Potatoes Provide Plenty of Protein!


Most diet-con­scious peo­ple today think of pota­toes as “a starch.” They think that if you are hav­ing pota­toes for din­ner, you still have to add “a pro­tein” to your meal. Yet pota­toes are an excel­lent source of pro­tein. Sci­en­tists have known that since the 1920s because of an inter­est­ing exper­i­ment that was done in Poland in 1925 and pub­lished in 1928 in Bio­chem­i­cal Jour­nal.  Thanks to the Inter­net, you can read the orig­i­nal arti­cle for your­self.

The researchers knew that pop­u­la­tions that sub­sist­ed on a diet based heav­i­ly on pota­toes seemed to be healthy and remark­ably free of scurvy, beriberi, and pellagra—diseases that were known to result from vit­a­min defi­cien­cy. Some ear­li­er work had sug­gest­ed that pota­toes can pro­vide enough pro­tein for human nutri­tion, and this study was intend­ed to con­firm those results.

For 167 days, the researchers fed a healthy young man and a healthy young woman a diet whose only sig­nif­i­cant source of pro­tein was pota­toes. Besides pota­toes, the sub­jects ate fat and salt and a few apples and pears. They could also have the occa­sion­al cup of black cof­fee or tea with sug­ar.

The sub­jects thrived on this lim­it­ed diet. Their health remained good and their weight remained sta­ble, except that the man start­ed los­ing weight toward the end of the study as he got more seri­ous with his ath­let­ic train­ing. Nitro­gen bal­ance stud­ies con­firmed that they weren’t hav­ing any trou­ble with pro­tein defi­cien­cy. Most sur­pris­ing­ly, they didn’t get bored with their monot­o­nous diet! To show that these results weren’t some sort of fluke, look at what hap­pened when some­one from the Wash­ing­ton State Pota­to Com­mis­sion ate noth­ing but pota­toes for 60 days.

At the end of the arti­cle, the authors thanked Dr. Casimir Funk, who direct­ed the exper­i­ment. Funk was a super­star in the his­to­ry of nutri­tion. In 1912, he pub­lished a land­mark arti­cle describ­ing how he had iso­lat­ed thi­amine, the chem­i­cal that is respon­si­ble for pre­vent­ing and cur­ing the defi­cien­cy dis­ease called beriberi. That same year, he wrote anoth­er land­mark arti­cle, which sug­gest­ed that sev­er­al epi­dem­ic dis­eases were actu­al­ly the result of a defi­cien­cy of some vital chem­i­cal that was need­ed in only tiny amounts. He guessed that, like thi­amine, the oth­er chem­i­cals would be amines, so he coined the term “vit­a­mines.” After it turned out that some of these vital chem­i­cals aren’t amines, the “e” was dropped, and they became vit­a­mins.

As this study showed, pota­toes con­tain plen­ty of pro­tein. So the next time that you think you need to add “a pro­tein” to your meal, eat a pota­to!

Quick, but temporary weight loss! This time from France!

I just heard about a “new” diet: the Dukan diet. It’s from France! It promis­es four steps to per­ma­nent weight loss! It promis­es that peo­ple will lose weight while eat­ing as much as they like! The prob­lem is that this “new” diet isn’t real­ly new. It’s just South Beach with a French accent. The quick results from the first phase aren’t from fat loss. Nor will your weight prob­lem be per­ma­nent­ly cured by the end of the pro­gram, regard­less of what Dr. Dukan says. It’s just more false hope for des­per­ate peo­ple.

Like many fad diets, the Dukan diet starts with a low-carb phase. As if by mag­ic, this phase caus­es peo­ple to lose sev­er­al pounds very quick­ly. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the weight that peo­ple lose so quick­ly does not rep­re­sent fat. Instead, it rep­re­sents the loss of the body’s glyco­gen stores. Glyco­gen is a starch that is stored in the liv­er and mus­cles. When the body needs quick ener­gy, the glyco­gen is bro­ken down into glu­cose, which is a sug­ar that is the body’s favorite fuel.

