Americans eat a lot of pale and beige foods: white bread, white pasta, white potatoes, white rice.
Are Potatoes Healthy?
Potato eaters tend to live just as long as non-potato eaters. That’s actually bad news. A whole plant food that’s not associated with living longer? A neutral effect on lifespan? Now it’s not like meat, that may be actively shortening your life, but there’s an opportunity cost to eating white potatoes, since every bite of a potato is a lost opportunity to put something even healthier in your mouth that may actively make your life longer.
But what if you really like white potatoes? The type of potato and how you cook them makes a big difference.
Protein In Potatoes
There’s actually an appetite-suppressing protein in potatoes called potato protease inhibitor 2, but the way you prepare your potatoes makes a difference. Both boiled and mashed potatoes are significantly more satiating than French fries.
Potato Calorie Density
As I discuss in my video Exploiting Sensory-Specific Satiety for Weight Loss, in the landmark study “A Satiety Index of Common Foods,” in which dozens of foods were put to the test, boiled potatoes were found to be the most satiating food. Two hundred and forty calories of boiled potatoes were found to be more satisfying in terms of quelling hunger than the same number of calories of any other food tested. No other food even came close.
No doubt potatoes’ low calorie density played a role. For people to eat 240 calories of spuds, the researchers had to feed them nearly a pound of potatoes, compared to just a few cookies, for example––but that’s kind of the point. And they had to feed people even more apples, grapes, and oranges, though, yet each fruit was still about 40 percent less satiating than the potatoes.
Are Purple Potatoes Healthier Than White Potatoes?
Colorful foods are often healthier because they contain antioxidant pigments, whether it’s the beta-carotene that makes carrots and sweet potatoes orange, the lycopene antioxidant pigment that makes tomatoes red, or the anthocyanin pigments that make blueberries blue. The colors are the antioxidants.
Sweet potatoes are healthier than plain potatoes, but if you’re going to choose the latter, seek out those with blue or purple flesh. The consumption of one boiled purple potato a day for six weeks was found to significantly decrease inflammation, something neither white nor yellow potatoes were able to accomplish. The same was found for oxidation, but much faster. Within hours of consumption, purple potatoes increased the antioxidant capacity of study subjects’ bloodstream, whereas white potato starch appeared to actually have a pro-oxidant effect.
Are Yukon Gold Potatoes Healthy?
Yellow potatoes like Yukon gold may be preferable to white, but they’re not the healthiest.
What Is The Healthiest Potato?
The best may be purple potatoes, not just purple-skinned potatoes but purple-fleshed. Here’s why:
- They cause less of an insulin and blood sugar spike compared to even the yellow-fleshed potatoes.
- Their pigments may also affect significantly lower inflammation.
- Within hours of eating a large purple potato, you get a nice 60% bump in the antioxidant power of your bloodstream and this translates into less free radical DNA damage. If you compare the antioxidant activity of white potatoes, yellow potatoes, and purple potatoes, Yukon gold have about twice the antioxidant power as white, but purple has twenty times the antioxidants, comparable to what you might see in berries.
- They can increase the antioxidant capacity of our blood spread, whereas straight white potato starch can act as a pro-oxidant and decrease it.
- They are an effective blood pressure lowering agent.
What Is The Healthiest Way To Cook Potatoes?
Boiling and Chilling
If you boil potatoes and then put them in the fridge to cool, some of the starch crystallizes into a form that can no longer be broken down by the starch munching enzymes in your gut. There’s a dramatic drop in glycemic index in cold versus hot potato, so by consuming potatoes as potato salad, you can get nearly a 40% lower glycemic impact. The chilling effect might therefore also slow the rate at which the starch is broken down and absorbed. The downside of eating potatoes cold is that they may not be as satiating as eating hot potatoes, so you may get the best of both worlds cooling then reheating.
Adding Vinegar or Broccoli
These can also blunt the glycemic impact of potatoes. The co-consumption of two servings of cooked broccoli with your mashed potatoes cuts the immediate insulin demand by nearly 40%.Just chilling potatoes may cut down on the blood sugar and insulin spikes, but to get significant drops in both, adding just about a tablespoon of vinegar can drop levels 30 to 40%. And this is just with plain white distilled vinegar.
In summary, don’t eat French fries if you can help it. Even non-fried potatoes may bump your diabetes risk, but you may be able to reduce that risk by eating colorful potatoes, chilled potatoes, or adding vinegar or broccoli. It would still be better to eat, for example sweet potatoes, which may extend your life instead of just having a neutral effect, and even better—purple sweet potatoes.
Check out these healthy and tasty sweet potato recipes: