Monday, January 21, 2008

Attack of the Killer Potato

The Idaho Potato board is once again bombarding the airwaves with ads touting the health benefits of the potato (see below for actual ad). I am of Irish/German descent and originally from the Midwest. So you can just imagine the number of potatoes I ingested in the form of potato salad, mashed potatoes, au gratin potatoes, german potato salad, potato pancakes, spatzel, tater tots, potato dumplings, potato chips and french fries. That fact that I know how to make everything I just listed from scratch, with the exception of the tater tots, is a bit of an indicator (and given some time and a grater, I think I could make a passable approximation of the tater tot). So if the potato is so healthy, why would I, an avid potato lover, gain so much weight while eating them?

According to my mom, the potato was perfectly healthy. It was all the stuff we added to it that made it in to a dietary disaster. It was the sour cream, butter, cheese, and cooking oils that were to blame. That's what was reported in all the magazines mom read and in the weekly food section of the local paper. That is also what she learned at her Weight Watchers meetings. That's what EVERYBODY "just knew". Once again, everybody was dead wrong.

According to Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, "Potatoes are a great way to survive a famine. My grandparents survived the Depression on potatoes. But in a contemporary, sedentary society, potatoes are unhealthy, with a very big glycemic load. We've seen in our studies that higher potato consumption is related to a risk of diabetes. They are very rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream-more than eating pure sugar: sugar is only half glucose when it's broken down, potatoes are 100 percent glucose. There's not very much in terms of redeemable nutritional value that you get for the calories. Unless you are extremely lean and extremely active, you can't tolerate them. If you really like potatoes, you can have them in moderation now and then, but the trouble is that a big mountain of potatoes on your plate twice a day is how many people eat."

"Actually, careful studies have shown, demonstrated that you get a bigger rise in blood sugar after eating potatoes, a baked potato, say, than you do from eating pure table sugar."

The typical large restaurant-sized baked potato, with approximately 50g of carbohydrates, is nothing more than 1/4 cup of sugar in disguise. Sure it contains vitamins and minerals, but so does a strawberry danish. The difference is the danish isn't pretending to be a health food. It is amazing to think that I was taught that potatoes were good, sour cream and butter were bad, and if I got fat, it was my fault for being weak and lazy. All the while the very basis of my diet was messing up my blood sugar, causing intense food cravings, and helping me on the way to all time highest weight. Had I just thrown out the potato and eaten the butter, sour cream, shredded cheese, and bacon bits out of a bowl with a spoon, I would have been perfectly fine.

Instead, I, just like mom, bought the great potato lie hook, line and sinker. I ate them plain, I ate them with low fat yogurt instead of sour cream, I used margarine instead of butter. Then word got out that potatoes were good with fat-free salsa and I tried that too. My weight continued to climb and I felt worse all the time. It wasn't until very recently that I understood that the potato was the real problem all along.

I do understand that potato farmers need to make a living, and there are quite a few people who can scarf starchy foods with little health consequence. I am just not one of them. I can, however, find a way to continue to help the potato farmers. I will just make myself a potato canon. Then I can actually use the potatoes in a healthy ammo to shoot at people who try to tell me potatoes are good to eat!

Make your own potato canon!

The latest "lievertisement" from the potato council...


Anonymous said...

zilla, i remember going to potato buffets. i never put fat on them, just salsa yogurt and any vegie that was served up. somehow, i still thought it was healthy even though i was not!! can't we just get those potato farmers to grow us some good meat? do potatoes make good compost?

Wifezilla said...

Ahhh..the old potato bar! I went to one in South Milwaukee as a kid. The potatoes were as big as your head. Mom told us to avoid the butter and sour cream. She meant well....LOL

Anonymous said...

One winter, back more than a few years, we were broke and potatoes were $2 for 50 pounds. We ate potatoes prepared every way I could think of, at least once, up to 3 times daily. Of course I gained weight, but we survived. At the time, I was very grateful to have anything my kids would eat to fill up on. The gratitude has lessened; we don't eat potatoes as a main course now (hardly ever), and when diabetic hubby can't resist, his sugar monitor tells him why he should.