Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Problem With Potatoes

Where I live, people plant entire community garden plots (25x50 feet) in just potatoes. Potatoes are a major staple for people in my home town and I'm sure we're not any different from other communities. My family - especially my son - loves potatoes. And when we gave up grains, we relied heavily on the this starchy tuber to fill the void.

Photo by Suat Eman.
Imagine my surprise when I learned that potatoes contain toxic anti-nutrients - just like grains. Potatoes contain not only enzyme blockers and lectins, but something specific to the nightshade family: glycoalkaloids. I always knew that eating green potatoes were toxic, but I never knew why. A green potato is simply an indication of an even higher glycoalkaloid content. Glycoalkaloids are the natural pest and fungus control of a potato, and thus, are toxic to us. Our bodies cannot break glycoalkaloids down, and so when they get to our digestive tract, they can cause irritation and damage. Since they are both toxic and difficult for our bodies to digest, they are best minimized in our diet or altogether avoided - especially if you have a gastrointestinal illness.

If I told you that my family has given up potatoes, I'd be lying. I'm still adjusting to a new cooking style that excludes so many things that I grew up with, that I'm cutting myself a little slack in the potato department. Right now, my goal is to get potato consumption down to one meal a week, and then eventually, limit them to special occasions and holidays.

If you have children that love potato fries as much as my son does, yams are a great initial substitute. They are not tubers and contain more fiber than a potato, which helps to slow down the release of all that starch. Better yet, try the squash fries from Elana's Pantry - they go over pretty well at our house.

Sources:
The New Evolution Diet, Arthur De Vany
http://paleolithicdiet.wordpress.com/2008/06/22/antinutrients-your-key-to-bad-health/
http://www.foodsafetywatch.com/public/154.cfm

2 comments:

Lori said...

Hi,
I just found your blog, and I'm addicted to potatoes! I know I need to cut them out, but it's so hard! : (

www.lorisfoodandotherstuff.com

Shanon Hilton said...

Hi Lori, We haven't eliminated potatoes or yams yet either. We are trying to follow the GAPS/SCD/Paleo guidelines, but it is difficult.

Also, when I look at food from a growing enough/food security standpoint, potatoes are one of the foods that grow easily in our climate and store well (because they are essentially a large seed).

I feel conflicted constantly - food security or digestive health? I planted a few potatoes this year, and now I'm regretting doing so. I'm delaying our full commitment to the diet! I will check out your blog, thanks for taking the time to comment!