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Pass The Potatoes Please

3 months ago

2964  0
Posted on Feb 16, 2024, 4 p.m.

Carbohydrate confusion and dietary patterns: unintended public health consequences of food swapping.

It is more than just carbs; starchy veggies play a role in meeting our nutritional needs. Menu modeling shows that when we swap out starchy vegetables for grains it can lead to a declined intake of fiber and potassium which are two of the nutrients most people don’t get enough of already, according to a study recently published in Frontiers in Nutrition. 

Guidelines currently recommend that most American adults should consume 5-6 cups of starchy vegetables every week to meet their total vegetable goals. But there is confusion about good versus bad carbs that makes people avoid starchy veggies in favor of other carbohydrates which are perceived as being either equally or more nutritious, and this behavior can have an unintentional negative nutritional consequence. 

Results from this study revealed that replacing starchy veggies with grain-based alternatives (including whole-grain foods) for one day led to a 21% decrease in potassium, a 17% drop in vitamin B6, an 11% decrease in vitamin C, and a 10% reduction in fiber. 

"It’s tempting to think of all carbohydrate foods as interchangeable,” says nutrition expert Keith Ayoob, EdD, RDN, Associate Professor Emeritus, Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “But these foods are categorized within different food groups for a reason – perhaps most importantly, they tend to have vastly different vitamin and mineral contents.” 

Many people may not be aware that starchy vegetables like potatoes tend to be higher in potassium compared to grains. Potassium is designated a nutrient of public health concern by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans because inadequate intake is associated with increased health risks. 

Starchy veggies can also provide an excellent source of vitamin C. Although both groups can help to add fiber to the diet, neither group is a major source of protein, the quality of potatoes for instance is notably higher than the protein quality of grains. 

Additionally, there are key differences in the nutrient contributions of starchy vegetable and grain-based foods, and there are also distinctions in each food group’s chemical structure, culinary applications, economic benefits, and cultural relevance. 

“As is so often the case in the world of nutrition, guidance comes down to balance, variety and moderation – which might sound boring, but all three would benefit most people's eating styles,” Ayoob adds. “It’s important to get the right mix of vegetables and grains and include both starchy and non-starchy vegetables to help ensure we’re meeting both our macronutrient and micronutrient needs.”

“It’s also important to recognize that some cultural groups traditionally use certain carb-containing foods over others. That’s why more research is needed to understand how different carbohydrate food choices impact diet quality and what culturally appropriate foods should be encouraged to help close any nutrient gaps,” said Ayoob. 

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. 

Content may be edited for style and length.

References/Sources/Materials provided by:

U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. [Internet]. Available from:

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central, 2019.

Camire, ME, Kubow, S, and Donnelly, DJ. Potatoes and human health. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. (2009) 49:823–40. doi: 10.1080/10408390903041996

Hoffman, JR, and Falvo, MJ. Protein–Which is Best? J Sports Sci Med. (2004) 3:118

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