GI Symbol News with Dr Alan Barclay

Dr Alan Barclay

What, no potato?

While it is the popular whipping boy of many a fad diet, the humble spud has been enjoyed by humans for many millennia. In fact, in many nations today, it is the most popular vegetable in the pantry. In Australia, for example, potatoes account for one third of all vegetables eaten.

A boiled, steamed or microwaved potato eaten with its skin on is a great source of carbohydrate, and is high in fibre, vitamin C and potassium. However, approximately 60% of potatoes are consumed as chips (French fries) and crisps in Australia. The removal of the skin, cooking in fat and addition of salt all decrease the nutritional profile of an otherwise healthy vegetable.

A typical serve of potato containing approximately 15g of available carbohydrate is equivalent to 2 small new potatoes, 1 medium sized (120g/4oz) regular potato or ½ cup mashed potato (120g/4oz).

The average GI of all of the potatoes that have been tested around the world is 77, with a range from 48 to 102. While the way you cook and eat your potatoes does have an influence on their GI, evidence is mounting that it is the potato variety itself that makes the real difference. For example, we recently cooked the world’s first low GI potato Carisma using a variety of techniques (frying with minimal fat and mashing) and found that it made relatively little difference to its average GI value (53) -- see GI Update below for details (and see GI News Kitchen for great tips on mashing potatoes from Kate McGhie.)

baby Carisma potatoes

Due to their relatively high carbohydrate content and typically high GI, potatoes are in the top 5 contributors to the average daily dietary glycemic load in Australia and many other parts of the world. Therefore, finding lower GI alternatives should be a high priority, along with limiting potato chips (French fries) and crisps to special occasions (they are party foods, not daily fare).

The GI Foundation, University of Sydney and Agrico Australia has been funding a PhD research program for the past three years with the aim of trying to find out what factors affect the GI of commonly eaten potato varieties. We are hoping that this research program will help us to identify many low GI potato varieties that we can eventually bring to your local supermarket no matter where you live in the world.

New baby Carisma potatoes are now available in a 750 g bag in Coles supermarkets throughout Australia. And Australian consumers can be completely confident that they are buying a HOME GROWN product.

The GI Symbol, making healthy low GI choices easy choices

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For more information about the GI Symbol Program
Dr Alan W Barclay, PhD
Chief Scientific Officer
Glycemic Index Foundation (Ltd)
Phone: +61 (0)2 9785 1037
Mob: +61 (0)416 111 046
Fax: +61 (0)2 9785 1037