Why Potatoes? Aren’t They Just Like Eating Sugar?
Eating a baked Russet Burbank potato raises your blood sugar as high as eating pure glucose. Its glycemic index is 111 vs. 100 for glucose. After reading that in a few places I quickly took baked potatoes off of my list of foods that I eat.
But then I stumbled upon a story about some guy in Washington state who ate 20 potatoes per day for 60 days, and lived to tell about it. I was curious to see what this guy looked like after that kind of eating regimen. I expected to see a big fat guy in a hospital bed who became diabetic. So I googled “20 potatoes” and found his web site www.20potatoesaday.com
I couldn’t believe it. He lost 21 pounds. His blood glucose went down along with his cholesterol and triglycerides and blood pressure. Unbelievable!!! How can that be?
One can blow it off as an odd ball result that is insignificant or one can dig into it and see whether it can be explained. Maybe things aren’t as simple as they seem. Maybe one can use this. Who isn’t looking for a way to lose weight and lower their cholesterol?
I watched his video and he seemed to be a pretty straight up guy, even though he is a spokesman for the Washington State Potato Commission.
Being the inquisitive guy that I am, I began researching the potato and found out that it really is an amazing food. My immediate thought was, “What about protein?” Surely potatoes can’t have enough protein in them to be able to survive on. I went to a great site for nutrition information, nutritiondata.self.com and looked up the nutrition of a potato. At first glance it doesn’t look like much. A small, 138g, potato only has 3.5 grams of protein with 128 calories. But do the math. Multiply that by 20 and you get 70 grams of protein with 2560 calories. I’ve seen that the recommended daily allowance of protein on a 2000 calorie diet is 50g. Better yet, it shows that the amino acid profile is complete. How cool is that?
It was also interesting to see how high in vitamins and minerals 20 potatoes were.
I did a little searching and found this interesting reference to a study of someone who lived off of nothing but potatoes and margerine for the better part of a year doing hard, physical work, and ended up in great condition.
Another old study showed that a man and woman ate nothing but about 4 pounds of potatoes per day along with about a third of a pound of butter or lard for a total of 167 days and ended with good health.
Doing a little more research, I came across a term called, “resistant starch”. This is a type of starch that doesn’t get digested in the small intestines but passes through to the large intestines where your normal gut bacteria break it down. One of the main products that results is butyric acid, which seems to play a role in sugar and fat metabolism, in a good fat burning way.
Looking into butyric acid, I found a really interesting article by Stephan Guyenet.
The butyrate-fed mice remained lean and avoided metabolic problems. Butyrate increased their energy expenditure by increasing body heat production and modestly increasing physical activity. It also massively increased the function of their mitochondria, the tiny power plants of the cell.
Butyrate lowered their blood cholesterol by approximately 25 percent, and their triglycerides by nearly 50 percent. It lowered their fasting insulin by nearly 50 percent, and increased their insulin sensitivity by nearly 300 percent*. The investigators concluded:
Butyrate and its derivatives may have potential application in the prevention and treatment of metabolic syndrome in humans.There’s one caveat, however: the butyrate group at less food. Something about the butyrate treatment caused their food intake to decline after 3 weeks, dropping roughly 20% by 10 weeks.
The key with potatoes is that you need to cook them and then cool them in order to convert some of the starch into resistant starch. In some diabetes forums I saw some people reporting that when they ate the cold, “retrograded” potatoes, they saw that their blood glucose levels didn’t go up very much as it would have if they ate a hot baked potato.
So maybe by eating cold potatoes one could get all of the nutrition and satiating effects of potatoes without the possible bad spike in blood glucose.
Another beneficial thing that potatoes might have in higher amounts is Alpha Lipoic Acid. That is one of the fat burning supplements that Tim Ferriss recommends in his book The Four Hour Body.
At cancer.org they say:
Studies have also looked at the use of lipoic acid for other conditions. In a recent review article, researchers reported that a number of studies have found lipoic acid to be useful in treating nerve problems in diabetics and that it can improve insulin sensitivity in people with Type II diabetes. Other studies have suggested that it might be useful in liver disease. Early laboratory and animal studies have also suggested that lipoic acid may be helpful in treating stroke, cataract formation, nerve damage from HIV infection, some nervous system diseases (such as Alzheimer disease), and radiation injury. It may also help people with high cholesterol levels. Studies in people are now under way to determine whether lipoic acid can help with these conditions…
Lipoic acid is an antioxidant found in certain foods, including red meat, spinach, broccoli, potatoes, yams, carrots, beets, and yeast. It is also made in small amounts in the human body.
This all sounded interesting. Timed released supplement of ALA might be worth testing out at some point. Here’s a source for more information. Says that it’s found in green plants like broccoli, spinach and chard and also heart, liver and kidney and skeletal muscle. A good overview on ALA from Oregon State.
So I asked myself. Can I use the potato as the basis of a nutritious, satiating, fat burning diet? What other foods would I need to eat in order to get all of the RDA amounts of nutrients?”
At the site, Nutritondata.self.com, they have a nice recipe calculator where you can create a recipe and it will spit out all of the detailed nutrition profile for it. I wanted a daily diet of around 2000 calories that provided all of the recommended daily allowances for all of the known nutrients.
