In recent years, the potato has been maligned. The USDA has restricted starches for kids in public schools. Articles such as this one have claimed that potatoes are actually fattening. Nope, not just fries or chips, but plain old potatoes. Now if you look through the sourced data, you'll see they lumped the potato together with the french fry, which is the equivalent of lumping a tomato together with a Bloody Mary, but I digress.
If you've ever tried a low carbohydrate diet, you've probably been told that potatoes are the enemy. The same with grains, but I'll save the defense of intact grains for another blog. So what's the deal? Is the lowly potato a primary cause for obesity in The U.S. and Europe? Short answer: No. And here's 6 reasons why you need MORE NOT LESS potatoes in your diet.
1. The Potato Is Low Calorie + Extremely Filling: 150 calories in a large potato. On a 2,000 calorie per day diet? You can eat a bunch of potatoes throughout your day, be full, energized, and well nourished, while getting maximum caloric bang for your buck.
2. The Potato Has Been A Pillar Of Nutrition Throughout Human History: In the Andes of South America, and in Europe before the 1,500's, the potato made the difference between surviving and perishing. When the potato was introduced in Ireland, the population doubled in 40 years. The potato has saved many lives, individually, as well as civilizations.
In 1927, a study was published by a researched name. Stanislaw Kazimirz Kon, who studied the effects of an all-potato diet on the human body. A healthy man and woman in their twenties, who were very athletic, were put on a diet where most of their calories came from potatoes. To that they added only a few fruits, and butter or oil. Now, this wasn’t an all-potato diet, but it’s important to note that although fat was added to the diet, this fat provided no protein. Yet, on a diet where virtually all of the protein was derived from potatoes, it was found that protein intake was adequate. To be clear, no one food is complete enough to be your only source of nourishment. But as a food you could live on for months at a time, potatoes are pretty close to ideal.
Here is a more contemporary gent who's given "The Spud Fit Challenge" diet a big name on Youtube. He lost 30 pounds in 43 days at the time of this interview. Check it out.
3. The Potato Is Chocked Full Of Nutrients: The primary reason we eat is to obtain enough energy to function throughout the day. (That's also why I drink coffee, but again I digress). If we eat for energy, and starchy carbs give us max energy, it follows that high carbohydrate foods are nutritionally superior. So why condemn a food for doing what it is supposed to do – provide efficient fuel for your body? Potatoes are high in vitamins B, C, Dietary Fiber, Potassium, and other minerals. Just as important is what's not in a potato: high sugar (just over 1g in a medium potato), high sodium, cholesterol (zero like all plant foods), and saturated fats.
4. Humans Are Starch Eaters: When we talk about ancient human hunting and gathering, we might have been misled by some historic sexism. While the dudes were out throwing spears at woodland creatures and missing 9 out of 10 times (as it turns out, hunting ain't so easy when you're not carrying a firearm), guess who was gathering most of the food? You guessed it... the wives, children, and grannies. So guess what they mostly ate? Roots, bulbs, and tubers - the wild versions of what became carrots, onions, and potatoes. These starchy friends increased the size of our brains, which led to all of that territorial expansion that was to come. Notice how primates tend to live where fruits are ripe year round? Yep, they stayed raw vegan for the most part, while we moved on up in the world through starch-based eating. You can read more on "How Starches Made Us Human," in this 2007 piece from The NY Times.
6. Potatoes Are Satisfying + Easy To Prep: Few foods are as plain yet delicious as a potato. Whether you're baking, boiling, sauteing, slow cooking (with some onions and veggie broth, mmm, mmm), or just taking a big bite of a raw potato (OK maybe not the last one), very few plant foods are so yummy "right out the box." Seriously even most kids will smash an entire potato without asking for anything on it. But let's say you want to have some fun... what CAN'T be added to a potato? I went to a wedding a while back that had a potato bar with about 50 different toppings. Everything from avocados, olives, salsa, pesto, horseradish, all of the things. You can pretty much do anything you want with a baked potato, and it's going to add happiness and nutritional value to your day.
Did I mention meal prep yet? How many can you cook for the next few days of meals? As many as you can fit in your over or slow cooker. Few foods are more ideal for weekly meal prepping than potatoes.
I would love to go on about why potatoes should absolutely be taking up real estate on your plate, but I'm going to leave it at 6 for now. Bottom line is this: If you want to fuel your Adventure Training, or any other fitness endeavor, eat more potatoes. They are truly one of the most nutritionally perfect foods this planet has given us. Of course you need your leafy veggies, healthy fats, legumes, and proteins, but potatoes can be a staple main dish. In the end you'll be leaner and healthier. I would encourage anyone with further questions to research the work of Dr. John McDougall. Watch this great presentation discussing topics from his best-selling book, The Starch Solution, and check out his website for more great info.