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Starch in Potatoes is Healthy – it acts like a type of dietary fibre that ferments in the large intestine

London January 6: Consuming foods such as bananas, potatoes, grains and legumes that are rich in resistant starch may help check blood sugar, enhance satiety as well as improve gut health, a study has found.

Resistant starch is a form of starch that is not digested in the small intestine and is therefore considered a type of dietary fibre.

“We know that adequate fibre intake — at least 30 grams per day — is important for achieving a healthy, balanced diet, which reduces the risk of developing a range of chronic diseases,” said Stacey Lockyer, Nutrition Scientist at British Nutrition Foundation, a Britain-based charity.

Apart from occurring naturally in foods, resistant starch is also produced or modified commercially and incorporated into food products. Unlike the typical starch, resistant starch acts like a type of fibre in the body as it does not get digested in your small intestine, but is fermented in the large intestine.

Dietary Fibre

This dietary fibre then increases the production of short chain fatty acids in the gut, which act as an energy source for the colonic cells, thus improving the gut health and increasing satiety.

According to the researchers, the study published in the journal Nutrition Bulletin provided consistent evidence that consumption of resistant starch can aid blood sugar control. It has also been suggested that resistant starch can support gut health and enhance satiety via increased production of short chain fatty acids.

“Whilst findings support positive effects on some markers, further research is needed in most areas to establish whether consuming resistant starch can confer significant benefits that are relevant to the general population.

“However, this is definitely an exciting area of nutritional research for the future,” Lockyer said.

Antioxidants

Moreover, potatoes also contain a variety of phytonutrients that have antioxidant activity. Among these important health-promoting compounds are carotenoids, flavonoids, and caffeic acid, as well as unique tuber storage proteins, such as patatin, which exhibit activity against free radicals.

Nutritionist, Dr Joanna McMillan, thus recommends that potatoes should not be removed altogether from diets.

Vitamins

A good source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, manganese, phosphorus, niacin and protein, potatoes should be one of the carb foods in our regular dietary intake.

However, portions and frequency matter.

“From a dietary diversity point of view, you don’t want to be having potatoes more than once a day, but if you’re having potatoes every day that probably means you’re missing out on some other carb-containing food,” Dr McMillan said.

“So if you have potatoes one day, have some brown rice the next day, have some quinoa another day, have some wholegrain bread in another meal so that you really mix up the different sources of plant foods that you’re getting.”

Can lower blood-pressure

UK scientists at the Institute for Food Research have identified blood pressure-lowering compounds called kukoamines in potatoes.

“Potatoes have been cultivated for thousands of years, and we thought traditional crops were pretty well understood,” said IFR food scientist Dr Fred Mellon.

“But this surprise finding shows that even the most familiar of foods might conceal a hoard of health-promoting chemicals.”

Dr Rebecca Reynolds, a nutritionist at the University of New South Wales, said the humble potato was unnecessarily “demonised”.

Nicoise
Salad Nicoise – cooled potatoes

Instead of dropping potatoes from our diets, Dr Reynolds recommends making potato dishes healthier by altering cooking methods. She recommended potato salad where you cook and then cool the potato.

“When you do that the structure of the carbohydrate changes so that it becomes resistant to digestion and therefore have a lower GI.”

Thus, while it is important to retain potatoes as ONE of our regular staples but portions and frequency should be the key.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas

  • Purée roasted garlic, cooked potatoes and olive oil together to make delicious garlic mashed potatoes. Season to taste.
  • Toss boiled potato chunks with chunks of tuna fish and steamed green beans dressed lightly with oil and vinegar – for a classic dish, Salad Nicoise.
  • Toss steamed, diced potato with olive oil and fresh herbs of your choice.

Serra Smith

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