Potatoes are easy to grow and store. If push comes to shove in any sudden and severe way to create a food shortage, would potatoes be a good survival food? And just how long would one be able to consume mostly potatoes and survive? You might be surprised how long and how healthy one man proved it could be done.
In America, many, maybe even most, consider potatoes unhealthy. They’re considered too starchy, lacking nutrition, and fattening. Even so, french fries and potato chips are gobbled up by everyone on the Standard American Diet of crappy foods, labeled with the acronym SAD.
But when it comes to nutritional advice from our health agencies, even potatoes that haven’t been fried or “chipped” are discouraged. Most doctors ignorant of nutritional data and even holistic doctors who are more informed tend to discourage potato consumption for all the wrong reasons.
For example, the federal WIC (Women, Infants and Children) low-income assistance program’s decision to remove potatoes from the list of vegetables it will pay. That’s why he went on a controlled 60 day potato only diet.
It was the last straw for Chris Voight, the executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission. He was fed up with the negative attitudes about potatoes and the nutritional bad press parroted by the media. So he had a point to prove.
Chris’s 60 Day Potato Only Diet
He did this on with a variety of 20 potatoes daily, cooked differently with healthy oils and seasoned lightly but not smothered with butter or sour cream or bacon bits. Surprisingly, Chris’s 60 day potato diet was done without supplements. Yet his health profile after the 60 days was as amazing.
He shed 21 pounds of weight, mostly fat, his fasting glucose blood level decreased considerably, his serum triglycerides were cut in half, his HDL (“good” cholesterol) count raised slightly, and his LDL (considered the bad cholesterol) dropped by almost half also. The changes in those levels indicated an improve insulin sensitivity.
Diabetes type 2 is created by decreased or very little insulin sensitivity. The pancreatic insulin count can be high, but the cells are not accepting the insulin needed to escort glucose into the cells to be metabolized into energy.
Thus free floating sugar remains in the blood instead of being utilized by the cells’ need for glucose and one’s blood sugar goes higher.
Because of Chris’s experiment with the 60 day potato only diet, a handful of other individuals followed his lead with somewhat shorter potato only diets, usually around 30 days, also with amazingly healthy boosting weight loss results.
Misguided Potato Perceptions
Potatoes are considered foods to avoid. Yet the most unhealthy types of potatoes, sides of deep fat fried with stale toxic oil fries offered by restaurants of all types and potato chips are the most consumed. Go figure.
Most consumers are overly concerned with potatoes starchy content and high glycemic index (GI), purportedly an index of the conversion of food in the body to blood sugar within a short time after consuming it.
Many nutritionists and doctors agree that too many GI spikes lead to a wide variety of health issues, especially diabetes type 2. Though still a minority, there is a growing contingent of nutritional experts and doctors who disagree with the glycemic index concept.
Yet Chris Voight’s markers indicated less risk for diabetes 2.
Conventionally grown potatoes should not be consumed due to their high exposure of toxic materials. And who knows when the biotech people will come up with another GMO version of a particular potato. Conventionally grown potatoes are not part the EWG (Environmental Working Group) “Clean 15 List” of foods that are not too heavily sprayed.
As a matter of fact, conventionally grown potatoes in North America are among the EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” of most heavily sprayed. So purchasing organically grown potatoes should be the only choice. They are not priced much higher than conventionally grown potatoes to be within range of even limited budgets in the USA.
Potatoes’ Overlooked Nutrition
What’s ignored is the fact that potatoes contain all 22 amino acids to form complete proteins after easy digesting. Consuming the amino acids makes for easier protein absorption than the digestive effort of breaking down the complete proteins into biochemically usable amino acids from meat and dairy.
Potatoes are a high source of potassium, even more than bananas, and are rich in other minerals. Potassium is vital for balancing sodium.
They are also rich in vitamin C and B6. More importantly, using state of the art analysis equipment, Agricultural Research Service plant geneticist Roy Navarre has identified 60 different kinds of phytochemicals in the skins and flesh of a wide variety of potatoes.
Some potatoes’ phenolic levels rival those of broccoli and spinach. Others contain high amounts of folate, quercetin and kukoamines. Only one other food contains all three of those compounds, the highly praised nutrient dense gogi berries. Potatoes are antioxidant dense as well.
Some say the skins are poisonous, even though they contain a high concentration of potatoes’ nutrients. They are alluding to a poison inherent in the potato’s leaves and stems to ward off foraging animals and insects, the alkaloid solanine.
This skin hazard is mostly applicable to wild potatoes, but cultivated potatoes don’t have that risk unless part of the skin is green and covered with sprouts. Even though it takes a hefty amount of solanine to experience an immediate toxic reaction, it may be prudent to avoid that whole potato.
So eating organically grown potato skins that are not restaurant deep fat fried is highly recommended.
Potato History in a Nutshell
Potatoes were the main staple of indigenous South American highland natives for centuries. They were not obese or metabolically impaired.
The Spanish conquistadors grabbed a few along with tons of gold and silver and took them back to Europe. They discovered that in addition to citrus fruits such as limes and lemons, eating potatoes prevented scurvy!
Slowly, various forms of potato meals became popular among peasants in several European nations.
British rule prohibited Irish Catholics from owning land. They had to rent small plots from Anglo-Protestant owners and grow potatoes to survive. They survived until the Irish potato famine in the mid-19th Century, which some historians claim the British created artificially.
That’s a survival clue. Lots of potatoes can be grown in a small area, all year round in areas that are mostly frost free, and it takes only a few to make a meal.
Even store bought potatoes maintain their freshness stored for several days or more, depending on freshness, in a pantry or closet. Freshly home grown potatoes last even longer in storage.
Growing your own food and neighborhood growing is gradually catching on here in the States. You can find out more by Googling “home grown potatoes” and “planting potatoes”. Growing edible potatoes in patio planters and window flower boxes has been demonstrated as a possible alternative as well.
Too be clear, I’m not advocating an all potato diet. Just pointing out how potatoes are healthier than most think and would work as a survival food if needed. I do eat organic potatoes and parboiled Basmati rice from India quite a bit as well as other plant based foods and organic or raw dairy products. I do like some variety.