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The Big, Fat Potato Lie

I hate it when potatoes get a bad rap.

You know, all that stuff about them being high GI, "spiking insulin" and making us fat.

It's almost as if they're inherently evil, kind of like the Keyser Söze of the vegetable world.

But do you know what? Potatoes are really just another convenient scapegoat to pin the obesity epidemic on.

Now, that sounds almost heretical, right?

But it's true.

Reality Check

First off, we need to look beyond stuff like GI, insulin and all those other things that make a nice soundbite and grab all the headlines.

Now, one of the great things about properly performed science is that you go where the evidence leads, you don't go cherry picking studies that support your pre-existing viewpoint.

As tempting as that may be.

Strength coach, ER physician and researcher, Dr Jonathon Sullivan, nails the right approach with this statement:

I’m skeptical of this study. Why? Because I like its conclusion

And there's more to good science than just being unbiased - you have to actively look at disproving your own theory.

Convinced that it's impossible to climb Everest while wearing a pair of shorts?

Just find one guy that can, and your theory gets blown out of the water.

Now, looking to disprove their own theory with real-world evidence is something the anti-potato folks almost never do.

I mean, how often do they think about people that manage to get lean and in shape while regularly consuming them?

Such as Chris Voigt...

Twenty Potatoes a Day

Back in 2010, Chris Voigt decided that enough was enough.

As he says:

I woke up one morning, feeling beat up about the image of the potato and decided to do something about it

As executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission, he realized that half measures wouldn't be enough so he really went for it.

That meant eating 20 potatoes(!) every day for 60 days and nothing else other than flavorings and two tablespoons of cooking oil.

Boiled potatoes, mashed potatoes, chips, fries - as long as it was made with potato, nothing was off limits.

He even ate an all-potato Thanksgiving meal!

And, after two months of this high-GI, insulin-spiking action, can you guess what happened to his health?

Yep, he lost a whopping 21 lbs of bodyweight and his high cholesterol (both total and "bad" LDL-c) and high blood glucose dropped to within the healthy range.

Bottom line? Potatoes can't be inherently fattening or unhealthy.

As always, what ultimately determines that is the amount being eaten and the context in which it's being consumed.

Whether we're talking about potatoes, chocolate or anything else.

But There's More!

OK, Chris Voigt's potato-only diet was pretty extreme and not really sustainable beyond the short term.

But get this - potatoes can actually help weight loss if they're part of a normal diet.

Why? Because they're one of the most satiating foods out there - meaning that you feel fuller for longer after consuming them.

And that means you're likely to consume fewer overall calories.

Just check out how boiled potatoes stack up against a variety of other foods.

So, it's boiled potatoes for the win!

Now, if you don't like eating potatoes this isn't a reason to start shoveling them in like there's no tomorrow.

But if you do enjoy eating them, potatoes can help make a diet easier to stick to and, where fat loss is concerned, adherence is everything.

The more pleasurable the journey, the more effortless the forward progress.

Potato Haters

Regardless of what the anti-potato folks want to believe, real-world results trump theory any day of the week.

The reality is you can get fat while eating potatoes, you can get 6-pack abs while eating potatoes, and everything in between.

But if you're sensible about how many you consume and how you consume them, they really can help make weight loss that bit easier.

And if you want to go to extremes (as I did when I lost 61 lbs in just 27 weeks) you can still consume potatoes even while homing in on single-digit body fat.

So, forget all that stuff about insulin and the glycemic index, and prove the potato haters wrong.

Fat loss and potatoes can go together just fine.

– Tim

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Images: Bigstock

Reference: A Satiety Index of Common Foods

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