So often potatoes, and all other “carbs” get denigrated as the bane to weight loss. (carbs, short for carbohydrates, or starches). They are also blamed for causing diabetes, or “sugar”-referring to Type 2 diabetes. As with any idea that gains significant traction-there is a thread of truth in the “carbs are bad for you” mantra. But what we simply must realize and remember is…a carb is not a carb is not a carb! There really should be 2 separate categories of carbohydrates, or starches. First would be processed or refined carbohydrates, like sugars, white, processed, enriched or bleached flours, candy, pop/soda, beer, wine, alcohol. These all contain empty calories, little or NO nutritional value, and hold potential harm or risk. (these risks would include weight gain, inflammation, dental caries, impaired immune system function)
These processed carbs have been stripped of their fiber and water content-and stripped of their nutrient value. That is why they are often ENRICHED, which means isolated nutrients are added back in to make them look more nutritious. The body was designed to get its nutrients from FOOD in its natural form, not isolated or concentrated form.
The second category would be whole food starches. This would include potatoes of any kind, oats, quinoa, brown rice, corn, wheat berries, grits, and of course beans! Also fruits and vegetables. This class of starches provides many health promoting nutrients-like vitamins, FIBER, protein and minerals,
I often hear…carbs turn into sugar! Well, dear one-EVERYTHING gets converted to glucose (sugar) eventually-it’s the fuel we were designed to burn most efficiently. We have glands that secrete amylase, an enzyme necessary for starch digestion starting in the mouth. Species that are not designed to eat starches do not have the means to make amylase. When we use fat or protein as our primary fuel source, it comes at quite a cost, with toxic by-products that can harm our kidneys and liver.
It is what we do to our whole food starches that creates negative consequences in our bodies…we deep fry them, we top them with high fat or high refined sugar dressings, sauces and condiments.
Whole food starches are the mainstays of many populations with greater longevity (they live longer) and that have much lower disease rates. They are known to many of us as “comfort foods”.
A study published in Sept. 2018, Kahleova, Hulabkov and Barnard showed some pretty impressive results. This was a 16 week trial with 75 study participants, randomly assigned to either continue their current diet or to eat a low fat vegan diet. The study group consumed no oil, and fat was limited to 20-30 grams/day. They consumed unlimited calories and carbohydrate. (please note-UNLIMITED carbohydrate-but it was whole food carbohydrate!) All study participants kept their exercise level the same. The study group increased their carbohydrate intake (in the form of whole food starches-fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes) from their baseline, the control group did not.
After 4 months, the high carbohydrate vegan group lost more weight, more fat, and decreased their insulin resistance. (This is a really important finding). Insulin resistance is what causes Type 2 diabetes and 7/10 people in the US have it!. When your body becomes more sensitive (i.e. less resistant) to insulin, the insulin you have or take can work better!
Why would whole food starches have this effect? One word…FIBER. Fiber has been shown to help with weight loss and high fiber diets have been linked to decreased risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
There are lots of great ways to enjoy your “starches” without oil, butter, cheese and the like. Top with salsa, BBQ, teriyaki sauces (oil free, low/no sugar), any number of seasonings. And there are many websites, cookbooks with FAB-u-lous recipes for ways to fix them. Forks Over Knives and The Center for Nutrition Studies are two of my faves (websites, and books).
So remember, love the spud, and as Dr. John McDougal says ”Don’t be a starchiphobe!”
If you want to learn more about how to structure and enjoy a plant based diet AND learn why there is so much medical confusion and how to sort through it-try Wellness Forum Health membership for 3 months-you will get the weekly InforMED newsletter, Tu/Th video clips, recipes, workshops, live call in Q and A sessions and more! Message me with your name and email-and include “Trial Membership” in the body of the message.
Kahleova H, Dort S, Holubkov R, Barnard ND. A Plant-Based High-Carbohydrate, Low-Fat Diet in Overweight Individuals in a 16-Week Randomized Clinical Trial: The Role of Carbohydrates. Nutrients. 2018; 10(9):1302.