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Potatoes worse for you than dessert?

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Old 06-23-2011, 10:23 AM   #1
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Default Potatoes worse for you than dessert?

Just came across this interesting Harvard study that looked at specific foods and how they contributed to slow weight gain over time. Potatoes were the worst offender, and not just french fries and potato chips.

Thoughts, anyone?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/nation...IgH_story.html
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Old 06-23-2011, 12:15 PM   #2
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I agree with the study.

I have had to eliminate white potatoes from my healthy eating - doctor's orders. I am diabetic, and white potatoes, white flour, pasta - things like this, spike my blood sugars. I wish they didn't, but they do.

I stick to the fresh fruits and veggies, lean meats, etc. I do eat sweet potatoes, but white potatoes are not on my menus any more.

I found the study very interesting, and am looking forward to hearing more about it.
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Old 06-23-2011, 12:18 PM   #3
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Correlation =/= causation, especially with something as complicated as diet.

There was also an article somewhere about a man who ate nothing but potatoes (OK, and whatever he used for cooking them or seasoning them with) for (I think) a year, managed to avoid being malnourished, and lost weight in a healthy way.
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Old 06-23-2011, 12:25 PM   #4
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I did not read the article but I would rather eat a plain baked potatoe rather than cake. Potatoes are a natural food no preservatives or crap. Recently (i forget what state) they banned potatoes from food stamps so someone who worked in the goverment wanted to change that and he ate nothing but potatoes for two or three months. He ate them in every possible way you can cook them and I forget how many he ate a day but the number was high. What he did not expect was that he would lose weight and he did and of course I cannot remember how much but I remember being surprised at how much.
It would be interesting to know what else these people ate and why did the contribute it to potatoes. I can pretty much eat anything and lose weight when I stay on plan it is when I eat to much of anything is when I gain.
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Old 06-23-2011, 12:32 PM   #5
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I have read that if you eat them with the skin (e.g., baked), it diminishes the spike. I can't remember where, unfortunately. Note: Not directed at you, JJJJ. Not saying your doc's wrong!
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Old 06-23-2011, 01:26 PM   #6
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I can tell you this... I can eat a baked potato, alone, and my blood sugar will jump through the roof. I don't know why. I can eat a piece of dark chocolate cake, and I'm fine. Again, I don't know why. I think it may be more person specific and be tied to amounts. But for me, I know they can't be a regular part of my diet. And seeing as how a potato isn't actually a veggie but a tuber, it's not an integral part of the diet. And really, not tons of nutrients come from them that you can't easily get elsewhere. So, for me, I have them once in a while but they aren't the main part of my diet.
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Old 06-23-2011, 01:26 PM   #7
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I don't particularly agree with the study, and this is why - "Every additional serving of potatoes people added to their regular diet each day made them gain about a pound over four years."

Think about regular potatoes and what is made with them - mashed potatoes with loads of butter/sour cream/milk, loaded baked potato or potato skins with cheese, butter, bacon, sour cream, french fries deep fried in vegetable oil, potato chips deep fried in vegetable oil. I better stop, I am making myself hungry

But seriously, if I eat white potatoes at home they are not made the ways that they are at restaurants. While I do agree that if you add one of the unhealthy servings of potatoes listed above everyday you will gain weight I think it is unwise to condemn potatoes for their unhealthy versions. Of course, if your doctor recommends or if you know that they effect you negatively, it that is a completely different matter.
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Old 06-23-2011, 01:46 PM   #8
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You should've bolded A POUND OVER FOUR YEARS as well, I think.
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Old 06-23-2011, 01:53 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MariaMaria View Post
You should've bolded A POUND OVER FOUR YEARS as well, I think.
Yeah, really. I would actually think it would be more than that if you ate an extra potato everyday!
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Old 06-23-2011, 03:59 PM   #10
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The article is very poorly worded. I'd want to see the research article itself to see how the research was conducted, and what the actual specific findings were. You can bet (because it's very poor science and would never be published) the researchers did not say anywhere in their journal article that "potatoes are wore for you than dessert."

If the study found that people who ate the most potatoes, gained the most weight, well that doesn't surprse me much, of course it's also not a headline that would grab as much attention.

As to eliminating potatoes, I doubt very much the researchers suggested that (any more than they suggested eliminating dessert or any other food).

However, I personally, I don't have a problem with eliminating even a natural food from my diet, because we do it all the time, and think nothing of it. In the USA, very few people eat insects, though they've been a part of the human diet for millions of years (far longer than we've been eating large amounts of grains and potatoes). So why is eliminating potatoes worse than eliminating insects? Only because potatoes are part of our cultural diet and insects are not.

No single food is irreplaceable. Even some of the food groups can be eliminated safely, if you're getting the nutrients elsewhere. Dairy isn't an essential food group, as long as you're getting your calcium and protein needs met by other foods (but since people in the USA don't eat insects, bones, organ meats, skin and other high calcium foods, dairy is a more palatable choice). Grains aren't an essential food group either (we've lived for 90-95% of our history without them). Fruits and vegetables have the most to offer nutritionally, and in the USA it's the most neglected food group. There are way too many people in the US who eat virtually no produce, except for potato and corn (which would be better classified as starches).

When you look at what we consider a "natural" diet, it's not all that natural.
Virtually all of the "natural foods" modern people eat, bear little resemblence to their wild, pre-cultivated counterparts. Before humans started farming, and selectively breeding plants, the foods humans ate were far higher in fiber and protein, and the sugar/starch contents were much lower. We've bred the fiber out of and sugar into most of our plant foods.

