People often ask me: “what can I eat to feel full and prevent me from snacking?” and they’re absolutely dumbfounded when my answer is “potatoes”. It is oft forgotten that the humble potato is highly nourishing, reasonably low in energy and highly satiating. In fact, when researchers at the University of Sydney sought to index the satiety of common foods, boiled potatoes came out on top.(1) Typically, when someone thinks of lower-energy, highly filling foods their mind goes straight to lean protein. However, the satiety index found that boiled potatoes were almost 100% more satiating than the runner up, Ling fish. Furthermore, oatmeal, oranges, apples, and brown pasta all held positions above the next meat on the list, beef!(1)
Why are potatoes so filling?
Potatoes are a carbohydrate rich food, providing around 10 times more carbohydrate than protein, yet they are still highly filling. How can this be? Potatoes are starchy vegetables, which means the type of carbohydrate they provide is not the same kind of simple sugar you would find in a lollypop, rather a complex network of bound sugars. Some of these starches are resistant to being broken down in the gut, these resistant starches make up one component of dietary fibre. While not all dietary fibres are created equal, the satiety enhancing effects of several dietary fibres has been clearly established.(2) Additionally, there is very strong evidence that a diet high in fibre is inversely associated with obesity and body fat percentage, meaning those who eat the most fibre, are also the most lean.(3)
Okay, so they’re filling, but aren’t they still empty calories?
No, potatoes are also highly nourishing. In only 280 calories, one large potato provides over 20% of a woman’s estimated average requirement (EAR) in seven different nutrients.(4, 5) The aforementioned dietary fibre has also been associated with a significant reduction in risk of heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes.(5) To get the most out of your potatoes, boiling and cooling (like you would for potato salad) can double the amount of resistant starch present.(6)
Now, I am acutely aware that this article comes at a time where there is an upcoming trend of a “potato only” diet and I want to make it clear that I do not support this as a healthful way to live. While potatoes are highly nourishing, the above graph clearly demonstrates that they are lacking in calcium, zinc, thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin B12, and the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. This article is intended to plead the case that the humble white potato can be included in a healthful diet, and is undeserving of vilification, not to support the idea you can live off nothing but potatoes (sorry). Variety is the key to a healthy diet and there is no reason to leave potatoes off the table.