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Perspective: Potatoes, Quality Carbohydrates, and Dietary Patterns

Stephen A. Fleming, Jenny R. Morris


Potatoes have long been a staple food in many cultures and cuisines, but they have gained a reputation as a low-quality carbohydrate source that should be avoided in the diet. Historically, this view has been justified by citing the glycemic index of potatoes as the main indicator of their quality. However, their nutrient composition should also be considered. The association of potatoes with energy-dense Western dietary patterns has also contributed to a perception that potatoes are inherently unhealthy. Although some studies have suggested an association between potato consumption and increased risk of health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, these associations may be confounded by fried potato intake and are strongest at intake levels higher than average consumption rates. Epidemiologic data suggest total potato intake is not a health risk in Eastern populations and can be consumed as part of a healthy diet. Furthermore, clinical trial data demonstrate that potatoes’ health impact, irrespective of preparation, is similar to legumes and comparable with refined grains, with few deleterious effects found. These findings highlight the importance of moving beyond the glycemic index and adopting a more nuanced evaluation of the epidemiologic data to better understand the health impact of potato intake. Ultimately, the negative reputation of potatoes stems from an overinterpretation of their glycemic index and association with unhealthy Western dietary patterns, as well as oversimplification of the epidemiologic data. By considering carbohydrate quality, it becomes clear that potatoes can be part of a healthy diet given the proper consideration.

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  1. Stephen A. Fleming, Jenny R. Morris, Perspective: Potatoes, Quality Carbohydrates, and Dietary Patterns, Advances in Nutrition, 2023
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