I really don’t get it. Now, if for some reason you must stay low-carb; say, for weight loss, diabetes or other health or well being reasons, then fine. But if not, what’s the deal? Potatoes are Real Food. Sure, the various white varieties are a neolithic introduction, but c’mon, so is virtually every fruit and vegetable we consume. Most in no way, shape, form, fiber content, nutrient makeup, or sugar content resemble pre-domesticated versions. So why pick on the white potato?
One purist was so disgusted, he dropped Free the Animal from his blogroll. Give me a break. We laugh at militant vegans for being the Hezbollah of the food world; do we really need to start imitating them? Should Richard start looking over his shoulder, wondering if some paleo fanatic will smash a meat pie into his face?
Paleo or not, I don’t eat white potatoes for a good reason: my blood-sugar meter informed me I don’t get along with them. The small red-skinned potato I consumed on St. Patrick’s Day pushed my glucose all the way up to 164 mg/dl. It’s not just a matter of staying below a particular carb count for the day; I don’t want my blood sugar reaching that level, period.
However, Richard also linked to a four-part series by Don Matesz on Primal Potatoes that’s quite an interesting read. (Part one, part two, part three, part four.) Don makes a convincing case that tubers such as sweet potatoes have been in the human diet for a very long time (unlike grains or sugar) and on balance are probably good for us.
Well, maybe. I understand some native peoples ate a lot of sweet potatoes, were healthy, and didn’t become fat and diabetic … but then again, they didn’t wreck their metabolisms with sugar and white flour, either. I did, at an early age, so starches of any kind may have a more dramatic effect on me. How I would react to sweet potatoes today if I’d never discovered Captain Crunch as a child is irrelevant at this point.
But since I’m still testing which foods cause my blood sugar to skyrocket, I decided to experiment with a medium-sized sweet potato. I also decided to make it count by putting together a meal I knew I’d enjoy — after all, if it pinned the needle on my glucose monitor afterwards, this would be my last sweet potato in a long time. So, as you can see from the pictures, I cooked up a skillet of home fries and eggs.
Between the sweet potato and half of a red onion, the meal included about 30-35 carbohydrates. I fried the potato slices and onions in some Kerry Gold butter until they were on the crispy side, then added four eggs, salt, pepper, and some thyme. When the eggs were firm, I folded the whole thing over onto a plate, added a dollop of sour cream, and enjoyed.
Yes, it was delicious. I used to make home fries and eggs nearly every weekend, but with white potatoes. Not knowing any better at the time, I assumed sweet potatoes were full of sugar. Why else would they taste sweet? But in fact, a sweet potato has a glycemic index of 44, whereas a red-skinned potato comes in at 88 — putting it up around pure-glucose territory.
However, the glycemic index is an imperfect guide. We’re all different, so if you want to know how a particular food affects your blood sugar, you have to measure. Spaghetti, for example, has a glycemic index of around 40. But when I added a wee bit of it to some meatballs and a half-cup of marinara awhile back, I ended up with a blood-sugar reading of 174 mg/dl an hour later. Yikes. So while I wasn’t exactly afraid of the sweet potato, I prepared myself to see quite a glucose spike.
Didn’t happen. An hour after breakfast, the meter showed my blood sugar was at 128 mg/dl. Not great, but not bad either. After two hours, the reading was 87 mg/dl, which means my body brought my blood sugar back to normal without much trouble. By contrast, I was still around 120 mg/dl more than two hours after the spaghetti. Pasta just doesn’t agree with me, no matter what the glycemic index says.
So wheat and wheat products are definitely out. But it looks like a “paleo potato” is okay now and then. Next time, I’ll bake it and top it with butter and sour cream … with a medium-rare steak on the side.
p.s. — For some reason I was unable to upload a new post all day yesterday and this morning. I guess my web provider fixed the issue.