Potatoes have received a key boost in a health context on the back of a major research project recently completed in the US.

The study confirms that the potato is a healthy vegetable, filled with nutrients and packed with health benefits.

Moreover, potatoes do not cause weight gain or expose consumers to an increased risk of type-2 diabetes, according to the project.

Dr. Candida Rebello, an assistant research professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Centre said:

“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.

“People tend to eat the same weight of food regardless of calorie content in order to feel full.

“By eating foods with a heavier weight that are low in calories, you can easily reduce the number of calories you consume,” she added.

Research on potatoes

The key aspect of the study is that the researchers did not reduce the portion size of meals but lowered the caloric content by including potatoes.

“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,” Dr. Rebello stated.

“In effect, you can lose weight with little effort.”

The study involved 36 participants between the ages of 18 and 60 who were overweight, had obesity or insulin resistance.

Participants in the trial were fed precisely-controlled diets of widely available common foods including either beans, peas, and meat or fish, or white potatoes with meat or fish.

Both diets were high in fruit and vegetable content and substituted an estimated 40% of typical meat consumption with either beans and peas or potatoes.

“We prepared the potatoes in a way that would maximise their fiber 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 further explained.

Industry response

Wilson’s Country managing director, Lewis Cunningham believes the Pennington study re-writes the rule book in terms of the perception of potatoes as part of a healthy diet.

“For the last number of years potatoes have been associated with carbs [carbohydrates]. And when people want to lose weight, they are told to review what you eat and especially look at the carbs that you eat,” he said.

“Potatoes according to Eatwell Guide are not a vegetable but a carb, hence many consumers cut out, or significantly reduce, the amount of potatoes they regularly include within meals.

“The significance of the Pennington research is that it fundamentally confirms the benefits of potatoes within a healthy diet.”

The Wilson’s Country representative takes issue with the down-playing of potatoes within the Eatwell nutritional principles espoused by the National Health Service (NHS) and taught in schools throughout Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. 

“From a young age, it’s taught that vegetables are healthy and good; potatoes are not a vegetable but a carb and not so good,” he said.

“We need to have the role of potatoes within a healthy diet fundamentally reviewed by health and education professionals. And this must work must be carried out as matter of priority.”