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What happens to the body when you give up potatoes for a month?

Potatoes are a staple food used in many Indian households. From being used in pakodas, to cutlets, and parathas, potatoes or aloo are a versatile food item with many culinary purposes.

They can be baked, boiled or fried, making them an all-pervasive part of our diets. However, when opting for strict diets, many people choose to reduce or completely eliminate their consumption of potatoes.

In such a scenario, is it advisable to remove potatoes from our diet completely? Additionally, what changes can occur in the body if we give up potatoes for a month? To answer all these questions, we reached out to experts to find out.

Potential benefits of a potato-free diet

According to Prachi Jain, chief clinical nutritionist & HOD (Nutrition & Dietetics), CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram, potatoes are energy-dense, meaning they provide a good number of calories, and are generally cooked using too much oil. So, if one avoids eating potatoes, they prevent addition of extra calories in their diet, thereby preventing weight gain.

Concurring, Shivani Arora, consultant dietitian noted that eliminating potatoes from your diet for a month can have several positive effects on the body. “Depending on how you adjust your diet, you might experience changes in weight. If you replace potatoes with low-calorie foods, you may lose weight, and vice-versa.”

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Arora added that potato starch can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar, so omitting them may help regulate blood glucose levels, especially in individuals with diabetes. “Removing potatoes from your diet can decrease carbohydrate intake, which potentially can improve metabolic health.”

In a similar vein, Dr Kiran Dalal, chief dietitian, Fortis Escorts Hospital, Faridabad, said that highly processed products made of potato, such as potato chips and French fries, are frequently high in added salt (sodium). Excess salt consumption has been related to health problems such as high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease.

Cons of cutting potatoes from your diet

Potatoes provide essential nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin B6, and potassium. “Excluding them without suitable replacements may lead to nutrient deficiencies,” Arora noted.

They also contain dietary fibre, which is crucial for digestive health, so removing them might disrupt digestion and bowel habits may be impacted adversely, she added.

Similarly, Jain mentioned that potatoes are readily available everywhere at very affordable prices and is included in everyone’s diet irrespective of socio-economic status and age, so their exclusion can limit meal variety and creativity.

Dr Dalal added, “Safe starch is a type of fibre found in some potatoes that acts as a prebiotic, which helps good bacteria grow in the gut. So, excluding safe starch in your diet may affect the diversity of bacteria in your gut.”

So, instead of avoiding them, Vilasini Bhaskaran, registered specialist diabetes, weight management and bariatrics dietitian, NHS UK and dietetic lead, Practo said that including them in moderate portions could be beneficial. “More than the potatoes, it’s the portion size and cooking methods that play an important role when it comes to weight management. For instance, boiled potatoes have less calories than fried potatoes.”

Substitutes of potato

potatoes Potato snacks like cutlets or French fries can instead be made of paneer and soya. (Source: Freepik)

If you’re planning to cut off potatoes from your diet, people can substitute with various ingredients depending on the dish they are preparing and their dietary preferences. Some common potato substitutes, according to Dr Dalal are:

*Sweet potatoes: These are a popular substitute in recipes that call for regular potatoes, as they have a similar texture and can be prepared in various ways.

*Cauliflower: Cauliflower can be mashed or roasted to mimic the texture and flavour of potatoes in dishes like mashed cauliflower or cauliflower hash browns.

*Turnips: These root vegetables can be used in stews, soups, or roasted dishes as a lower-carb alternative to potatoes.

*Plantains: Ripe plantains can be fried or baked and have a starchy texture that can work well in dishes like plantain chips.

*Zucchini: In recipes that call for potatoes, zucchini can be sliced or grated and used as a lower-carb alternative.

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However, certain individuals should exercise caution while consuming potatoes due to their potential side effects. “People with diabetes, individuals on low-carb diets, those with nightshade allergies, digestive issues, kidney problems or those trying to manage weight, should avoid eating potatoes,” Dr Dalal said.

Concluding, she said, “It’s important to note that potatoes can be part of a balanced diet for many people when consumed in moderation and prepared in a healthy manner. If you have specific dietary concerns or medical conditions, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian for guidance tailored to your individual needs.”

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