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Potatoes are naturally low in sugars

6 June 2018

Typically, potatoes contain less than 2g of sugars per 100g*, no matter how they are cooked - says dietitian Dr Carrie Ruxton.

The comments came ahead of the airing of BBC documentary The truth about ‘carbs’. The dietitian featured in Wednesday’s (6 June) show, Alison Barnes, said it was about encouraging people to eat ‘smarter’ carbs.

She said: “The aim was to highlight how starchy carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars in the body, not to ‘demonise’ the potato. Far from it, one of the volunteers on the show loved her jacket potatoes and I reassured her that they weren’t off the menu.”

Alison Barnes was speaking amid frustration about the tendency of some newspapers to take single lines of nutritional information out of context, skewing messages and creating confusion for consumers.

A Daily Mail story on 5 June compared the rise in blood sugar level produced from the starchy carbohydrates in a large jacket potato, to the actual simple sugars in chocolate bars and fizzy drinks.

Subsequent articles including one in The Sun online published factually incorrect stories saying there was 90g of sugar in large baked potato – over 18 times the true amount (between 4.2 and 4.9g*). Dr Ruxton agreed that articles such as this are not helpful for consumers.

Dr Ruxton said: “This story about potatoes twists the truth and misleads people trying hard to give up sugary foods and follow Government advice to 'base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates'. All carbohydrates are turned into glucose (sugar) by our bodies - this is because our brains, muscles and organs use glucose as a fuel. Basically, it's natural energy!”

“A healthy baked potato - which is around 250g (the potato featured on the BBC was 350g) - is nothing like a can of cola because it contains other nutrients such as vitamin C, B vitamins and fibre. It also fills you up more than a fizzy drink. So, there's no reason why people shouldn't continue to enjoy potatoes with their meals - but remember to keep on the skins as this is where the nutrients are.”

Alison Barnes added “While the public health advice is sound for lots of people, guidelines related specifically to type 2 diabetes do recognise a role for lower carbohydrate intakes on an individual basis. People wanting to lose weight of mange diabetes do need to be aware of the components of starchy foods and the effect portion sizes in particular can have, but it doesn’t mean that those foods have to be avoided completely.”

Sector Strategy Director for Potatoes at AHDB Rob Clayton said: “Public Health England (PHE) in its healthy eating guidelines affirms the role of potatoes in a healthy balanced diet.”

Extracts from PHE advice and other facts are available at potatoes.ahdb.org.uk including:

  • Potatoes are naturally fat free
  • Potatoes are naturally low in saturated fat
  • Potatoes are naturally low in sugars
  • Potatoes are naturally salt free
  • Potatoes contribute 14% to vitamin C, 13% to vitamin B6 and 9% to folate intakes in the diets of adults in the UK
  • In the UK, potatoes contribute 14% of total fibre intake in adolescents, and 12% of total fibre intake in adults

- Ends -

Notes to editors

*Figures taken from McCance and Widdowson's the Composition of Foods, all types of potato, excluding some forms of instant mash, fall under 2g of sugar per 100g.

Dr Carrie Ruxton is an award-winning dietitian, health writer and TV nutritionist and head of Nutrition Communications.

AHDB is a statutory levy board, funded by farmers, growers and others in the supply chain. Our purpose is to inspire our farmers, growers and industry to succeed in a rapidly changing world. We equip the industry with easy to use, practical know-how which they can apply straight away to make better decisions and improve their performance. Established in 2008 and classified as a Non-Departmental Public Body, it supports the following industries: meat and livestock (cattle, sheep and pigs) in England; horticulture, milk and potatoes in Great Britain; and cereals and oilseeds in the UK. AHDB’s remit covers 72 per cent of total UK agricultural output. Further information on AHDB can be found at www.ahdb.org.uk

Contact

For further information contact Jimmy Phillips Senior Marcomms Manager (AHDB Potatoes) on 024 7647 8933 or Jimmy.Phillips@ahdb.org.uk

@AHDB_Potatoes

YouTube

potatoes.ahdb.org.uk 

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