Like oth­er car­bo­hy­drates, glyco­gen pro­vides about 4 calo­ries per gram of dry weight. How­ev­er, the glyco­gen in the body isn’t dry. Each gram of glyco­gen absorbs about 2.7 grams of water. As a result, each gram of wet glyco­gen in the body rep­re­sents rough­ly 1 calo­rie of stored ener­gy. If you sud­den­ly deprive your­self of car­bo­hy­drates, your body will run through its glyco­gen stores very quick­ly, releas­ing water that will leave the body through the kid­neys. You would have to burn up almost 9 times as many calo­ries to lose that much weight from fat.

The rapid weight loss that results from cut­ting out car­bo­hy­drates may be thrilling to the frus­trat­ed dieter, but it is mean­ing­less. Nobody is over­weight from hav­ing too much glyco­gen, and your body will replace that glyco­gen and water as soon as it can. What peo­ple real­ly want to lose is fat. Besides, los­ing your glyco­gen can make you feel crum­my. When marathon­ers “hit the wall,” it’s typ­i­cal­ly because they’re run out of glyco­gen.

So the first phase of the Dukan diet or the South Beach Diet will cause a quick but tem­po­rary and mean­ing­less weight loss that could end up zap­ping your ener­gy. If the Dukan diet even­tu­al­ly helps you lose fat, it does so by mak­ing your body think that you are starv­ing or seri­ous­ly ill. Dur­ing a sud­den fast, the body’s sup­ply of car­bo­hy­drates is cut off. The body has to rely on its fat stores and the pro­teins in its tis­sues instead. A low-carb diet mim­ics this con­di­tion. The body may respond to this emer­gency by sup­press­ing the appetite. The per­son may then lose weight the old-fash­ioned way, by tak­ing in few­er calo­ries than he or she burns up.

The Dukan diet is based on a lie: that peo­ple get fat from eat­ing a high-carb diet. In real­i­ty, fat is fat­ten­ing, and starch­es are slim­ming. That’s because starch, like glyco­gen, holds water. It’s actu­al­ly hard to fat­ten your­self on starch­es. For exam­ple, con­sid­er what hap­pened when the head of the Wash­ing­ton State Pota­to Com­mis­sion went on an all-pota­to diet to protest the exclu­sion of pota­toes from the fed­er­al Women, Infants, and Chil­dren (WIC) pro­gram. He lost 21 pounds in 60 days, even though he was eat­ing about 20 pota­toes per day. He also cut his total cho­les­terol by over a third, and low­ered his blood sug­ar. In oth­er words, he also improved his health.

A starchy diet works on both sides of the weight loss equa­tion. You end up eat­ing few­er calo­ries, because the starchy foods are so bulky. Boiled starch­es often pro­vide only 1 calo­rie per gram, where­as fat pro­vides 9 calo­ries per gram. You also end up burn­ing more calo­ries on a low-fat, high-carb diet, because you become much more sen­si­tive to insulin. If you still man­age to have a few calo­ries left over, it’s hard for your body to store them as fat. You’d lose about 30% of the calo­ries in the con­ver­sion process, so your body just gen­er­al­ly revs up your metab­o­lism to burn off the excess. You may end up doing more activ­i­ty, or sim­ply gen­er­at­ing more body heat.

For­get Dukan’s false promis­es. The only proven way to achieve healthy, per­ma­nent weight loss is to switch to a low-fat, high-fiber, high-car­bo­hy­drate diet. That’s because it’s the kind of diet that is appro­pri­ate to the human body. If you sim­ply train your­self to eat­ing the right kinds of food, you can eat as much as you like and still stay slim.

Potato, Mushroom, Cauliflower Soup

This is an easy, deli­cious soup that I like to serve for com­pa­ny.

Just peel and dice a bunch of pota­toes and sev­er­al onions. Add some cau­li­flower and a hand­ful of mush­rooms. Add almost enough water to cov­er. Bring it to a boil and let it sim­mer until all the veg­eta­bles are soft, about 45 min­utes. Puree it in a blender and serve. You can dress it up with a few mush­rooms sauteed in red wine, or you can serve it with a few drops of sher­ry.

