Do Potatoes Make You Fat?
In the past few years, a disturbing trend has developed where, for some people, there is a fear around eating carbohydrates. High carb foods such as bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes have got a really bad rap as being weight-gain monster foods when in reality this is a myth.
Carbohydrates, including those which come from the humble potato, are actually high-energy foods that our body needs to be able to survive. If we don’t have enough carbohydrates to meet our energy needs, then our body’s metabolism actually slows down as it goes into starvation mode to preserve energy reserves, and that can lead to weight gain. With all high carb foods, it is not the carbohydrate itself that will make you fat, but the quantity, type and amount of activity a person does that are the most important factors.
Eating potatoes in their simple form will not cause weight gain. However, what potatoes are eaten with, and how they are prepared, is what makes them fattening foods. Often potatoes are fried in oil, or served with butter or sour cream or high-calorie sauces. Eating large quantities of potatoes prepared this way could cause weight gain and fat stores, especially accompanied by inactivity. When you are not burning the energy from carbohydrates effectively by doing exercise or some other form of movement, then your body will store the excess energy as fat.
This is the case with any carb-rich food- you need to burn the energy you are consuming by eating that food. If you eat more energy-whether that be in the form of carbs or other foods- than what your body is exerting, then you will put on weight.
As it is, the energy consumed from eating a high-carbohydrate food such as the potato is less likely to lead to weight gain than eating a high-fat food, because carbohydrates contain about half the amount of energy compared with fat. Choosing high carb over high-fat foods is definitely better if you are watching your weight.
Other factors to consider are the glycemic index (GI), which is a measure of how quickly a food converts to glucose, and the glycemic load (GL) which measures how much a food converts to glucose. If gaining fat is a concern, it is best to avoid foods with high GI and/or GL. However, despite people fearing potatoes as a high GI/GL food, in reality, they are on-par with other high carb foods such as bananas and lentils.
So, at the end of the day, when potatoes are eaten along with lean protein, healthy fats and other high fibre fruits and vegetables, they will very unlikely cause you to gain fat. Most healthy and active people can eat potatoes and sweet potatoes without worrying about their weight.
If eating potatoes, or any carbohydrate, choose complex forms such as brown grains and whole grain cereals for example. Sweet potatoes are also an alternative to regular white potatoes, and may be slightly better in terms of GI and GL- though only marginally. At the end of the day, do not stress about eating potatoes in moderation. Like all vegetables, they are healthy, delicious foods when eaten in their most natural form and they can also be very satisfying. Eaten in moderation in combination with exercise or an active life, potatoes are good for you and will not make you fat.
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