There are plenty of ways to prepare potatoes. You could have hash browns, fries, or mash them. You could also boil them. While carb-filled spuds are often thought to be associated with certain health risks, like type 2 diabetes, a new study finds your method of preparation, not the tuber itself, is linked to that risk.
Researchers at Edith Cowan University (ECU) in Australia recently set out to determine how the number of vegetables in a person’s diet impacted their type 2 diabetes risk. The findings, published in the journal Diabetes Care and compiled with data from Denmark, found that a diet rich in veggies was linked with a lower risk of developing the disease. While potatoes weren’t also found to lower the risk, the team found that preparing them one way was at least not linked with an increased prevalence of the disease.
Pratik Pokharel, first author and PhD candidate at ECU, explains, “In previous studies, potatoes have been positively linked to incidence of diabetes, regardless of how they’re prepared — but we found that’s not true. In Denmark, people consume potatoes prepared in many different ways; in our study, we could distinguish between the different preparation methods.
“When we separated boiled potatoes from mashed potatoes, fries or crisps, boiled potatoes were no longer associated with a higher risk of diabetes: they had a null effect.”
He adds that people who ate the most potatoes were also eating higher levels of butter, red meat, and soda, which are linked with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. The other methods of potato preparation often include butter, cream, and other somewhat unhealthy ingredients, as well. Potatoes are a typical side for red meat, too, and he suggests that it isn’t necessary to eat those together all the time.
The study, which involved more than 54,000 participants who self-reported information on their diets, also found that people who ate the most vegetables had a 21% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who ate the smallest amount of veggies. This included choices like spinach, lettuce, broccoli, and cauliflower.
The team says this information could serve as part of public health recommendations, as could their findings on potatoes.
Pokharel says, “Regarding potatoes, we can’t say they have a benefit in terms of type 2 diabetes, but they also aren’t bad if prepared in a healthy way.
“We should separate potatoes and other vegetables in regard to messaging about disease prevention but replacing refined grains such as white rice and pasta with potatoes can improve your diet quality because of fibre and other nutrients found in potatoes.”
To lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there are other foods you should avoid as much as possible. Those include trans fat, sugary drinks, alcohol, and processed items like packaged meat, snacks, sweets, and fast foods.