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Weight gain: What is it about potatoes?

June 23, 2011|By Marissa Cevallos, HealthKey / For the Booster Shots blog
  • If you want to gain weight (or put on pudge), eating french fries every day will certainly do it, though so will eating baked potatoes. The new research finds that eating nuts is linked to weight loss.
If you want to gain weight (or put on pudge), eating french fries every day… (Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles…)

Weight gain and potatoes work well together, maybe even better than butter and potatoes -- or oil and potatoes in the case of French fries. Such seems to be the suggestion of new research concluding that a daily extra serving of spuds, no matter the form, adds up to 1.3 pounds over the course of four years. An additional serving of nuts, fruit or vegetables, on the other hand, will add up to weight loss.

The researchers, who published their results in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine, broke that down further into the effect – over four years – of boiled, baked or mashed potatoes (0.6 pounds), potato chips (1.7 pounds) and French fries (a whopping 3.6 pounds).

The study’s lead author notes that potatoes are calorie dense, very calorie dense. And the study’s co-author points out that we don’t normally eat potatoes fresh from the ground, that we insist on cooking them, which helps our body transform their starchy goodness into glucose.

In any case, let’s take a look at potatoes...

-A medium size of McDonald’s French fries (because who gets a small order?) has 380 calories, 19 grams of fat and 48 grams of carbohydrates.

-A 1.5-ounce bag of Classic Lays has 225 calories, 15 grams of fat and 23 grams of carbohydrates (the link has information for a 1-ounce bag).

-Half a cup (repeat, half a cup) of the classic breakfast food hash browns has 235 calories, 16 grams of fat and 23 grams of carbohydrates.

-Even the relatively healthier medium baked potato has about 160 calories, less than 1 gram of fat and about 37 grams of carbohydrates. That’s without adornments -- and yes, butter counts as an adornment, not a must-have.

Though clearly a lot of bad things happen, diet-wise, to the potato as it’s processed into more savory food products, the new research finds that it isn’t exactly diet food to begin with.

But then, you wouldn’t think nuts would be either. As Calorie Count points out, one serving of chopped walnuts – a scant fourth of a cup --  has 200 calories, 20 grams of fat – but only 4 grams of carbohydrates.

But turns out, eating nuts is indeed a diet-friendly approach, according to the research. Adding one serving of nuts each day for four years is associated with about a 0.6 pound weight loss.

healthkey@tribune.com

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