The bain of all diets are potatoes. ‘Get rid of them!’. ‘They’ll make you fat!’. ‘They’re too high in GI!’. Those are the statements that come out of everyone that has gone on a diet these last couple of decades. But are there any health benefits from white starchy vegetables like potatoes or are they really as unhealthy as everyone makes them out to be? What we find is that potatoes consist of resistant starches and as we will see they have a wide variety of health benefits.
What Are Starchy Vegetables?
Vegetables that are high in starch include white potato, corn and green peas and also includes dry pulses. Sweet potato is high in carbohydrates but not starch and green vegetables contain no starch.
What are Resistant Starches?
Carbohydrates are made up of a number of monosaccharides (single sugar molecules) bound together. They can be broken down into smaller units of sugar through digestion. But there are some ‘Resistant’ carbohydrates that can’t. These include insoluble fibre and ‘Resistant Starches’ found in vegetables.
There are different types of resistant starches depending on the source and heat process. Whole grains and seeds contain one type of starch which is physically inaccessible to digestive enzymes . Another type is resistant to digestion due to the starch granule and is found in raw potatoes, green bananas and some legumes. Cooked and cooled foods such as potatoes and bread consist of another type of starch (Slavin, 2013).
Health Benefits of Resistant Starches
Resistant starches have a number of health benefits. Some attributes include promoting weight loss and/or maintenance in individuals that do not have metabolic diseases, increased satiety cues, increased oxidation of fat, lower fat storage and the preservation of lean body mass (Higgins, 2014). It also has positive effects on gut Microbiome (Maier et al, 2017) and has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity. Further studies also show improvements in blood cholesterol levels (Maier et al, 2017).
But I’ll Get Fat If I Eat Potatoes
This preservation of lean body mass and it’s effect on the way that the body burns the energy from food is thought to help weight loss. However due to the Resistant Starch’s ability to increase fat oxidation and decrease fat storage it’s been used in many fad diets to promote weight loss (Higgins, 2014). Also, when high GI starchy vegetables are eaten with other high fibre vegetables the GI is lowered (Jenkins & Jenkins, 1985).
Starchy vegetables such as potato and corn are a good source of fibre and resistant starch. Any meal that is healthy and well balanced will have positive effects on our health and potatoes are a part of that. We no longer have to fear the dreaded potato since it gives rise to so many health benefits.
Joanne L. Slavin, ‘Carbohydrates, Dietary Fiber, and Resistant Starch in White Vegetables: Links to Health Outcome’, Adv Nutr. 2013 May; 4(3): 351S–355S.
Janine A. Higgins, ‘Resistant starch and energy balance: impact on weight loss and maintenance’, Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2014; 54(9): 1158–1166.
Tanja V. Maier,a Marianna Lucio,a Lang Ho Lee,b,* Nathan C. VerBerkmoes,c Colin J. Brislawn,d Jörg Bernhardt,e Regina Lamendella,f Jason E. McDermott,d,g Nathalie Bergeron,h,i Silke S. Heinzmann,a James T. Morton,j Antonio González,j Gail Ackermann,j Rob Knight,j Katharina Riedel,e Ronald M. Krauss,h Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin,a,k and Janet K., ‘Impact of Dietary Resistant Starch on the Human Gut Microbiome, Metaproteome, and Metabolome’, mBio. 2017 Sep-Oct; 8(5): e01343-17.
Jenkins DJ, Jenkins AL.,’Dietary fiber and the glycemic response’, Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1985 Dec;180(3):422-31.