Are potatoes fattening? Can they also be eaten on a diet?

Tasty and widely versatile in the kitchen, potatoes are a classic poor food, but at the same time also rich in nutrients that are beneficial for the body. But when you are on a diet can you eat them or can potatoes make you fat?

Of American origin, potatoes are tubers belonging to the Solonaceae family which also includes peppers, aubergines and tomatoes. They are often consumed as a side dish, therefore considered vegetables, compared to which they also contain double the kcal per hectogram (100 grams of potatoes provide about 80 calories ); in fact, potatoes are part of the category of cereals and derivatives , although they are less energetic than bread, pasta or rice.

Edible only cooked, potatoes are a good source of vitamin C and B vitamins, in particular B6, but also of mineral salts, among which potassium stands out, useful for reducing the accumulation of excess fluids and giving a hand in case of hypertension, followed by phosphorus, calcium and magnesium.

The potatoes are also rich in fiber and make tryptophan : the first act donating satiety, reducing the absorption of blood sugar and regulating bowel activity, while the second is an amino acid involved, inter alia, in the synthesis of serotonin, known as well as a good mood hormone. Lots of taste, lots of benefits but also a doubt when on a diet: since they are very starchy carbohydrates, do potatoes make you fat? Let’s now explore this aspect and try to understand how to eat them without worrying about the accumulation of fat and therefore, weight gain.

Are potatoes fattening?

Potatoes contain high percentages of starch , a polysaccharide made up of different glucose molecules which, when linked together, give life to amylose (generally present for about 20%) and amylopectin (for the remaining 80%). Starches are digested in the intestine by specific enzymes called amylases ; from their digestion the basal sugars (glucose and fructose) absorbed by the body are obtained .

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This premise is essential to understand the impact potatoes can have both on metabolism and on the absorption of sugars (and, consequently, on the release of insulin). For starch to be broken down and digested, it must pass from an ordered and semi-crystalline structure to a disordered one: this physical process is called gelatinization and is made possible by the presence of an aqueous environment and by certain temperatures.

Heating in water causes the starch granules to hydrate and swell, making them more exposed to the action of digestive enzymes. The amylose / amylopectin ratio is important for evaluating the glycemic index of a food : the lower the amylose content, the greater the gelatinization and the glycemic index. Since they have a high content of amylopectin, this explains why boiled potatoes have a high glycemic index (about 80/90, depending on the cooking methods and times).

The glycemic index and the glycemic load are two values ​​to be taken into account to keep the release of insulin under control and to avoid accumulating abdominal fat : is it therefore true that potatoes make you fat?

No food in itself makes you fat if cooked correctly and brought to the table in moderation: remember that it is always exaggeration that makes the difference and potatoes are no exception. Hence, eating too many potatoes could negatively affect your figure as well. But how many potatoes to eat in order not to gain weight?

Read also: Cooking potatoes: cooking, combinations and 10 recipes

How to eat potatoes without gaining weight

culinary trick that does not weigh too much on the glycemic index, but allows us to enjoy a portion of boiled potatoes (a dish usually considered “harmless”) even on a diet , is to cool the dish before eating it: this brings starch to assume a more orderly structure, similar to the initial one (retrogradation process), with a consequent lowering of the index value.

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At the same time, it is advisable to avoid combining it with other cereals such as pasta, bread or fruit, but prefer a portion of vegetables, for their fiber content, and season with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Boiled potatoes, as well as baked or roasted potatoes, are not a side dish, but are an excellent substitute for a portion of pasta or bread : on average it is advisable to eat two small ones at a time, up to a couple of times a week (quantities vary according to individual physiological characteristics and nutritional needs) and it is also possible to eat potatoes for dinner .

The so-called sweet potato or American potato has also been appearing on the market for some time , with a similar appearance to the classic potato, but with a more elongated shape, with the skin and the paste of a particular orange color and half-flavored. road between the tuber and the pumpkin. Actually belonging to another family, that of the Convolvulaceae , it is particularly rich in carotenoids, fibers, vitamins and minerals, and has a lower glycemic index . Also in this case, it is not appropriate to say that sweet potatoes make you fat a priori, as long as you use the right condiments and combinations, but without giving up the taste and pleasures of the table.

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