By Jo Schaalman and Julie Pelaez of the Conscious Cleanse
Potatoes are an American food staple. From french fries to the loaded baked potato, most of us grew up eating potatoes in one way, shape, or form. These days, it seems as though potatoes have gotten a bad rap.
Are they too high in starch?
Do they cause Type 2 diabetes?
Are they the culprit for the high obesity rates in our country?
And what about sweet potatoes?
Are they a health food?
Should we be eating them?
Do they cause weight gain?
Are they too high in sugar?
These are all the questions surrounding this beloved tuber and the reason you may feel confused about whether or not you should leave room on your plate for potatoes. So let’s take a closer look.
When it comes to nutritional profiles, both white potatoes and sweet potatoes boast many impressive and noteworthy health benefits.
The average sweet potato is packed with vitamin A, which is vital for eye health and a strong immune system. White potatoes, on the other hand, are particularly high in vitamin B6, vitamin c, and potassium.
As you can see, both white and sweet potatoes bring different nutrients to the table.
But what about all those carbs?
Sweet potatoes have slightly higher fiber and slightly lower carbohydrates and calories than white potatoes. However, what’s probably most noteworthy about the difference between the two is that sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic index (meaning they don’t cause the same sharp increase in blood sugar) as white potatoes.
So while both white and sweet potatoes pack a high amount of carbs (even higher when baked), that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Both potatoes contain complex carbohydrates, which won’t spike your blood sugar (be sure to eat the skin where most of the fiber is). This can lead to more sustained energy, making potatoes an ideal snack to fuel a big workout.
So, as you can see, it’s not so much white potatoes versus sweet potatoes. The real difference comes in with how you cook it. Potatoes that are deep-fried (french fries and hash browns) and then drenched in oils and salt are robbed of all their nutritional value. Why bother? Instead, go for baked, roasted, boiled, or mashed potatoes (we love whipped sweet potatoes made with full fat canned coconut milk over dairy)! All are all great ways to prepare white, red, sweet, even purple potatoes.
What about those purple potatoes, you ask? You’ve probably heard about how important it is to “eat the rainbow.” Rotate in some purple potatoes here and there and not only will you add more unique color to your plate, you’ll also be getting more disease-fighting phytonutrients and antioxidants. Side note: purple potatoes don’t taste naturally sweet like sweet potatoes, so they do take some extra doctoring up with spices and seasoning.
So while you can very easily find many potato naysayers out there, we’re not giving up on potatoes anytime soon.
Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, is unwilling to single out potatoes as the end-all-be-all cause of all our greatest health problems. “This is using one particular food or nutrient as a reductive explanation for diseases and problems that are very complicated and have multiple causes,” she says. “It’s nutritionism.”
Since there’s no real consensus on potatoes in the nutrition science community, you’re going to have to decide for yourself. And since we are all unique, with our own nutritional blueprints, it’s important to test whether or not you process spuds (any of them) well or not. Remember that just because the research suggests that potatoes help people lose weight (due to their high fiber content they help you feel full longer), doesn’t always mean that’s going to be 100% the case in your body.
With love and spuds,
Jo and Jules