Background: Starchy vegetables, including white potatoes, are often categorized as “lower-quality” carbohydrate foods, along with refined grains, 100% fruit juices, sweetened beverages, and sugars, snacks and sweets. Among “higher-quality” carbohydrates are whole grains, non-starchy vegetables, legumes, and whole fruits.
Objective: To apply multiple nutrient profiling (NP) models of carbohydrate quality to foods containing >40% carbohydrate by dry weight in the USDA Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies (FNDDS 2017-18).
Methods: Carbohydrate foods in the FNDDS (n = 2423) were screened using four recent Carbohydrate Quality Indices (CQI) and a new Carbohydrate Food Quality Score (CFQS-4). Cereal products containing >25% whole grains by dry weight were classified as whole grain foods.
Results: Based on percent items meeting the criteria for 4 CQI scores, legumes, non-starchy and starchy vegetables, whole fruit, and whole grain foods qualified as “high quality” carbohydrate foods. Distribution of mean CFQS-4 values showed that starchy vegetables, including white potatoes placed closer to non-starchy vegetables and fruit than to candy and soda.
Conclusion: Published a priori determinations of carbohydrate quality do not always correspond to published carbohydrate quality metrics. Based on CQI metrics, specifically designed to assess carbohydrate quality, starchy vegetables, including white potatoes, merit a category reassignment and a more prominent place in dietary guidance.
This perspective examines the utility of the glycemic index (GI) as a carbohydrate quality indicator to improve Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) adherence and diet quality. Achieving affordable, high-quality dietary patterns can address multiple nutrition and health priorities. Carbohydrate-containing foods make important energy, macronutrient, micronutrient, phytochemical, and bioactive contributions to dietary patterns, thus improving carbohydrate food quality may improve diet quality. Following DGA guidance helps meet nutrient needs, achieve good health, and reduce risk for diet-related non-communicable diseases in healthy people, yet adherence by Americans is low. A simple indicator that identifies high-quality carbohydrate foods and improves food choice may improve DGA adherence, but there is no consensus on a definition. The GI is a measure of the ability of the available carbohydrate in a food to increase blood glucose. The GI is well established in research literature and popular resources, and some have called for including the GI on food labels and in food-based dietary guidelines. The GI has increased understanding about physiological responses to carbohydrate-containing foods, yet its role in food-based dietary guidance and diet quality is unresolved. A one-dimensional indicator like the GI runs the risk of being interpreted to mean foods are “good” or “bad,” and it does not characterize the multiple contributions of carbohydrate-containing foods to diet quality, including nutrient density, a core concept in the DGA. New ways to define and communicate carbohydrate food quality shown to help improve adherence to high-quality dietary patterns such as described in the DGA would benefit public health.
Carbohydrate-containing crops provide the bulk of dietary energy worldwide. In addition to their various carbohydrate forms (sugars, starches, fibers) and ratios, these foods may also contain varying amounts and combinations of proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, prebiotics, and anti-nutritional factors that may impact diet quality and health. Currently, there is no standardized or unified way to assess the quality of carbohydrate foods for the overall purpose of improving diet quality and health outcomes, creating an urgent need for the development of metrics and tools to better define and classify high-quality carbohydrate foods. The present report is based on a series of expert panel meetings and a scoping review of the literature focused on carbohydrate quality indicators and metrics produced over the last 10 years. The report outlines various approaches to assessing food quality, and proposes next steps and principles for developing improved metrics for assessing carbohydrate food quality. The expert panel concluded that a composite metric based on nutrient profiling methods featuring inputs such as carbohydrate–fiber–sugar ratios, micronutrients, and/or food group classification could provide useful and informative measures for guiding researchers, policymakers, industry, and consumers towards a better understanding of carbohydrate food quality and overall healthier diets. The identification of higher quality carbohydrate foods could improve evidence-based public health policies and programming—such as the 2025–2030 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Plant foods are universally promoted for their links to improved human health, yet carbohydrate-containing foods are often maligned based on isolated, reductionist methods that fail to assess carbohydrate foods as a matrix of nutrients and food components. Currently accepted positive carbohydrate quality indices include plant food, whole-grain content, and dietary fiber, while negative health outcomes are linked to high intakes of added sugar and high glycemic index. More recently, negative health aspects have been linked to ultra-processed foods, which are often high in carbohydrates. Yet, carbohydrate staples such as grains and dairy products are both enriched and fortified, resulting in these carbohydrate foods containing important nutrients of concern such as dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin D, and calcium. This Perspective analyzes carbohydrate metrics used in dietary guidance and labeling and finds limitations in accepted indices included in standardized quality carbohydrate definitions and also proposes additional indices to benefit both human and environmental health. As nutrition recommendations shift away from a single-nutrient focus to a more holistic dietary pattern approach that is flexible and adaptable for each individual, it is necessary to determine the quality components that make up these patterns. This review concludes that current approaches that demonize staple carbohydrate foods do little to promote the recommended patterns of foods known to improve health status and reduce disease risk.
