When market researcher Demoskop asked more than one thousand Swedes about their food preferences in 2020, it turned out that this year’s most popular food was potatoes.
No wonder, one might think, that we return to the basics in these pandemic times. After all, we have been a potato-loving people since the 18th century. But the fact is that Swedes’ consumption of fresh potatoes has fallen for a long time. Since the 60’s with half, from 80 to about 40 kilos per person and year. Improved household finances, a more varied food supply, and greater interest in influences from different kitchens are some explanations. Indeed, a sometimes hot carbohydrate debate has also affected consumption. In some circles, the potato has gained a bad reputation, based on its content of fast carbohydrates – starch – that is quickly absorbed and makes blood sugar spike. But as usual, the reality is a little more complicated. Potato starch is indeed fast. But considering its weight, which is 80 percent water, the starch content of potatoes is relatively small. Research shows that boiled potatoes are better than white rice to stabilize type 2 diabetics’ blood sugar during the night.
Boiled potatoes retain their volume and give a good feeling of satiety with relatively small amounts of carbohydrates. Also, the potato contains almost all the nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants we need *. Especially if we cook and eat it with the shell on. No wonder that potatoes throughout history have been absolutely crucial to human survival. Potato crops that failed were partly behind the vast emigration wave from Sweden and Ireland to the United States, which started in the 1840s. The countries lost a third and almost half of their populations, respectively.
According to the industry association Swedish Potatoes, boiling is still the most common way to prepare potatoes **. The healthiest potato can be the one that is first boiled and then left in the fridge overnight. This is because the starch is transformed into a form that is taken up slowly, a property that can be further strengthened by adding an acidic dressing. During frying and frying, much of the water disappears, which means more carbohydrates per serving and a “faster” potato.
Potatoes can thus both be and be considered more or less good for health. But our general approach is far from consistent. Because at the same time as the fear of carbohydrates has contributed to halving our purchases of fresh potatoes, today we eat 25 times more potato chips than in 1968. 2.5 kilos per person and year. With fast carbohydrates, fat, and salt at almost absurd levels. But that seems to be a completely different story.
* Nutritional value per 100 grams of potatoes (boiled or uncooked): about 80 g of water 76 kcal energy 17.6 g of carbohydrates 2.1 g protein 0.1 g fat 7 mg calcium 0.6 mg iron 53 mg phosphorus
Content of 250 g potatoes / daily recommended requirement: Calcium 2.3% Protein 7.8% Energy 10.4% Iron (women) 11.1% Iron (men) 20% Vitamin C 34.4% Source: National Food Agency
** According to the industry organization Swedish Potatoes, 53% of Swedes surveyed prefer to eat boiled potatoes.
Link to article in Clinical Nutrition Journal – potatoes and over-night blood sugar in type-2 diabetics.
Link to article in Nature – blood sugar effects of cooled boiled potatoes with vinegar.