not healthy because it increases the saturated fat and caloric density of your food - a white potato now and again is not gonna kill ya!

1 comment:

  1. Best way to get general idea if a food item is bad or good ...focusing on weight and hunger management ..test blood glucose levels often (dont have to be diabetic to do this) 1-2 hours post eating ..guidelines are available for norms but in general <140 is a number Im thinking of.Emotionally liking a food or being used to it as a familiar friend could be deceiving....still, an individual choice ....choose to include those foods if those" friends "are true friends /if they have earned your devotion in terms of their benefits vs harm to ones body in every stage of life ...just some thoughts