Collards with Peanut Sauce and Mashed Potatoes

This meal takes a basic idea from the British Isles, name­ly mashed pota­toes served with cooked greens, and gives it an African and Asian twist. Even peo­ple who aren’t keen on greens might like them if they are served pip­ing hot and with a spicy peanut sauce! To bal­ance the col­or and tex­tures, it’s nice to serve car­rot sticks with this meal. Fresh fruit is good for dessert.

Mashed Pota­toes
Peel and dice about 5 medi­um pota­toes, or as many as you think you’ll eat. Make plen­ty, you can save the left­overs for the fol­low­ing day. Boil the pota­toes until they are ten­der, then drain and mash. You can use a lit­tle bit of the pota­to cook­ing water to dilute the peanut sauce.

Col­lards with Peanut Sauce
2 small onions, diced
2 cloves gar­lic, minced.
1 t ground corian­der
1 t ground cumin
1/8 t ground cloves
1 pound of col­lard greens or kale, care­ful­ly rinsed and shred­ded
3 T chunky peanut but­ter
1 T molasses

Stir-fry the onions in the bot­tom of a dry soup pot until well browned. Add a lit­tle bit of water every so often if they start to stick. Add the gar­lic and fry for anoth­er minute. Stir in the spices with about a cup of water. Add the greens and let the water come to a boil. Cov­er tight­ly and reduce the heat, to let the greens steam until they are ten­der. Then com­bine the peanut but­ter and molasses with a bit of the water from the pota­toes. Stir it into the greens, then serve along with the mashed pota­toes.

Quick Cauliflower and Potato Curry, Jasmine Rice, Apple and Fennel Salad

This is a quick and easy recipe for enter­tain­ing. The extra turmer­ic is good for you, and it gives the pota­toes and cau­li­flower an appeal­ing yel­low col­or, which looked good with the red toma­toes. I served it with white rice and some pars­ley for gar­nish. For the sal­ad,  I had some fen­nel left over from the day before. The feath­ery greens from the fen­nel bulb dressed up the sal­ad, and were tasty. I also had some car­rot cake left over from the day before for dessert.

Quick Cau­li­flower and Pota­to Cur­ry
2 onions, diced
3 cloves gar­lic, minced or pressed
About 3 medi­um pota­toes, diced
Near­ly half a head of cau­li­flower, cut into flo­rets
1 can diced toma­toes
1 tsp cur­ry pow­der
1 tsp turmer­ic
Pars­ley or kale for gar­nish

Stir-fry the diced onions in a dry skil­let (no oil) until they are very brown. You can add a lit­tle bit of water from time to time if they start to stick. Add the minced gar­lic and fry that for about 30 sec­onds. Then add about 3 cups of water and the pota­toes, cau­li­flower, and diced toma­toes. Add the spices. Cov­er and sim­mer until the pota­toes and cau­li­flower are ten­der. Serve with rice. Gar­nish with pars­ley or kale.

It’s hard to give an exact quan­ti­ty for the pota­toes and cau­li­flower, because their sizes vary, and some skil­lets are big­ger than oth­ers. If I fill my skil­let with veg­eta­bles, it yields about 6 serv­ings.

Because we had com­pa­ny, I want­ed to serve a par­tic­u­lar­ly tasty kind of rice, so I made white jas­mine rice accord­ing to the pack­age direc­tions. I made more than I need­ed, because I would be eat­ing the left­overs for lunch the fol­low­ing day. Jas­mine rice is a nat­u­ral­ly fra­grant rice vari­ety from Thai­land. I didn’t have any brown jas­mine rice, so I used white. Bas­mati rice, brown or white, would also have worked well.

Apple and Fen­nel Sal­ad
Fresh let­tuce, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
1 sweet red apple, cored and diced
1 car­rot, peeled and shred­ded
1 stalk of fen­nel, diced
Fen­nel greens for gar­nish
Dress­ing made from rough­ly equal pro­por­tions of bal­sam­ic vine­gar, hon­ey, and pre­pared mus­tard, sprin­kled with thyme