For years and years we have been told “eat more vegetables” but the exception to this rule has always been the potato. Due to its easily digestible carbohydrate, potato is classified as high GI.
In a nutshell this means it is broken down very quickly into sugar which is then absorbed into the bloodstream quickly, causing an blood sugar (and associated insulin) spike.
What about nutrients?
Potato has lower calcium and vitamin C than other vegetables, but also offers more iron, phosphorus, and potassium than others. Being higher in carbohydrate, if we compare potato to oats the carbohydrate, protein, and mineral content is fairly similar (not including the GI) but potato has higher fibre and higher amounts of almost every vitamin.
What about weight gain and diabetes?
Studies have found that higher potato consumption is linked to type 2 diabetes and weight gain… but how is the potato being prepared in these instances?
Mashed potato with butter? Deep fried? Pan fried? Crisps? Served with cream or cheese? It is possible that the traditional preparation methods for potato are higher in fat, especially saturated fat, and calories and that this could be contributing to the effects seen in these conditions.
What about the GI?
The glycemic index (GI) shows how quickly an individual food is broken down and the sugar enters the bloodstream- but this depends on two factors. 1: That potato is eaten on its own- which is very rarely the case and… 2: How much of it is eaten on its own.
Think of it this way- if you had a great big bowl of boiled potato how much could you eat? Potato is incredibly filling, and bland enough that most of us couldn’t eat a huge amount in one sitting.
So what can lower the GI of potato? Protein (like meat, chicken, fish, eggs), fibre (like in other vegetables and keeping the skin on), or healthy fats like olive oil. Vinegar, lemon or lime juice can also reduce the GI. Plus there are low GI versions of potato in supermarkets these days.
So the take home message? Eat potato that is prepared in a healthy way as part of a healthy meal and enjoy all the nutritional benefits that come from this versatile, tasty, and misunderstood vegetable.