WHAT WE KNOW
Few fruits or vegetables are subjected to such conflicting advice from the health community as potatoes. Many say that they should be limited or not consumed at all, while others think they can be included as part of a nutritious meal. While these tubers are full of important nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, folate, fiber and starch, they also have a high glycemic index. Glycemic index is a measure of how much a carbohydrate-rich food raises blood glucose. Many believe that high glycemic index foods should be avoided as they are thought to increase fat storage as well as increase the risk of type 2 diabetes by straining the insulin producing cells of the pancreas. High blood glucose, resulting from high carbohydrate intake, is also thought to damage the cells that line blood vessels, which increases risk for cardiovascular disease development. However, there is no scientific consensus regarding how potatoes, specifically, fit into the risk of developing different metabolic disease.
To address this issue, Borch and colleagues1 recently conducted a systematic review of the literature to determine the association between white and yellow potato consumption and risk for developing obesity, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease. Thirteen studies were included in the analysis: 5 studies related to obesity, 7 studies related to type 2 diabetes, and 1 study that evaluated cardiovascular disease risk. Studies reporting on adiposity/weight gain and type 2 diabetes risk reported inconsistent results for potato consumption, with some showing a slightly higher risk for disease, some showing no association, and others showing a lower risk with potato intake. The only study to evaluate potato consumption and cardiovascular disease risk reported no relation. Interestingly, preparation method may be the most important determinant of risk for metabolic diseases and potato consumption. Indeed, french fry intake was more consistently and positively associated with adiposity and risk for type 2 diabetes.
The available data suggest that overall potato consumption is not associated with risk for metabolic diseases like obesity, type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease. However, an important gap in this field of research is that there have been no long-term intervention studies that have evaluated how increasing or decreasing potato intake may alter risk for metabolic diseases. More research will be needed in order to explicitly understand the role of potatoes in a healthy diet.
Until then, we recommend incorporating potatoes (but not many french fries) in your diet as a healthy starch that can be dressed up in fun and interesting ways. Try our recipe for Herb Roasted Fingerling Potatoes to pair with a side salad and grilled fish or chicken. Check out our tips for choosing your potatoes based on the dish you want to make and how to make the perfect Light and Fluffy Mashed Potatoes.
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