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Potatoes vs Rice

  Source: By Anjana Motihar Chandra for Health Xchange, with expert input from the Tiong Bahru Community Health Centre.  

When cooking potatoes, the cooking method used can significantly increase the calorie value. 

Potatoes and rice - which is better?

Like white rice, potato is a complex carbohydrate that is a staple food in many parts of the world. It is enjoyed in a large variety of dishes and is a good source of energy. Similar to most types of white rice, potato, in general, has a high glycemic index, which means it is quickly broken down into glucose, and can cause blood sugar and insulin levels to rise, making you feel hungry soon after. Potato is also associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

One difference between white rice and potatoes is that the starch in rice can be reduced by draining the water in which it is cooked, but potatoes remain starchy even after cooking. However, the practice of draining water from rice during the cooking process is not recommended as water soluble nutrients are drained and thrown out too.

“White rice and potatoes are popular starchy foods with similar nutritional values and a similar number of calories per serve,” says Ms Peggy Tan, Dietitian, Tiong Bahru Community Health Centre.

How potatoes compare with white rice

Nutrients found in white rice:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Protein
  • Fibre – much less than potatoes
  • B vitamins and vitamin E in very small quantities
  • Calcium, manganese, magnesium, selenium, phosphorous, and iron in very small quantities
  • Low calorie – 200 calories in a cup of cooked rice

Nutrients found in potatoes:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Protein
  • Fibre – much more than rice, particularly if eaten with its skin
  • B vitamins and vitamin C
  • Magnesium, iron and potassium (high amounts, more than banana)
  • Low calorie – 200 calories in four small boiled potatoes

Can eating potatoes make you fat?

Both potatoes and rice are complex carbohydrates and if eaten in moderation will not make you fat. They can, however, cause weight gain if they are cooked with butter, margarine, cream or any other fatty substance, instead of just boiled in water. The cooking method used can significantly increase the calorie value of both rice and potato.

For instance, a 5-ounce (142g) portion of hash browns, cooked in oil or butter, has 375 calories, while a 5-ounce (142g) portion of French fries has 435 calories. Potato chips that have been deep-fried have more than five times the number of calories than a boiled potato.

Similarly, rice that is fried or cooked with fat, such as chicken rice or nasi biryani, will have higher calories than steamed rice.

The choice of portion sizes can also lead to weight gain. Excess calories will add up if you double the portions or indulge in high-calorie potato and rice preparations daily, instead of having them as an occasional treat. In addition, the lack of physical activity can also exacerbate weight gain.

How can I cook potato and rice in a healthy way?

Steaming, boiling, baking are some healthy methods to cook rice and potatoes. Avoid deep frying potatoes and instead stir-fry them with a sprinkle of healthy oil such as canola, soya, olive, sunflower, corn and other oils rich in unsaturated fatty acids.

Rice and potatoes can be enjoyed in a variety of preparations in moderation,” says Ms Peggy Tan. If you want to have French fries, make your own by baking strips of potato in the oven. To make a healthier version of mashed potato, use skimmed milk instead of cream and butter.

Can eating rice and potatoes raise your risk of type 2 diabetes?

Most varieties of rice and potatoes are high glycemic index carbohydrates and have been linked to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. That is because these starchy carbohydrates are quickly broken down into glucose and absorbed into the bloodstream, which can cause blood sugar and insulin levels to rise.

However, the evidence against rice and potatoes is not conclusive. Some studies have found a link between these foods and diabetes, while others have not.

Since both rice and potatoes have many nutritional benefits, health experts advise that they be eaten in moderation as part of a balanced diet. Portion size and healthy methods of cooking are some factors to keep in mind when consuming rice and potatoes.

Diabetics too can safely enjoy nutritious rice and potato preparations in small portions as part of a healthy eating plan that includes whole grains, lean meats, and high-fibre fruits and vegetables.

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Article contributed by the Tiong Bahru Community Health Centre.

Tiong Bahru Community Health Centre (CHC) strives to bring about convenient health services to the community. It is helmed by a team of experienced nurses and allied healthcare professionals to support and complement GPs in their management of patients with chronic conditions.

Main services include Digital Diabetic Retinopathy Photography, Diabetic Foot Screening, Nurse Counselling and Education, as well as Dietetic Services.

Ref: Q15

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