We all know that processed carbs like white flour cookies, frozen pizza, fast food burger buns, and donuts (just to name a few) aren’t good choices when we’re trying to lose weight. Those kinds of carbohydrates are chock full of empty calories (high calorie count with little to no useful nutritional content) and cause inflammation and unhealthy spikes in blood sugar.
The reason food like this makes us gain weight is because they usually contain more calories than we are able to burn in a day. Excess calories are stored in the body as fat. Additionally, because these kinds of foods contain so little nutrition, most people find themselves craving additional meals to fill the body’s requirements and even more calories are ingested. Eating junk food doesn’t set us up for successful workouts either. Blood sugar spikes and subsequent crashes leave you feeling exhausted and miserable. And chronic inflammation causes illnesses, fatigue, even heart attacks and strokes.
Ok, so carbs are bad. Right? Not necessarily! Let’s talk about potatoes.
In this post-Atkins world, lots of us think of anything containing a high amount of carbohydrates as bad. And potatoes are mostly all carbs, which, when consumed, can cause a spike in blood sugar (they’re high on the glycemic index). But there’s a big difference between potato carbs and white flour carbs. Let’s take a look at the nutritional profile and health benefits of a potato.
A baked or boiled potato is anywhere from 100-200 calories per potato, depending on the size and kind. Compare that to one small Krispy Kreme, which comes in at right around 170 calories, or one cup of semolina flour pasta, which is around 180 calories.
“Potatoes are a good source of several vitamins and minerals, including potassium, vitamin C, folate, and vitamin B6.”
Potatoes contain antioxidants (mostly in the skin) and may reduce the risk of heart disease.
A medium sized potato contains “4 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein. In fact, you could eat only potatoes and still meet your basic protein needs”.
So, potatoes, although high in starchy carbohydrates and high on the glycemic index, are lower in calories than processed grains and sugars and much more filling. Additionally, they contain lots of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, making them a good meal choice when it comes to carbs. When we eat a boiled fresh potato we feel full and energized, not cranky and sluggish.
So, how does that factor into weight loss?
First off, whether a potato is a good meal choice when you’re trying to lose weight mostly depends on the coking method. Steaming, baking, or boiling are all good choices because you’re not adding any additional calories, fat, sugar, etc. You’ll want to avoid frying your potatoes in lots of oil or adding dairy (cheese, sour cream, butter) after the potato is cooked. Obviously processed potatoes should be avoided at all costs. Chips, french fries, tater tots, etc. are almost always saturated with oil, salt, and additional chemical preservatives. None of those are helpful when we’re considering weight loss or feeling our best.
A good example of a solid weight loss meal that includes potatoes would be a medium sized boiled fresh potato, salmon fillet, and lots of delicious green veggies. That combo is bursting with nutrients, protein, fiber, good carbs, healthy fats, lower in calories, and incredibly filling and satisfying. And that can help us to exercise longer, harder, and better, so we’re gaining muscle and burning more calories.
Now, if your meal plan is mostly made up of “meats and greens” and you’re already meeting your weight, muscle, and fitness level goals AND you feel satisfied, healthy, and full of energy, I’m not suggesting that you start eating a bunch of potatoes. But I do think that potatoes can be a good option someone for who’s trying to makeover their unhealthy diet and lose weight.
Sources: AuthorityNutrition, Precision Nutrition, Calorie King,