No, potatoes are not bad for you, even deep fried ones!

18th May, 2016

I am writing this in response to a US study just published that links higher intake of potatoes, cooked in various ways, with raised risk of hypertension.

While the study did not say potatoes outright are bad, headlines have come out stating eating potatoes 4 times per week could be harmful to health, that fried potatoes are a dietary no-no and I have heard the media using the word “bad” a number of times today when talking about potatoes and this type of language is what creates panic and people turning the message of “too much” into “not good in any amount”.

So let’s recap, as I‘ve posted about this many times, that no food is all “good” and no food is all “bad”.

Eat only potato and you’ll probably get sick and die, not to mention sick of potatoes. Eat potato (even 4 times per week) in the context of a balanced diet, mix in some a physical activity, adequate rest and relaxation, social engagement and you could live a long healthy life.

By this I mean, no one food has all the nutrition we need to live, just as no one food will result in ill health – unless of course you eat too much of it.

So what is too much? Here are probably the two main examples:

1. Eating past the point of comfortable fullness and regretting having done so. Do this very occasionally and it’s unlikely to pose a problem, do this frequently and you may experience adverse outcomes.

2. Eating so much of one food that you don’t get enough variety of other foods. For example, if eating potatoes with each meal means you’re missing out on other veggies such as green, orange, red and purple ones.

To talk about potatoes as “bad” or harmful to health fails to consider the context of one’s whole diet. It is very possible to nourish your body well and still have potato, even deep fried potato, in your diet, just as it possible that a diet free from potato could fail to nourish your body well.

Given some of the poorest people have the biggest struggle with nourishing themselves well, and given potatoes are some of the cheapest food and a nutrient rich food, a message that tells people that regularly eating potatoes harms health, is quite frankly irresponsible.

Potatoes are a great source of potassium, dietary fibre, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and folate among a variety of many other nutrients.

We must stop focusing on specific foods or nutrients and consider the context of our whole diet, the food we have available to us, what our finances permit, and also how we interact with food on a social, emotional and environmental level. The role or food in our life and culture, and how we nourish our bodies, is not black and white or all or nothing.