That doesn't mean "don't eat plants that didn't exist before farming did," well mostly because you'd be left with very little to eat, but it does mean we probably shold be paying more attention to the foods we're eating and in which proportions. There are a lot of people for whom potatoes and corn are the only veggie they eat regularly (and they're nutritionally closer to grains than they are to veggies).

There is no way to reduce nutrition to a soundbite or a paragraph. Context is always important. And "never eat potatoes" is as worthless a piece of advice as "eat lots of potatoes," it's never as simple as common media (the dumbed down version of research we usually get) presents it.
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Old 06-24-2011, 07:22 AM   #11
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There was an article not long ago that I read about Andean people and the fact that their diet is 70% potatoes yet they are extremely healthy with low incidence of heart disease and diabetes.

Personally, it'd be interesting if the study accounted for calorie intake. Most people that I know that eat potatoes eat them with things like butter, sour cream, etc.

I eat potatoes as part of a meal, usually in soup but sometimes on the side.
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Old 06-24-2011, 03:37 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nelie View Post
There was an article not long ago that I read about Andean people and the fact that their diet is 70% potatoes yet they are extremely healthy with low incidence of heart disease and diabetes.

True, but there are hundreds of varieties of potatoes in a rainbow assortment of colors grown in South America. Only a handful of varieties (the starchiest, lowest in fiber, and whitest fleshed) are the most popular in the USA. So not only are the Andean people eating 70% potatoes, they're eating a lot more variety of potatoes than people in the USA are exposed to. They also prepare them in many different ways (we tend to mostly pile fat upon them).

Also the remaining 30% of their diet, I would bet is not processed foods or othrwise high in fat and sugar. My guess would be lean meats, insects, and many colors of plants.

Also, I would bet they get far more exercise than the average North American.


You can't just compare one aspect of diet, you also have to consider the micronutrient intake as well, such as antioxidants and other phytochemicals.

Also, other lifestyle components have to be considered too (activity level, exposure to environmental polutants, quality and quantity of sleep, Vitamin D levels, stress, family support...) all of which have been shown to affect health. Especially when you're comparing different cultures, you have to compare more than one component of their diet, even if it does comprise 70%.

It does though raise an interesting question, what about potatoes in the USA is accounting for higher obesity rates (perhaps what type of potatoes we're eating or not eating, perhaps what we put on them, or are eating them with, or the fact that we're not burning off the extra carbohydrates because we're more sendentary).

We tend to see diet as the main contributor to health (maybe because it's what we perceive we have most control over), but I don't think the science justifies that belief.

Diet is just one small part of the bigger equation, and when you're talking about one food, it's an even smaller piece of the puzzle.
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Old 06-24-2011, 03:54 PM   #13
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Yup which is why I never trust articles that say "this one food is bad". I think you do have to look at the larger picture.

Also, I believe purple potatoes are from peru and if you haven't tried them, you should They are so good especially in soup. I have a peruvian soup recipe that I make with them.
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Old 06-24-2011, 04:11 PM   #14
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Sadly, the only purple potatoes availabe in our area are in the form of potato chips. I'm hoping that we can find more variety when we visit Madison, later this summer.

And apparently I grossly underestimated potato diversity. According to this brochure I found online, nearly 4,000 different varieties of potato can be found in the Andes (other sites list various estimates all over 3,000).

There's so much variety in nutrients between the variations, they're virtually impossible to compare to the pototoes available in North America. I knew there was a lot of variation, but WOW this is amazing (and is giving me major potato envy).

Sadly, over the years many of the Andean farmers have been persuaded to drop older varieties to farm more popular varieties of potatoes for the world market, drivng down the price and the diversity available. The local crops are still quite varied, but those available for export are limited, and some of the heirloom varieties are in danger of being lost.

http://www.underutilized-species.org...20potatoes.pdf

Skin to flesh ratio is one of the differences between our cultures. Many of the varieties of potato are small and bumpy, with higher skin to flesh ratios, than we're used to (we're also more likely to discard the skin).


At our farmers' markets, there's a Hmong vendor who sells baby or pea potatoes (potatoes ranging from the size of a pea to a small grape).

They're absolutely amazing. You just wash and cook as you'ld like. Most people think they're dirty and need heavy scrubbing, and if you clean them that way, you'll rub most of the skin off (the best part, in my opinion). But they really only need a soak and gentle rubbing.

We've also been told by people "you can't eat those, those are seed potatoes," and while it's true that people have traditionally kept the smallest potatoes for seed, they are indeed perfectly edible (and delicious).

I like them roasted best (they collapse in on themselves and and resemble little raisins), they also "pop" in your mouth, with a nice crunchy layer on the outside, and a small creamy center.

I've seen more varieties of potato in Wisconsin farmers markets than in Illinios, but not the purple varieties. Lots of yellow varieites though.

I'd also love to see the green and red varieties.
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Old 06-24-2011, 04:36 PM   #15
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'Tis a terrible malady, potato envy.

Now that we've established that the potato is a highly variable beast, what are the healthiest approaches to it? Which types of potato are best, particularly out of the types commonly available in the UK and US? Apart from baking potatoes, sweet potatoes and baby/new potatoes, I've never known one type of potato from another.

Which ways of cooking them are healthiest? I'm planning to make a lentil, sweet potato, carrot and red pepper soup tomorrow, for instance, which I hope will be decent. (I make up big batches of soup and freeze portions for lunches, and the last few have been butternut squash soups. Lovely, but I've had enough of them for the time being.) Should I maybe just scrub the skin of the sweet potato instead of peeling it for this soup? And we have baked potatoes occasionally, which I generally eat with baked beans, a bit of marg (they really do soak it up if you're not careful) and a small salad.

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