I started with 1 pound of potatoes and saw that I needed to find some foods high in:
- vitamin A
- vitamin D
- vitamin E
- vitamin B 12
I wanted to just add low calorie, high nutrition foods. I played around with it and added spinach, broccoli, kale and cabbage. I also put in a teaspoon or two of butter from pasture raised cows.
A small amount of beef liver provided a lot of nutrients and also a little more of a complete protein. At Whole Foods they have liver from local grass fed cows.
After that I was still low in vitamin E, vitamin D and zinc.
Almonds or sunflower seeds have a lot of vitamin E.
I included lentils because they have a lot of minerals and also for the “lentil effect”.Lentils and other beans reduce the blood sugar spike not only at the same meal but also on the next meal.
So I was left with how to handle vitamin D. I was also thinking about essential fatty acids. The perfect source for both of those seemed to be a teaspoon of cod liver oil.
Since I’ve also been lifting weights in order to build more muscle, I wanted to make sure I had enough protein. A little tuna or chicken seemed to be a prudent thing.
When I put this all into the nutrition calculator and played around a bit with quantities, I came up with what seems to be a “perfect” diet. Every nutrient that I see mentioned is in there at adequate levels. Even the micro nutrients where they aren’t even certain how much you need of them. Each nutrient is found in high levels in at least one of the foods in the diet.
Over the past three months I’ve also been playing around with “intermittent fasting” which is promoted by a physical trainer, Martin Berkhan, of Leangains.com. He seems to have gotten great results with it so I figured it might not be a bad thing to try out. It’s basically waiting until noon to start eating and then sqeezing in all of your eating into the next 8 hours. I have always eaten breakfast in the past but I found that it was pretty easy to eat breakfast at noon and then lunch at 4 and dinner at 7pm. I never feel hungry and it seems like I’m eating a lot.
Earlier in the year, I achieved a 30 pound weight loss through a Paleo Diet. I had just finished reading The Paleo Answer and I was really intrigued with the idea of trying to eat like the cavemen did. Just eat unprocessed whole foods that were around before the agricultural revolution. No sugar, no grains, no dairy.
I found that if I kept my calories to around 1600/day I could lose weight. It’s tough to do that if you eat much standard processed foods. But with eating a lot of fruits and vegetables it was pretty easy to feel like I was eating a lot. I did it by eating a lot of fruits and salads and really watching my portions. But it took some effort to keep within my limits. I was pleased with the results and how I didn’t really feel very hungry.
I then maintained this weight loss by trying a low carb/high fat diet with around 2300 calories/day and found that this was very effective at maintaining my weight. I also found that there is a “cult” of low carbers out there. I don’t care one way or another about carbs or fats or vegan or meat. I just want to find a way of eating that keeps me lean and healthy and looking good.
To me, a diet is only effective if it lends itself to a regular, maintainable way of eating in the future. What good is it if you lose weight for two months and then go back to your previous patterns of eating? Those previous eating patterns are what got you fat in the first place so you’ll just get back to the same weight again.
My thinking here is that I can morph this “diet” into a simple eating pattern that will be easy to maintain. Potatoes for fullness. A variety of vegetables for complete nutrients. And an extra protein source such at fish or chicken or beef. By adjusting the amount of potatoes, I can adjust calories in order to fine tune it.
So here is my diet that I will do for the next 60 days.
I did a test run on the quantities and found that it is really a lot of food to eat. I found it easiest to break the food down into lunch and dinner with a snack of almonds and sunflower seeds in the afternoon. Eating a 8 oz of potatoes and 5oz of lentils and 4 oz of vegetables with a small portion of protein doesn’t seem like it should be that difficult, but it really is a challenge to get it all down. I never thought that 1700 calories/day could be so filling.
I had my lipid profile tested a few weeks ago and will get it tested again at the end of 60 days.
To see whether the potato really does have a high glycemic index, I will do some experimentation on my blood sugar levels to see how my body handles different types of potatoes. Previous testing showed that I had good insulin sensitivity and my CRP levels are low so I don’t seem to have inflammation. I’ll see if eating cold potatoes actually does lower the glycemic response. I’ll test the potatoes separately and also with a complete meal. It seems like everyone is different so it just makes sense to me to test out my personal reaction instead of relying of data based on averages of people who might not be very comparable to me.
I’m planning on continuing my weight lifting program. It’s very minimal. Every five days I do a few exercises with heavy weights that usually takes about 30-40 minutes. Bench press, squats, deadlifts, pulldowns, rows, curls and a few crunches. Just one or two sets each for 4-6 reps/set. Twice per week I also walk/run for 2 miles. I try to keep my heart rate at no more than 125 beats/minute while controlling my breathing to 12-15 breathes/minute.
I did some shopping around for the best deals in Glucose test kits. The one that I went with is from the company that Tim Ferriss recommended in his book. It’s made by AgaMatrix and now they sell them at Kroger and Target under their store brand names. The problem is that they rip you off on the test strips. Go to Kroger and you’ll pay over $100 for 100 test strips. I found that at TotalDiabetesSupply.com you can get a box of 50 test strips for only $16.74.
Click on this link to go to the site and then do a search for Wavesense Presto test strip.