If you’re trying to follow a healthy diet, you may think that it’s best to avoid potatoes. Potatoes are loaded with carbs, and many popular diets like keto tend to veer away from carb-heavy foods. However, results from a new study show that potatoes could actually contribute to a healthy diet — and they may be even better for us than similar carb-rich foods!
The 2020 study conducted by researchers at Penn State University concluded that potatoes should be considered a part of a healthy diet — but it all depends on how they’re prepared. The researchers rounded up 50 healthy adult subjects and took measurements of the subjects’ blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and insulin levels at the beginning of the trial. The subjects then replaced their regularly-eaten side dishes with either potatoes (white, red, and yellow varieties were used) or refined grains (like white pasta or rice) once per day. The potato and refined-carb sides were prepared by the Metabolic Diet Study Center at Penn state.
For one month, the subjects ate one of the side dishes, then took a two-week break. Next, they tried the other option. The side dishes were measured to have the same calorie count (about 200) and amount of carbohydrates so the researchers could understand the health implications of each type of food. The researchers measured the subjects’ cholesterol, glycemic control (fasting blood sugar levels), blood pressure, weight, and pulse at the beginning of the trial and at each endpoint.
By the end of the trial, results showed that eating the potatoes didn’t have any significant impact on cholesterol, blood sugar levels, insulin, and other cardiometabolic factors when compared with the other refined carbs. But more importantly, the researchers found that while the subjects were eating potatoes, they had significantly higher levels of potassium and fiber, which points to an improved “overall diet quality.”
Better diet quality means that one’s diet is loaded with more health-boosting nutrients. While refined grains have shown to have negative effects on our health, nutrients like potassium and fiber are both extremely important for an array of bodily functions.
Potassium helps to regulate fluid balance in the body, and it’s involved in muscle contractions, nerve signals, and bone health. It’s even said that a diet rich in potassium could reduce water retention and blood pressure, as well as reduce your risk of stroke, kidney stones, and osteoporosis.
Fiber is also a health-boosting nutrient that your body needs. Fiber helps you avoid constipation by keeping you regular. Prebiotic bacteria found in fiber also helps to feed the good bacteria (probiotics) in the gut lining, which contributes to optimal gut health. Even further, fiber slows down the absorption of sugars and helps with the elimination of excess fat from the blood, helping with blood sugar and cholesterol management.
It’s important to note that for this study, the researchers emphasized eating your potatoes the right way. According to them, boiling potatoes reduces their potassium content, and frying them is also not ideal. They prepared their potatoes by either steaming or baking (roasting) the potatoes and using very little salt. However, they did use other ingredients to enhance the taste, such as scallions, onions, breadcrumbs, and even cheese!
So there you have it. If you were debating between serving yourself a side of pasta or a side of yummy roasted potatoes with dinner tonight, there’s now a clear, healthy choice to make. We’re certainly glad that we can put potatoes on our plate again without the guilt. Aren’t you?