The intake of certain types of resistant starch (RS) has been associated in some studies with increased whole‐body insulin sensitivity. This randomised, cross‐over pilot trial evaluated the effect of consuming cooked, then chilled potatoes, a source of RS, compared to isoenergetic, carbohydrate (CHO)‐containing control foods, on insulin sensitivity and related markers. Nineteen adults with body mass index 27.0‐39.9 kg m−2 consumed 300 g day−1 RS‐enriched potatoes (approximately two potatoes; ~18 g RS) or CHO‐based control foods, as part of lunch, evening and snack meals, over a 24‐h period. After an overnight fast, insulin sensitivity, CHO metabolism markers, free fatty acids, breath hydrogen levels and appetite were assessed for up to 5 h after the intake of a standard breakfast. The primary endpoint was insulin sensitivity, assessed with the Matsuda index. P < 0.05 (one‐sided) was considered statistically significant. Insulin sensitivity was not significantly different between the potato and control conditions. The potato intervention resulted in higher postprandial breath hydrogen (P = 0.037), lower postprandial free fatty acid concentrations (P = 0.039) and lower fasting plasma glucose (P = 0.043) compared to the control condition. Fullness ratings were significantly lower after potato versus control (P = 0.002). No other significant effects were observed; however, there was a trend toward lower fasting insulin (P = 0.077) in the potato versus the control condition. The results of this pilot study suggest RS‐enriched potatoes may have a favourable impact on carbohydrate metabolism and support the view that additional research in a larger study sample is warranted.
The terms “high- and low-quality carbohydrate” are often ascribed to individual foods as a means of describing the healthfulness of the food in question, without any empirical definition of what constitutes high or low quality. This article summarizes the views of experts on the concept of carbohydrate quality and the numerous factors that should be considered when assessing the quality of a carbohydrate-containing food or meal.
(1) High-fat (HF) diet leads to gut microbiota dysbiosis which is associated with systemic inflammation. Bacterial-driven inflammation is sufficient to alter vagally mediated satiety and induce hyperphagia. Promoting bacterial fermentation improves gastrointestinal (GI) epithelial barrier function and reduces inflammation. Resistant starch escape digestion and can be fermented by bacteria in the distal gut. Therefore, we hypothesized that potato RS supplementation in HF-fed rats would lead to compositional changes in microbiota composition associated with improved inflammatory status and vagal signaling. (2) Male Wistar rats (n = 8/group) were fed a low-fat chow (LF, 13% fat), HF (45% fat), or an isocaloric HF supplemented with 12% potato RS (HFRS) diet. (3) The HFRS-fed rats consumed significantly less energy than HF animals throughout the experiment. Systemic inflammation and glucose homeostasis were improved in the HFRS compared to HF rats. Cholecystokinin-induced satiety was abolished in HF-fed rats and restored in HFRS rats. HF feeding led to a significant decrease in positive c fiber staining in the brainstem which was averted by RS supplementation. (4) The RS supplementation prevented dysbiosis and systemic inflammation. Additionally, microbiota manipulation via dietary potato RS prevented HF-diet-induced reorganization of vagal afferent fibers, loss in CCK-induced satiety, and hyperphagia.
