Anyone else automatically hear Sam the Hobbit say PO-TA-TOES when ordering this delicious tuber from the click and collect? Forever running from the thought of an extra inch on our waist line, we are conditioned to associate potatoes as detrimental to our New Year’s resolutions. After a holiday of feasting, many patients tell me they are cutting the spud from their go to shopping list in the hopes of slimming down for those January days in their bikini at The Rockcliffe Pond (it’s a thing). Don’t worry, I am here to tell you that there is no need to shy from the deliciousness of the potato, even if your plan is to shave off the holiday five.
Potatoes get a bad rep because of their high glycemic index (GI), in other words, the amount by which a food increases your blood sugar after consumption. Out of 100, potatoes score of approximately 89.4 on the glycemic scale which is, yes, quite high. However, this is only surface level information - a review of over 50 clinical trials demonstrated no consistent impact of high or low GI diets on body weight. What does that mean? Potatoes are not any more likely to cause weight gain than their starchy counterparts when examining GI alone. In order to fully conclude if it’s spud or dud, we have to think deeper.
A study comparing meals with side dishes of iso-caloric (equal calories) amounts of pasta, white rice, or potato, found that individuals of the potato group opted for fewer calories overall for the meal in comparison to the other two groups. On examination, the potato meal resulted in lower post-prandial (post-eating) insulin (hunger hormone) and higher post prandial grehlin (fullness hormone). While this observation is not consistent throughout literature, the notion it might impact insulin levels is fascinating science.
So how would the potato affect insulin levels? When eaten with the skin on, especially red or purple potatoes, consumption will actually offer nutrients that slow the activity of amylase, the enzyme responsible for the digestion sugars. Slower amylase = slower blood sugar rise = tapered insulin response. Woah: Amylase blocking medication are used occasionally in the treatment of diabetes, so as of late there is some emerging research on the use of potato constituents in that field.
Further along the digestive tract, consumption of potatoes is shown to increase output of neutral sugars and other dry food matter, and lengthen intestinal transit time. As such, if you’re prone to looser stools, this is a great food to slow things down. Even cooler, having 15 g of potato fiber/day (about a serving of potatoes) for one month is shown to significantly decrease cholesterol levels.
Eat your spuds within a couple weeks of picking them up (definitely before they sprout). When they sprout, their simple sugar content increases dramatically and the nutrient content drops.
There is a lot more to the spud than meets the eye and it certainly does not fall into dud category. If you’re moderating the butter and sour cream (I typically recommend 2tsp of full fat organic dairy if that’s the route you’re going), it will certainly not thwart your New Year’s Resolutions.
Dr. Colbran Marjerrison ND