Are potatoes a good "diet" food alternative?

As a nutrition coach, I am always asked on what “diet” foods I can recommend that will help in weight loss and/or exercise performance. Two of the food items at the top of my list for my recommended carb sources would be potatoes and sweet potatoes.

Hearing this from me stirs up confusion, which is actually intentional, in order to start a conversation and clarify the “good” food vs “bad” food labelling to these two nutritious complex carbohydrate sources. I felt the need to do this because it has become a trend among “food experts” or “diet coaches” to advise on avoiding white potatoes because of it’s high glycemic index; that it can easily increase blood sugar level and promote fat storage.

Boiled [fresh] potatoes are less calorie dense compared to other carbohydrate sources. A 1 cup boiled potatoes contain approximately 110 calories, 3g of protein, 0.02g of fat, and 26g of carbohydrates, 2g of which is fiber. Dietary fibers are complex carbohydrates that passes through the gut without being fully digested and absorbed in the body thereby lowering further the overall calorie content of the consumed food (2).

To this I would always object because we don’t really eat just a single food item on a particular meal. Other food items eaten together with the carb portion such as a meat or fish together with a vegetable dish and/or fruit on the side can significantly delay the digestion of the food, more so lower its glycemic index/load. And if we are to dig deeper, glycemic index or load is not an excellent basis for food selection because it does not have significant impact on appetite, body weight, inflammation, blood sugar and blood lipid profile (1).

Potatoes are a good addition to one’s diet because of the following benefits:

  1. It can help with weight loss and maintenance of body composition. Boiled [fresh] potatoes are less calorie dense compared to other carbohydrate sources. A 1 cup boiled potatoes contain approximately 110 calories, 3g of protein, 0.02g of fat, and 26g of carbohydrates, 2g of which is fiber. Dietary fibers are complex carbohydrates that passes through the gut without being fully digested and absorbed in the body thereby lowering further the overall calorie content of the consumed food (2).

  2. Improves satiety from a meal. Potatoes are more satiating compared to rice or pasta of the same calories, protein, fat, and fiber. This is mainly because of its lower calorie density. Larger portion (or volume) can be consumed to achieve the equivalent calories and macronutrients per serving of other carb foods. Larger food volume expands the stomach and promotes satisfaction after a meal (3).

  3. Boosts intake of some vitamins and minerals and phytonutrients. Potatoes are also a good source of some vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, folate, and iron. They also contain antioxidants like carotenoids, anthocyanin, chlorogenic and caffeic acids (4). All of these aids to maintain immune function and overall health.


Indeed, including potatoes to one’s diet is a smart move as it can promote the consumption of whole foods thereby promoting weight management and maintenance of overall health.

References:

1. Sacks FM, et al. JAMA 2014 Dec 17. 2. Van Woudenbergh GJ, et al. JNutr Metab 2011. 3. Zhang Z, et al. Nutrients. 2018; 10(11): 1739. 4. Robertson TM, et al. Nutrients. 2018(11): 1764.


Full disclosure: This post was sponsored by Potatoes USA - Philippines, but all opinions stated above are my own.

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