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Potatoes: A High Quality Carbohydrate

A nutrient-focused approach for assessing quality

Addressing Consumer Confusions on Carbohydrates

Not all carbohydrates are created equal. In fact, health and nutrition experts know that carbohydrates are a diverse group of compounds, ranging from simple sugars to complex starches and fiber. Yet, consumers are often confused about how to choose the right carbohydrates to build healthy diets. This can be exacerbated when nutrition professionals misuse the Glycemic Index (GI) as shorthand for carbohydrate quality.

An Overreliance on the Glycemic Index

The GI was developed in the 1980s to help people with type 2 diabetes choose the best carbohydrate-containing foods for glucose management. More recently, expert recommendations are growing for its use among the general public. However, a growing body of research continues to call into question the reliability and utility of the GI.

A study conducted with 12 adults and published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed the glycemic index of potatoes is influenced by several factors, including processing and preparation; variety, origin and maturation; and what potatoes are consumed with (i.e., protein and fat).

A study conducted with 63 adults in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found wide variability in individual response to GI value determinations—both intrapersonal (within the same person) and interpersonal (between people).

study published in the British Journal of Nutrition on 20 adults found that there is significant variability in intrapersonal and interpersonal GI values of white bread—as well as potatoes and chickpeas. And, this variability is large enough to make the ranking of foods based on GI extremely difficult.

A Forward-Looking Solution

A new method to defining carbohydrate quality – one that focuses on the unique nutrient contributions of carbohydrate-containing foods – is needed. The Quality Carbohydrate Coalition-Scientific Advisory Council (QCC-SAC), a team of six world-renowned experts in carbohydrate research, nutrient profiling, cultural competency and epidemiology, recently proposed a new approach to quantifying carbohydrate quality: the Carbohydrate Food Quality Scoring System (CFQS). Unlike other approaches to define high-quality carbohydrate-containing foods, the approach adopted by the QCC-SAC is unique as it:

  1. Provides a spectrum of quality and does not blankly distinguish carbohydrates as ‘good’ or ‘bad;’
  2. Recognizes both the complexities and nutrient contributions across all carbohydrate-containing foods; and
  3. Aligns with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and considers realistic eating patterns, including those of varying cultures and traditions.

Podcast: Defining Quality Carbohydrates

Podcast Episode 202: Defining "Quality Carbohydrates". The latest science and recommendations from Dr. Siddhartha Angadi and Dr. Julie Miller Jones.

Listen Now

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