[Should white potatoes be included in an anti-candida–or any healthy–diet? Here are the pros and cons of eating potatoes, their effect on blood sugar balance, and other considerations before you take a bite.]
[The humble potato: dietary friend or foe?]
It’s finally summer (hallelujah!) and people’s minds are turning to BBQs, picnics and other outdoor festivities. For many of you, summer may mean burgers on the grill, but for me, warmer weather heralds salads of all kinds. And since I’m all about eating well on a candida-free diet, I aim to include as many delicious dishes on my menus as I can, as long as they don’t feed the yeast. One of the questions I receive fairly often about the diet is “Are potatoes okay to eat?”. In other words, will potato salad continue to make an appearance on my table this summer?
The short answer is “yes.” And here’s why.
With the rise in popularity of Paleo and other low-carb diets, potatoes have lately gotten a bad rap. Just like riding your bike unsupervised from sunup to sundown; or hitch-hiking to that concert in Woodstock; or dropping by a friend’s house unannounced at 5:45 PM, potatoes are now considered among “taboo” activities. In fact, it seems as if many traditional foods considered healthful for generations–such as rice, quinoa, wheat or potatoes-have suddenly become culinary pariahs. (On the other hand, even older traditions like home-fermented beverages, bone broths, or nose-to-tail cooking have gained popularity once again. Go figure.).
You’ve likely read that potatoes are too high in carbohydrates (as starch) to be “safe” to eat; that they convert quickly to glucose, and so are verboten; or that they provide too few nutrients to be worth eating. But, like those other traditional foods that have recently come back in style (tongue? seriously?), potatoes have much to offer. Besides, I figured that if this single vegetable could nourish an entire nation, it had to be worth at least a second look.
[Potato Bruschetta: a great grain-free alternative to the bread-based kind.]
There’s no denying that potatoes contain a whack of nutritional value; in fact, it’s been said that potatoes offer the largest array of nutrients in a single food, with a little of all the essential nutrients we need to survive. According to World’s Healthiest Foods, one medium potato provides almost 32% of your daily vitamin B6 requirements, 26% of potassium, 22% of copper, 22% of vitamin C, plus manganese, phosphorous, vitamin B3, and pantothenic acid. Vitamin B6 is essential for cellular health as well as cardiovascular health; and potatoes have also been found to contain kukoamines, a phytonutrient (plant nutrient) that can help to lower blood pressure (perhaps due to all that comforting starch at work?).
Potatoes are also high in fiber, with one medium potato supplying 15% of your daily requirement, while they’re also virtually devoid of fat. Plus, can we forget how yummy they taste?
Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load
One of the reasons people shy away from potatoes is their high score on the glycemic index (a Russett potato, for instance, has a GI of 111–higher than glucose). However, once we also consider the glycemic load, which takes into accout the overall effect of a food on your blood sugar levels, the number reduces considerably. Of all potatoes, redskinned have the lowest glycemic load (at 19) compared to Russett, which clock in at 33 (considered high).
In addition, glycemic index refers to the effect of a single food, eaten on its own. We rarely consume our food that way, however. By combining any food with fat, fiber, or protein, you will lower the GI of that food as well. So the fact that we normally have potatoes with some form of protein or fat (such as a veggie burger or coconut milk in mashed potatoes) will mitigate the effect on our blood sugar, too.
Finally, another factor to consider is how much of a food you’ll eat. According to Dr. Susan Holt, who created an index called The Satiety Index, the food that satisfies hunger the most was. . . yep, the humble potato. In other words, eating a potato makes you feel full more, and for a longer time, than any other food. So it makes sense you’ll be less inclined to binge on potatoes–or anything else–if you include them in your meals.
Bottom line on potatoes:
Given their nutritional value and health benefits, I’ll vote to keep potatoes in my anti-candida diet. When deciding which variety to buy, I always lean toward the reskinned variety if possible, since they’re lowest for both glycemic index and glycemic load. In fact, I ate potatoes from Stage 2 of the ACD, and being able to enjoy that kind of familiar comfort food kept me on track with the diet.
[Roasted Potato Salad with Avocado Pesto: combining the best of white and sweet potatoes.]
But Do Take Note:
If you do choose to consume potatoes, be sure they are organic. Along with sugar beets, corn, soy, and rice, potatoes are one of the top 10 genetically modified foods. You can avoid any problems with GMOs by choosing organic.
In addition, organic potatoes contain fewer toxins, so you’ll be helping keep your body’s toxic load down as well. It’s been said that conventional farmers often alternate potato crops with their other produce before they plant something else, because the potatoes absorb so much of the pesticide residues in the ground. This propensity to absorb toxins can also work in your favor, however: potato poultices have traditionally been used to help with inflammation and drawing out infections from the body.
Potatoes can also grow toxic substances: stems, leaves and any green spots on potatoes themselves contain solanine, a serious toxin (though severe reactions are rare). You can avoid problems completely by storing your potatoes in a cool, dark place and cutting away any eyes, green sprouts, or green spots on the potato before consuming.
Potatoes are nightshades. Along with peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and tobacco, potatoes are considered nightshade vegetables, which means the alkaloid substances in them can cause inflammation or allergic reactions in susceptible individuals. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, for instance, you should avoid them.
Standard potato-based dishes are often unhealthy. For many of us, the major problem with potatoes is that we eat them fried in unhealthy oils or mashed with heaps of butter and cream or milk, none of which is health-promoting. If you do consume potatoes, combine them with healthy oils (organic coconut, extra virgin olive) or protein (seeds, beans, legumes) so that you lower the overall glycemic index or glycemic load; just avoid unhealthy fats or too much fat. Oven fries, or even healthier home fries, are a good way to enjoy your spuds.
Have I convinced you to retain the tater?
In our house, the HH is definitely what I’d call a “meat and potatoes” kind of guy, so he was thrilled that I sided with the “potatoes are good” camp. If you’re like me and are loath to give up your spuds, here are some of my favorite potato-based recipes on the blog. But have no fear: even if you avoid potatoes, there’s a great potato-free “french fry” recipe coming up for next time!
- Potato Bruschetta
- Potato Terrine with Apples and “Goat Cheese”
- Onion-Potato Bread (not gluten-free)
- Best Home Fries EVER (still my go-to recipe after 30 years!!)
- Warm Dandelion-Potato Salad
- Roasted Potato Salad with Avocado Pesto
[Grain-free oven “fries” coming up next blog post!]
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