Should the humble potato really be feared?
Why, if sweet potatoes are sweet, are they classified as healthier for us than normal white potatoes? We do a bit of investigating to find out if this is really the case.
In the right corner, weighing 100g, we have the sweet potato and in the left corner, weighing 100g, we have the white potato!
Who wins the battle of the spuds?
As you could have guessed, the sweet potato is slightly higher in carbs and sugar than the white potato, which would instantly mean that the white potato would be a more favourable winner, or at least, on par with the sweet potato, if we were judging it by its carbs alone. With a stunning uppercut, the sweet potato displays its vitamin A content; and a few more calculated jabs shows it has higher amounts of calcium and magnesium than the white potato. But, the white potato refuses to take this lying down and beats the sweet potato with clear blows of vitamin B6, vitamin C, iron, and potassium.
Ladies and gentlemen, what an amazing display of nutrients this has been! In the battle of the spuds: we have a TIE!!
So, just by looking at these figures, we’d say they are tied in the fight, and should both be included in a balanced diet, to reap all of the nutritional benefits. Due to their high carb contents, they should still not be eaten by those with insulin resistance and diabetes, and those wanting to lose weight. But as we know, things, generally aren’t that easy.
Let’s take a look at the Vitamin A in the sweet potato.
The Vitamin A in the sweet potato is actually beta-carotene, which the body needs to convert before it can make use of it. According to Weston A. Price, “True vitamin A, or retinol, is found only in animal products like liver and other organ meats, fish, shellfish and butterfat from cows eating green grass… This means that you have to eat an awful lot of vegetables and fruits to obtain even the daily minimal requirements of vitamin A, assuming optimal conversion.” It’s also mentioned that those with poor thyroid function and diabetes (another reason to avoid them), aren’t able to make the conversion from beta-carotene to vitamin A, and neither can children or those following a low-fat diet.
To get the full benefits of the beta-carotene, the sweet potato needs to be eaten with fat, especially saturated fat. So for that 283% of vitamin A in the sweet potato to be of any use in the body, it must be eaten with fat.
"The deadly nightshades."
White potatoes belong to the nightshade family, as do tomatoes, eggplant and bell peppers.
Every living thing on the planet has some sort of defense mechanism to protect it from predators and infection. Plants can’t get up and fight or run away, so they contain things called antinutrients, which either prevent the nutrients in the plant food from being absorbed, or act as toxins.
Nightshade veggies contain glycoalkaloids, which are the toxic substances that protect the plants from insects, diseases and from being eaten. According to some research, however, the most common varieties of potatoes don’t contain high doses of glycoalkaloids, and most of these toxins are actually located in the skin of the potato.
A healthy human body can handle a certain amount of plant toxins without them causing any harm. The real problem with glycoalkaloids occurs in those with already compromised systems. A diet high in sugar and refined carbs, especially gluten, seems to exacerbate the problem, as this alters the gut biome, and is thought to prevent the gut bugs from being able to protect the gut against these toxins. Also, by eating potatoes as part of a diet high in gluten, sugar and omega 6 it can have a massive inflammatory effect.
Stay away from green potatoes, as these are poisonous.
Sweet potatoes also contain some antinutrients, but it seems that cooking removes most of the potential harm and an intolerance to sweet potato is quite rare.
Because cooking has very little impact on glycoalkaloids they can trigger digestive problems, aggravate leaky gut and IBS symptoms, and cause joint pain in those with existing allergies, intolerances (particularly to dairy and gluten), and autoimmune disorders. Most healthy people seem to be able to eat nightshades without any problems.
Symptoms of nightshade intolerance can include: constipation, anxiety, headaches, nausea, bloating, flatulence, IBS, poor food absorption, joint pain, fibromyalgia, and osteoporosis.
Unfortunately, due to the heavy consumption of processed carbs and sugars, most of our digestive systems will probably be compromised in some way – particularly those with insulin resistance. If you show any of the above symptoms, you may be intolerant to nightshades. Consider eliminating them from your diet, whether you're Banting or not.
The devil is in the processing.
A potato in its most natural state, with a dollop of butter on top (minus the peel), will be digested by the body in a much better way than a french fry, deep fried in processed seed oils and drowning in chemical-laden mass-produced tomato ketchup. That's why we only advocate real food, and a potato, if eaten as nature intended, is a real food.
From all of the evidence shown above, we believe that sweet potatoes and potatoes are tied in the battle of the spud, but we do recommend caution when incorporating them into your diet. Our top tips are below.
Top tips for eating potatoes:
For those about to embark on our new Banting 2.0 journey, potatoes and sweet potatoes can be eaten during Restoration, avoided during Transformation, but can be added back, within reason, during Preservation, unless you have any adverse reactions to them – as stated above. The main focus before incorporating potatoes into your diet should be on getting your gut health in tip top shape.
To get started on your Banting journey and to reclaim your health, join our Banting Online Course.