Whenever you’re out and about and feeling hungry, you might immediately start thinking of something potato-based, or at least containing some form of potato. This root vegetable has been part of our lives for longer than it hasn’t, and it’s always been viewed as the most filling and delicious thing out there.
But why are potatoes so filling ? Is it the way they’re cooked ? Is it what they’re paired with ? Do they have something extra-special ? Are they any better than rice or pasta ? Let’s take a look, and see for ourselves.
Why are potatoes so filling ?
Potatoes are filling because they have a high amount of carbohydrates and a type of fiber that is called resistant starch. This is a type of plant fiber that digests very slowly, leading to the sensation of fullness. Potatoes also have some protein, and some of those proteins come in the form of a proteinase inhibitor, which also delays digestion and, again, makes you feel full faster than other foods.
The result is food that will break down slower, keep you full for longer, and if you pair it with dairy, meat, or eggs you get an even slower digestion. Animal protein is a famously difficult protein to break down in the body, thus slowing digestion.
What makes a food filling ? The combination between digestible nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, and fibers. Some foods are made up of ingredients that are naturally better at keeping you full (like high in fiber or protein), and it seems potatoes are a perfect ingredient for filling meals. Let’s take a closer look at the reasons why.
Resistant starches are in plenty of foods
Resistant starches are a type of plant fiber found in many fruits and vegetables, to some degree. Some of the most common resistant starch sources are whole grains (oats, barley, bran) and apparently potatoes. This means that the stomach acid will have a harder time braking down the cell walls, and the fiber will be released slower, thus releasing carbohydrates slower.
This is the same reason oatmeal is so filling, and why beans are so hard to cook down and digest. In potatoes resistant starches are a key ingredient, no matter how you cook them (mashed, boiled, fried, baked).
Proteinase inhibitors are a defense mechanism
Proteinase inhibitors are actually a type of plant defense mechanism. It is produced by plants in reaction to being harmed, including being eaten by wild animals. It works by slowing digestion and suppressing appetite, thus making the animal stop eating, because it feels full.
Now, humans eat the root part of the potato plant, yet the root does have some built-in proteinase inhibitors as well. This means that we’re exposed to the same effects of feeling full and having a suppressed appetite, as we’re eating that pile of fries.
To be fair, the bigger reason is the resistant starch, more than the proteinase inhibitor, but it’s still a small reason.
Read also: Why Are My Mashed Potatoes Gummy ?
The addition of animal fats and protein helps
Whenever you’re eating potatoes, you’re likely cooking them with something on the side. Unless you’re just eating plain, boiled potatoes with nothing else, at all.
And when you do add something to those potatoes, it’s usually a bit of meat or dairy. For example a burger patty with fries, or scalloped potatoes with cream and eggs in them. Or it could be a simple steak with mashed potatoes (made with cream and butter).
The result is that potatoes are most of the time paired with another high-calorie, sometimes nutrient-dense food. This means you’re going to feel even fuller than if eating potatoes on their own, though potatoes are incredibly filling to begin with.
Why are potatoes fattening ?
By themselves potatoes are not fattening. It’s the combination between fats (oil, butter, lard) and starch (potato) that leads to the higher calorie count. This means that the potato, by itself, is not a crime. It’s simply a filling, slow to digest food. When you pair the humble potato with fats and protein (oil, mayo, ranch dressing, bacon, burger patties, etc) you get a high calorie meal, and even that is not a real problem.
The problem begins when your body does not burn all those calories, and does so for several weeks at a time. That is when you will see the pounds start packing, and it’s a very slippery slope. Most foods are higher in calories than you’d initially think, and it’s easy to eat more than your body needs.
The stomach can also adjust to more and more food, and later demand more and more food. In short, it’s not the potato’s fault. It’s how you cook the potato and what you eat it with that is the problem.
Are potatoes more filling than rice ?
Yes, potatoes are more filling than rice because rice is an easily digestible starch, while potatoes digest more slowly. This means 100 grams of steamed rice will keep you full for a shorter period of time than 100 grams of boiled potato.
Pasta is in that same category as rice, and this all stems from the fact that these foods are made with nearly all of their fiber removed. Pasta is made form very well ground flour, and most rice is white rice, with the hull removed.
If you want rice and pasta that are more filling without piling your plate, reach for wholegrain pasta and brown rice. They have a nutty, slightly woody flavor that is going to make your foods taste different than usual, but they will keep you full for longer.
What food keeps you full the longest ?
The food that keeps you full the longest is the plain ol potato, cooked in any way you like. Due to its resistant starch it will be slow to digest, so your stomach may feel full for a longer time than with other foods.
Other foods to try to keep you full for a long time are most whole grains, because they too have resistant starch. Examples like brown rice, oats, bran, and even reaching for wholegrain pasta can make a huge difference.
Protein-rich foods like meat and beans are also filling and will keep you full longer than something with no protein at all. How you source your protein (animal or plant) is up to you.