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Are Potatoes Harmful to Your Health?

September 10th, 2018

The way you eat potatoes will determine their health benefits

Over the years, nutritional science has flip-flopped on the healthiness of various foods, such as eggs and fat. This may make you wonder about the nutritional benefits of another often-maligned food: the potato.

The humble potato has been a dietary staple for hundreds of years in many different cultures. Potatoes deliver plenty of nutrition in a low-calorie package. At just 159 calories, your typical medium white potato (about 6 ounces) delivers 15 percent of your daily magnesium, 20 percent of your potassium, 30 percent of your vitamin C, and 10 percent of your vitamin B6, plus about 4 grams of fiber. All of these nutrients are important for healthy aging—and most Americans don’t get enough of them. Magnesium supports heart, muscle, bone, and immune health, while potassium is necessary for blood pressure control. Fiber helps reduce inflammation, supports gut health, lowers cholesterol, and promotes longevity.

So with all of these healthy nutrients in a potato, how can we explain the results of studies that have linked potatoes to increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and weight gain? For example, Harvard researchers found that people who ate 7 servings of potatoes per week had a 33 percent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The answer partly lies in how people typically eat potatoes—soaked in butter, slathered with sour cream, or fried in oil. In addition to being unhealthy, these preparations also encourage people to overeat potatoes. While the Harvard studies did account for different types of potato cooking—with fried potatoes causing the biggest increase in diabetes risk—they did not necessarily account for the impact of condiments.

However, it is true that potatoes have a high glycemic index rating. This means that they can cause blood sugar spikes, followed by dips in blood sugar and insulin. This can lead to overeating, obesity, and blood sugar control issues. However, there are ways to minimize the impact of potatoes on blood sugar, so there is really no reason to eliminate this tasty tuber from your diet completely.

How to Include Potatoes in Your Diet

Eat Fresh: Processed potatoes like chips or fast food fries contain preservatives and other additives that aren’t healthy. Plus they tend to be high in calories.

Avoid Frying: Baking, boiling, or microwaving are all healthier preparation methods than frying.

Limit Toppings: While butter and sour cream are delicious, they are also high in calories, so you should limit how much of these condiments you eat with your potatoes. Also beware of ketchup, which often contains lots of added sugars.

Leave the Skin On: The skin of the potato is an important source of fiber. You’ll typically get an extra gram of fiber by leaving the skin on.

Try Purple Potatoes: Purple-fleshed potatoes contain almost twice as many flavonoids as white potatoes. Flavonoids as well as other antioxidant compounds found in purple potatoes can help protect against heart disease and cancer.

Pair with Protein: Eating potatoes as part of a meal that also contains protein helps to minimize their impact on blood sugar.

Let Potatoes Cool: Eating potatoes that have been allowed to cool after cooking is another way to reduce the potential for blood sugar spikes. When potatoes cool, the carbs in them turn into a fermentable fiber called resistant starch, which can help reduce blood sugar. If you don’t like cold potatoes you can reheat them without losing this benefit.

Want More Information about Blood Sugar Control?

Numerous factors influence blood sugar control, including hormone balance. At Renew Youth, we can help you develop a multi-faceted plan for improving your blood sugar control and safeguarding your health as you age. Contact us today to learn more.

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