- Potatoes are a good source of vitamin C
- Potatoes are high in fibre
- Potatoes are cholesterol free
- Potatoes are fat free
Potatoes are a valuable source of Potassium, vitamin C and Folate, and are naturally very low in fat and Sodium.
A balanced diet should include potato for it’s ability to provide energy from carbohydrate together with loads of fibre and a high level of macronutrients.
Potatoes have the ability to give the feeling of “fullness” when included in the meal and there are so many ways to serve them that they are the perfect solution for feeding the family economically and well.
Poor diet contributes to many disorders of the western world including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and colon cancer. The dietary characteristics most strongly associated with poor health are high fat, particularly saturated fat, and low fibre. Potatoes are a good source of fibre, low in fat and well placed to play a role in healthy diets assisting in the prevention, and management, of chronic disease.
Recent estimates suggest more than 6o per cent of the adult population and 20-25 per cent of Australian children are overweight or obese (Body Mass Index >25 based on self reporting) (AIHW, 2006).
While many well-known fad diets have labelled potatoes as the poster child for bad food, the fact is potatoes do not possess any intrinsic properties which will cause weight gain in a energy-balanced diet. Individual food types are rarely responsible for increased weight and many characteristics of potato can actually assist lowering overall energy intake, when prepared using low fat cooking methods.
Potato can certainly be included in a well-balanced, long-term diet plan to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in Australia, accounting for 36 per cent of all deaths in 2004. Dietary factors that are linked to the development of CVD include increased intake of saturated and trans fatty acids, increased intake of sodium, low intake of fibre and increased weight gain.
Potatoes are naturally very low in fat including saturated fat (99.9% fat free), contain almost no sodium (0-15mg per loog) and are high in fibre. Potatoes are also a good source of potassium, a mineral involved in controlling the amount of water and maintaining the correct acid-alkali balance in the body. Regular consumption of potassium rich foods such as potato can help to lower and control blood pressure.
Most Australians don’t consume enough fibre; on average, Australians consume 18-25 grams of fibre daily. However, the Australian Heart Foundation recommends that adults should consume approximately 3o grams daily.
A diet low in fibre can contribute to constipation, haemorrhoids, diverticulitis, irritable bowel syndrome and colon cancer. Foods that are a good source of fibre, such as potatoes, play an important role in preventing and managing these conditions.
Adequate consumption of fruit and vegetables has been linked to decreased risk of developing various cancers. It is believed this is due to the protective action of either the phytochemicals or antioxidants. As a phytochemical containing vegetable, potatoes can be included as part of a balanced diet with adequate vegetable and fruit intake.
High intake of dietary fibre and resistant starches has been associated with a lower incidence of colon cancers. When cooked potato is allowed to cool, the starch crystallises to form resistant starch. Microbial fermentation of resistant starch in the large bowel forms short-chain fatty acids (butyrate, acetate and propionate), which are important to bowel health. These fatty acids are also absorbed into the bloodstream and may play a role in lowering blood cholesterol levels.
Recent research into potential cancer causing compounds (carcinogens) found in food particularly after cooking, has highlighted the potential carcinogen acrylamide in potato products (Felton & Knize, 20o6). Despite the seemingly high levels of acrylamide found in various products, no link has yet been established between acrylamide consumption within a normal diet and increased risk of cancer (Felton & Knize, 20o6). Raw or boiled potato has negligible acrylamide. General healthy eating guidelines recommend low fat cooking methods and moderate consumption of high fat items such as fries and potato crisps. Therefore, there is no reason not to include potato, prepared using low fat cooking methods, as part of a balanced diet.
Glycemic Index (GI)
A general lack of understanding of what the GI actually measures as well as its limitations has produced confusion regarding carbohydrates and a mistaken perception that starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, should be restricted from Australian diets.
Put simply, the GI ranks foods based on their immediate effect on blood sugar levels. Foods are ranked based on the speed at which they enter the bloodstream. Potato has been given a GI of 65-101 depending on the variety and cooking method, therefore is considered to be a high GI food. However, the glycemic index has several limitations which must be acknowledged.
The index does not reflect the glycemic variation in potatoes due to factors such as country of origin, variety, maturation, processing or preparation techniques. Cooled potatoes have a significantly lower GI compared to potatoes consumed immediately after cooking.
The GI does not reflect the nutrient density of a food. Potatoes are a nutrient rich food, fat and cholesterol free, very low in salt, high in fibre and a good source of vitamin C. Many nutrient poor, high energy foods such as chocolate or croissants have a low GI, therefore the overall health benefits of a food cannot be determined based purely on its estimated GI value.
Additionally, the GI does not include any other nutrients added to the meal. Eating a potato with accompanying food often lowers the overall GI value substantially.
Carbohydrates, found in food such as potatoes, are the primary fuel source for the body. For a person who is exercising heavily, about 6o per cent of their daily energy (calories) should be from carbohydrates.
The body prefers to burn carbohydrates for energy. The body can also burn protein and fat, but it favours carbohydrates – so potatoes are perfect.
Other foods high in carbohydrates include pasta and rice. However, when compared to rice and pasta, potatoes have the advantage of providing higher amounts of vital nutrients such as vitamin C, potassium, and folate.
A 1999-2000 survey estimated that more than 7 per cent of Australians aged 25 years or over have Type 2 diabetes (Dunstan et al, 2000). Managing diabetes comes down to modifying carbohydrate intake to a level at which the individual’s insulin producing capacity can effectively deal with the glucose consumed.
At present, there is no reliable evidence to suggest that consuming potatoes leads to an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. In fact, higher intake of fibre has been shown to reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and also assist in managing blood glucose levels in individuals with diabetes.
A diet high in fibre slows glucose absorption from the small intestine into the blood. This reduces the possibility of a rapid rise in insulin, the hormone produced by the pancreas to stabilise blood glucose levels. Including foods that are a good source of fibre, such as potatoes, as part of a balanced diet reduces the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and can assist individuals with diabetes in managing their blood glucose levels.
The food we eat, and the amount we consume, is regulated by three distinct forces – hunger, appetite and satiety. Satiety refers to the physiological and psychological experience of fullness that comes after eating or drinking.
It is hypothesised that if different foods are more satiating than others, consumption of these foods will result in less being consumed, leading to a lower overall energy consumption.
While the amount of food consumed is typically believed to be the strongest factor associated with satiety, other factors influencing the feeling of fullness include water, fibre and macronutrients. Potatoes are 8o per cent water, full of fibre and have a high level of macronutrients.
Coeliac disease is a medical condition characterised by a permanent intestinal intolerance to gluten. This means that people who are gluten intolerant should avoid pasta, bread and pastries, as well as processed products containing even trace amounts of gluten.
Potatoes are a naturally gluten free source of carbohydrates. Their versatility, as well as nutrient density, make them a suitable and cost effective carbohydrate food source for individuals with coeliac disease.
Recommended Daily Intake
For comparison, potato was unpeeled and boiled. Pasta made from white flour, prepared without added fat. Rice was white with no added fat. Bread is average of all flours without margarine or butter. Noodles were Asian style, average of all flours and types, prepared as directed without added fat. Nutrient values used for comparisons are from the Australian AusNut database.
Percentage daily intakes are based on an average (87ookJ), may be higher or lower depending on your energy levels.
Percentage Recommended Dietary Intakes (RDI) were calculated using the schedule Standard 1.1.1 of the FSC.