Carbohydrate (CHO) ingestion is an established strategy to improve endurance performance. Race fuels should not only sustain performance, but also be readily digested and absorbed. Potatoes are a whole-food based option that fulfills these criteria yet their impact on performance remains unexamined. We investigated the effects of potato purée ingestion during prolonged cycling on subsequent performance versus commercial CHO gel or a water-only condition. Twelve cyclists (70.7 ± 7.7 kg, 173 ± 8 cm, 31± 9 years, 22 ± 5.1 % body fat; mean ± SD) with average peak oxygen consumption (VO2PEAK)of 60.7 ± 9.0 mL/kg/min performed a 2 h cycling challenge (60-85%VO2PEAK) followed by a time trial (TT, 6kJ/kg body mass) while consuming potato, gel, or water in a randomized-crossover design. The race fuels were administered with U-[13C6]glucose for an indirect estimate of gastric emptying rate. Blood samples were collected throughout the trials. Blood glucose concentrations were higher (P<0.001) in potato and gel conditions when compared to water condition. Blood lactate concentrations were higher (P=0.001) after the TT completion in both CHO conditions when compared to water condition. TT performance was improved (P=0.032) in both potato (33.0 ± 4.5 min) and gel (33.0 ± 4.2 min) conditions when compared to the water condition (39.5 ± 7.9 min). Moreover, no difference was observed in TT performance between CHO conditions (P=1.00). In conclusion, potato and gel ingestion equally sustained blood glucose concentrations and TT performance. Our results support the effective use of potatoes to support race performance for trained cyclists.
Resistant starch (RS) has been shown to improve postprandial glycemia and insulin sensitivity in adults with metabolic syndrome. RS is found naturally in potatoes, where the amount varies based on cooking method and serving temperature. Thirty females with a mean BMI of 32.8 ± 3.7 kg/m2, fasting glucose of 110.5 mg/dL, and insulin of 10.3 µIU/L, completed this randomized, crossover study. A quantity of 250 g of boiled (low RS) and baked then chilled (high RS) russet potatoes were consumed on two separate occasions. Glycemic (glucose and insulin) and incretin response, subjective satiety, and dietary intake were measured. Results showed that the chilled potato elicited significant reductions at 15 and 30 min in glucose (4.8% and 9.2%), insulin (25.8% and 22.6%), and glucose-dependent insulinotropic peptide (GIP) (41.1% and 37.6%), respectively. The area under the curve for insulin and GIP were significantly lower after the chilled potato, but no differences were seen in glucose, glucagon-like peptide-1, and peptide YY, or overall subjective satiety. A higher carbohydrate and glycemic index but lower fat diet was consumed 48-hours following the chilled potato than the boiled potato. This study demonstrates that consuming chilled potatoes higher in RS can positively impact the glycemic response in females with elevated fasting glucose and insulin.
The white potato is a concentrated source of carbohydrate, dietary fiber, and resistant starch and continues to be the staple food of choice for many cultures. The white potato is also a concentrated source of vitamin C and potassium. Two of the nutrients in white potatoes, dietary fiber and potassium, have been designated as nutrients of concern in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Potatoes are often maligned in nutrition circles because of their suspected link to obesity, and popular potato foods often contain more fat calories than carbohydrate calories. Some food guides do not include potatoes in the vegetable group because of their association with high-fat diets. However, potatoes should be included in the vegetable group because they contribute critical nutrients. All white vegetables, including white potatoes, provide nutrients needed in the diet and deserve a prominent position in food guides.