In Part 1 of my discussion of the potato, I showed you not only how incredible are the nutritional components of the potato; but I also showed you its importance throughout history in terms of supporting the development of various cultures and societies. But there is more to this much maligned terrific tuber.
Although the potato gets a bad rap because its “glycemic index,” but something you seldom hear much about, is The Satiety Index. And when it comes to The Satiety Index, once again the potato becomes a “Superhero” of modern nutrition.
The Satiety Index and the Potato
Susanna Holt of the University of Sydney Australia did a research experiment in 1995 to compare the effects of different foods on short-term satiety and appetite levels.
She prepared 240 cals portions of 38 different foods. These foods ran the gamut from yogurt to Mars Bars, to eggs, fruits, cheese, brown rice, ice-cream, candy –and yes, potatoes. She recruited volunteers and asked them to eat a single, 240 calories portion of each of the 38 foods – but all on separate occasions of course. After consuming each food, participants were asked to rate their hunger levels every 15 minutes, for the next two hours. At that point, the participants were led to a buffet where they could eat as much or as little as they desired. Holt then counted the number of calories the participants then ate in these follow-up meals and she then combined this with the data she recorded regarding their previously reported hunger ratings from the 240 calories-level consumption of these other foods previous to the buffet.
She used all this to create a “satiety index” for each of those 38 foods she was looking at. Now, just like the glycemic index, she also used white bread as her reference food and assigned it a score of 100. From here she summarized a food’s satiation value – something seldom ever discussed in modern nutrition fields. And the highest and best satiety index score was achieved by – yes indeed — THE POTATO!
(AND BY A VAST MARGIN I MAY ADD.)
The satiety index score she assigned to the potato was 323. No other food was even close. The second closest food was “ling fish” which scored 225. In other words no other food EVEN CAME CLOSE to the potato in terms of leaving participants feeling “satisfied” after eating – or in terms of REDUCING the amounts they ate a few hours later at the buffet. And don’t you think this is important when considering modern nutrition and weight-control?
Obviously from the research on the Satiety Index it just becomes a clear conclusion then to expect that foods with stronger short-term satiation effects are going to have beneficial long-term effects of appetite control over the course of the day and by extension, weight-control as well. Contrarily, you would expect that people who eat more foods that don’t satisfy and that score low on the Satiety Index – like fibrous veggies for instance – these people will be heavier and have a harder time controlling appetite than people who eat foods with a higher satiation effect – controlling for people choosing healthy foods of course.
In fact other studies are indeed confirming this hypothesis: people who choose whole foods with a higher short-term satiation effect, also correlates with using these foods “as staples” to control weight long-term as well. So once again the potato becomes a hero in the proposition for long-term sustainable weight-loss and weight-control!
Why isn’t anyone talking about this? Well because the potato is a starch – a food category demonized as a matter of our modern cultural creation: Furthermore, the potato is a high glycemic food; so it can’t be good for us, right? Talk about throwing the baby out with the bath water!
So let’s talk about the relevance of the “glycemic index” here for a minute shall we. Oh, how the fitness and diet industry love their “buzz words.” And once the term “glycemic index” became entrenched in the low-carbs faulty logic argument, many a healthy whole food was demonized – none more than the potato it seems. “Everyone knows you shouldn’t eat any starch that is white, after all.” Think about it.
As this two-part article has argued – before the nutritional “science” industry was born – cultures all over the world and throughout history just knew from biofeedback that potatoes were good for them. But with ‘conce
pts without contexts’ from the nutritional science industry – ‘ideas’ start replacing real-world cultural observations and individual biofeedback of what actually was working to control weight and keep people healthy at the same time.
The glycemic index is one such ‘idea’ attempting to replace reality – an ‘idea’ thrown around by more people who barely understand it. But it sounds scientific. And for some wannabe nutrition experts out there, there is no “context” or “relativity” to these ideas. They are considered “absolutes.” So, according to this line of juvenile thinking then – any and all high-glycemic foods were/are bad. And the lowly potato was caught in the web of this all or nothing nonsensical logic. When it comes to the ‘glycemic index’ and ‘glycemic loads’ after a certain meal, no one seems to bother to ask the question whether any of this is unnatural or abnormal to begin with?
Before French fries became the default representative of the potato – potato consumption was never associated with negative long-term health consequences. After the notion of the idea of the glycemic index became accepted knowledge – then what mattered was not real-world history and proof of the health of a specific unprocessed food like the potato – oh no. With the glycemic index knowledge what now matters is that according to this one single isolated criterion; well, eating potatoes “ought to be bad” – all evidence to the contrary!
The question I’ve always had is this – Are there really ANY unhealthy unprocessed whole foods, that come from a plant source? I mean, really folks! It’s amazing how many research studies lump potatoes in with comments regarding French fries. This is akin to saying grass fed skinless chicken breast is unhealthy, after making reference to KFC. Yet, in fact, evidence continues to mount of the “re-discovered” superiority of the potato – despite the hangover of Atkins, Paleo and the rest of this nonsense.
A Protest Against the Potato That Didn’t Work So Well
Back in 2011, as a protest against school lunches wanting to limit “starchy vegetables” by comparing all of them to French fries, the head of the Washington Potato Commission, Chris Voigt went on all potato diet to illustrate the healthiness of the demonized tuber. Voigt’s point was that it is fried oils, and frying potatoes that does all the harm. But no one was listening: And since his voice was going unheard in the backlash of pop-culture fad-diet ignorance informed by the likes of Atkins and Paleo – Voigt took matters into his own hands and undertook a potatoes-only diet. He ate nothing but potatoes, a whopping 20 of them per day, without topping, and he went for 60 straight days (over 8 weeks folks).
Now according to Paleo Preaching Pundits and Atkins Aficionados, two months of a pure starch diet should certainly cause Mr. Voigt to gain lots of fat – especially if his choice was the lowly potato – and especially if he was eating 20 of them per day! Oh and let’s not forget that he should also be “very afraid” that he may be become insulin-resistant by this 60 day potato diet.
But what ACTUALLY happened?
Well with over 60 days on the all starch, all potato protest-diet, Mr. Voigt LOST 21 lbs.
Oh, and as for health indices? His cholesterol and triglyceride levels dropped SIGNIFICANTLY as well; even his resting blood glucose levels improved as well – this latter point being the main argument in all these ill-advised anti-carb approaches to weight loss and weight-control.
And just like the 2 researchers from the 19th century mentioned in Part 1 of this article; Mr. Voigt did not experience any loss of energy or productivity from his all potato diet. Ironically these following symptoms -> weakness, loss of energy, lack of productivity, and scatter-brained attention spans -> these are the most common reported side-effects of low-carbs approaches. Now, to be clear, no one is saying to go out and go on an all potato diet. Any diets of severe food limitation make no sense, since it’s not normal for our evolved omnivore brains to be limited to one food. We are not Koala Bears.
But a point on the superiority of the potato had to be made and Mr. Voigt made it!
Myself I eat baked potatoes as my dinner starch source 2-3 X’s per week. I’ve never fallen for vogue industry trends or fad-diet nonsense.
Demonizing the potato because of one single criterion like the glycemic index simply makes no sense and borders on the ridiculous.
And when you consider the potato’s stellar nutrient profile, it’s crucial role in the development of sustaining various cultures throughout history, and its satiation effects to lend to a perceived sense of postprandial satisfaction – and how this effects appetite-control and weight-control – the only conclusion you can possibly come to is that the potato is a modern whole unprocessed SUPERHERO SUPERFOOD if that label ever deserved to apply to any food source!
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