Are Potatoes the Healthiest Carb?

hasselback potatoes
Recently I was reading the pack of some low carb potatoes.

As you do.

I was surprised at the claim that potatoes contain significantly less carbs than pasta and rice.

Even regular spuds.

So I did a little research and here’s what I found…

In a table!

TABLE 1. Carbohydrate Content and Glycemic Index of Potatoes, Rice, Pasta and Bread

are potatoes healthy

Sources:
Cronometer for carbs and fiber.
University of Sydney website for GI and GL

Are Potatoes the Healthiest Carb?

There are many different aspect to health.

Let’s look at these individually…

Processing

It doesn’t get much less processed that digging a potato up from the ground and giving it a wash.

So they definitely win on that front!

Carb Content

From my table above potatoes contain significantly less carbs.

Glycemic Index + Glycemic Load

I’m not a huge fan of Glycemic Index (GI) and Glycemic Load (GL) because they’re confusing.

And they don’t take into consideration that if you eat the carbs, they all enter your blood stream at some point.

Essentially GI indicates how dramatically a particular food will spike your blood glucose levels.

Which leads to the whole insulin being released, blood sugar crashing roller coaster.

From a GI perspective, potatoes don’t look good.

The high number means they will spike blood sugar quickly.

However when we look at GL which takes regular serving sizes into consideration, potatoes are lower (so a better choice) than rice or pasta.

But not as low as whole wheat sourdough.

The other limitation of GI and GL is they look at food in isolation. Not in the context of a whole meal.

Eating fiber, fat or protein with your carbs has a massive impact on how quickly they are digested. And how quickly they spike blood sugar (ie. the GI).

Fiber

Spuds with their skins on contribute almost as much fiber as whole wheat sourdough.

Other nutrients

Potatoes contain decent amounts of Vitamin C!

Digestability

Spuds are great from an easy to digest perspective being both naturally gluten-free and low FODMAP.

So Are Potatoes the Healthiest Carb?

For me, the healthiest option is to skip all these high carb foods.

However, if you are going to eat carbs, spuds are a great choice because they’re a whole unprocessed food.

The actual amounts of carbs are low compared with other options.

Plus as my Irishman is always telling me, there’s Vitamin C!

Do I eat potatoes?

Only a bite or two here and there.

I’ve never been a huge potato lover so it’s easy for me to say no to spuds.

I’d rather keep my blood sugar stable.

If I am eating carbs, I’d prefer the taste (and nutrition profile!) of broccoli or cauliflower.

But I’m happy to cook them for my boys.

What about you?

Are you a potato fan?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below :)

More on healthy eating

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Hope you have some fun in the kitchen (with or without your spuds)

With love,
Jules x

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26 Comments

  • I do like the fact that it is best to cook, cool and reheat potatoes to increase the level of resistant starch making them an even better choice.

  • The fact that you can use potatoes kin do many ways, my favourites being roasted. And fries (low fat fryer), mashed bound, baked, as a topping, in stews soups etc. etc. make them perfect. Rice and pastas are boring in comparison.

  • I love potatoes!! Basic staple wholesome food to add & cook in a variety of dishes. Great filler for healthy energetic growing children always on the go. I used to cook breakfast for my boys bacon eggs on toast & fried potatoes on their days off school & would only see them if they needed to graze during the day. Then potatoes for dinner with veges meat etc. Very economical fodder & wonderful underestimated vegetable.

    • My boys would love eating at your house Joan! And you’re right for highly active (and growing) boys who are insulin sensitive, spuds are fab :)

  • I am a big fan of potatoes, especially the skin of a baked potato stuffed with butter… I go for my blood tests tomorrow – including my HbA1C, and I’ll find out the results in a couple of weeks. I’m hoping that I can still eat the carbs I like, especially since I don’t eat them in isolation. It’s helpful to me that you mentioned that fiber as well as protein and fats help to diminish the effects of carbs on blood sugar. I’m still working on reducing my carbs, though. Except for veggies, of course. I also prefer potatoes to pasta, and absolutely plain rice (jasmine rice is a different story).

  • I do like potatoes. But I have started eating less overall and cut out sugar. I’ve lost about 17 pounds and keeping it off too. Mostly I like a baked potato with a little butter, salt and pepper. I split it into thirds and enjoy 1/3 with salmon and green beans, chicken and broccoli or hamburger and a salad.

    • Glad to hear you’ve been having success with your weight loss Thomas!

      If you are going to eat spuds – watching your portion sizes is an excellent idea.

      Adding butter can be helpful if you’re insulin sensitive.

      But I’ve recently seen a study where adding butter to potatoes actually made the blood sugar and insulin response of potatoes WORSE for insulin resistant people.

  • In the table, did you mean brown or white rice? The values should be different for each of those, at least for fiber. Thanks.

    • Hi Miriam!
      They’re a new variety of potatoes that has been bred to include 25% less carbs than regular spuds.
      I wonder if they’re an Australian invention?

  • I’d also love to know what are/where you buy low carb potatoes! Never heard of them but I’d love to try them.

    • We can get them at Woolworths in Margaret River. They are ‘lower carb’ though, not low carb.
      There is also a big difference in the glycemic index of types of rice – jasmine is extremely high GI,sushi rice is pretty high, basmati & doongara are quite a bit lower.
      Rice & pasta also benefit, like potatoes, from an increase in resistant starch when precooked & reheated. Worth trying occasionally if you’re borderline, not sadly if you’re diabetic or fighting it off tooth & nail!

      • Hi Johnny 5

        Thanks for pointing out the low carb potatoes are about 25% less carby than regular potatoes. Not low carb themselves.

        And also thanks for noting the large variation in GI between different rices and the resistant starch trick.

        And excellent point that if you’re diabetic or struggling with insulin resistance, having lower GI carbs or resistant starch isn’t going to help. It’s only beneficial for people who are sensitive to insulin.

    • Hi L.M.G.
      I’ve found them in most supermarkets in Australia – sorry I can’t help with the rest of the world.
      There is also a variety of potato called Marenca which my local potato farmer claims is low GI but I’m not sure how scientific his claim is :)

  • I freakin’ adore potatoes and almost never peel them these days. Not even when making mash! Leave the skins on, chop the potatoes into chunks and boil or steam, then mash as usual. You won’t even notice they’re there, and you get the benefit of the extra nutrients. I also find mashed potato invaluable for making salmon/tuna or lentil patties for the gorgeous velvety texture they impart.

    • The skins are where the vitamin C is Lisa – so good call on leaving them on.

      They’re also a big part of the flavour. Years ago my Irishman and I did an experiment of roasting potatoes with and without skins – the skin-on spuds were far far more potatoey in flavour – in a good way :)

  • How I miss potatoes! IBS since I was a toddler and at 36 found I was intolerant to potatoes (and all the nightshade veggies). No more IBS or painful inflammation elsewhere. Totally life changing but I can’t help but miss a lovely baked spud with butter and black pepper… x

  • LOVE potatoes!!!! Luckily, I am blessed to not have an issue with insulin…..and I try to make them an occasional addition to my healthy meals….and to avoid fried (ie French fries or hash browns). However, personally I believe potatoes (especially baked!) in moderation can be a healthy (as you pointed out, definitely one of the least processed foods ?) option for most people due to Vitamin C and B6, potassium, magnesium and fiber content.

  • My new love is purple potatoes that I can buy in a Korean supermarket chain called H-Mart. They are purple through and through. Taste delicious with some seasoning and a little oil and baked in small chunks. Great cooled and reheated the next day too to get that resistant starch effect.

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