Can you smell that? Mmm…french fries. But are potatoes healthy or something to warrant caution?
I’m guessing the phrase “Ya gonna eat the rest of those fries?” is a dead giveaway that we like to eat them. What’s your favorite way to eat a potato?
Baked, mashed or maybe you prefer it as a chip?
Or all of the above? As Americans, we all love to eat them! The National Potato Council reported we each consumed 111 pounds of them in 2014!
But should we be eating so much of them?
The answer: it depends.
Are potatoes healthy? Do you have diabetes or are you trying to manage or lose weight? Ok, pop quiz time.
If I asked you if potatoes are considered a vegetable or a grain, what would you say?
- Did you say a vegetable? Then you would be correct. Botanically, a potato is a vegetable.
- If you said a grain, then you would also be correct. Nutritionally, a potato is a starchy food due to its high carbohydrate content.
The American Diabetes Association classifies it as a starchy vegetable and has it listed with the grains.
The potato is a starchy vegetable, and you should treat it like carbohydrate or grain.
Therefore, although the potato is healthy nutritionally, for purposes relating to weight loss or blood sugar management, it helps to consider the potato in the grain group when you are making food choices.
A vegetable (non-starchy vegetable) contains 5 grams of carbohydrates per serving (1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw)
A potato (starchy vegetable) contains 15 grams of carbs per serving (1/2 cup or 1 oz cooked)
THAT is a big difference when you apply it to calories!
Carbohydrates have four calories per gram. So, if you compare, say a serving of green beans to a serving of potato there will be 20 calories in the green beans and 60 in the potato. That doesn’t sound like a whole lot but
The proper serving size is much smaller than you think!
Boom! Most of the time we are not eating the proper serving size (no matter how they are prepared), and we are getting way more calories than we think. If you are working on weight loss, you can quickly go past your daily calorie limit just with an oversized potato serving!
Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Here’s an old standby approximation. Make a fist and pretend to pound on a table. Now, look at the top of your fist facing the ceiling. That circle you see formed, that is a proper potato serving size. Whether it is a whole potato, or if you need to, picture the opening of a 1/2 cup.
Most are not served by weight but by volume per container. However, a well-known fast-food chain has approximately:
- 2.6 oz in a small
- 4.0 oz in a medium
- 6.0 oz in a large
These are well over the 1 ounce serving size.
How good at you at eating just 4-8 fries???
Determining whether you should go ahead and eat them, or skip them all together might be influenced by the next point.
The Glycemic Index of a potato will impact how you feel
Do you ever feel sluggish or fatigued after eating potatoes-especially a lot of them? It may have rapidly raised, or ‘spiked’ your blood sugar.
A high glycemic index food turns into sugar in the bloodstream quickly. Foods are given values (based on scientific experiments and testings) of low, medium and high. Food that turns to sugar quickly will raise blood sugar levels and cannot be used for energy very long.
- The goal of using a glycemic index is to eat foods that stay in the low-medium range.
- If you eat food with a high GI, you would want foods with a low GI on the rest of your plate.
A high glycemic load food will cause blood sugar and insulin spikes. Spikes are typically followed by crashes, which is what we all want to avoid, but it can cause havoc for people trying to manage blood sugar levels.
- The goal of using a glycemic load is to eat foods with a low glycemic index and a low glycemic load.
- Folks who have diabetes, or are managing their weight should eat foods primarily with low GL and mediums, and high foods should be eaten in moderation.
Please refer to the glycemic index and glycemic load chart below.
|Glycemic Index||Glycemic Load|
|Refers to the measure of how quickly food breaks down into sugar in your bloodstream.
< 55 Low
|Refers to the measure of how much carbohydrate of food you are getting.
< 10 low
> 20 high
Are Potatoes Healthy? The Potato Truth
Ultimately, foods with BOTH a low glycemic index and glycemic load should be staples in your diet. AND a proper serving size is imperative. The amount of the potato is key. Eating a larger serving size may push you into a medium or high GL!
In conclusion, knowledge is power in making healthy choices.
When deciding if you should, or should not eat potatoes, the first consideration on the road to feeling better is whether you have diabetes or are someone who is trying to lose or manage your weight.
Does that answer tell you to change how you eat potatoes or maybe even your lifestyle? Then, you are already on the road to feeling better!
Thank you for reading!
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