Can potatoes be part of a healthy diet?

AGE FOTOSTOCK

Whether they are roasted, mashed, or baked, many people believe potatoes are the perfect accompaniment to any meal.

And while there has been some debate over the nutritional value of the root vegetable in recent years, researchers from Louisiana State University have now reported that potatoes are packed with health benefits.

"We demonstrated that contrary to common belief, potatoes do not negatively impact blood glucose levels. In fact, the individuals who participated in our study lost weight," said Dr Candida Rebello. "Each participant's meal was tailored to their personalised caloric needs, yet by replacing some meat content with potato, participants found themselves fuller, quicker, and often did not even finish their meal. In effect, you can lose weight with little effort."

For the study, the team recruited 36 people between the ages of 18 and 60 who were overweight, had obesity, or had insulin resistance. They ate precisely-controlled diets of widely available common foods including either beans, peas, and meat or fish, or white potatoes with meat or fish. Potatoes were incorporated into the main lunch and dinner entrées, such as shepherd's pie and creamy shrimp and potatoes, and served together with sides such as mashed potatoes, oven-roasted potato wedges, potato salad, and scalloped potatoes.

"We prepared the potatoes in a way that would maximise their fibre content. When we compared a diet with potatoes to a diet with beans and peas, we found them to be equal in terms of health benefits," Rebello added. "People typically do not stick with a diet they don't like or isn't varied enough. The meal plans provided a variety of dishes, and we showed that a healthy eating plan can have varied options for individuals striving to eat healthy. In addition, potatoes are a fairly inexpensive vegetable to incorporate into a diet."

Full study results have been published in the Journal of Medicinal Food.