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White Potatoes Can Improve Your Gut Health, According to Science

If you're filling your grocery cart with foods for gut health in mind, chances are that leafy greens, fiber-rich beans, and probiotic-filled yogurt are at the top of your list. While these foods are 100 percent great for the gut, you are not going to want to head to self-checkout without grabbing a bunch of white potatoes. That's right, it turns out that the humble spud is an unsung gut health hero.

While sweet potatoes have long held a health halo, white potatoes are often overlooked as a nutrient-rich food. The poor tuber. Even having more potassium than a banana and being a good source of vitamin C, magnesium, vitamin B6, phosphorus, niacin, and folate hasn't been enough for it to get the attention in the wellness world it deserves. Perhaps the news that white potatoes are directly linked to benefitting the gut will finally do it. The connection between white potatoes and gut health is one certified nutritionist and writer Lindsay Boyers, CHNC touches on in her new book, Gut Health Hacks. Boyers gets more into it here and the info she serves up is just one more reason the veggie should be celebrated.

Inside the white potatoes and gut health connection

According to Boyers, the connection between white potatoes and gut health primarily comes down to one factor: resistant starch, which the tuber is chock-full of. "Resistant starch is a type of a carbohydrate that is literally resistant to digestion. In other words, much like fiber, it cannot be broken down by the enzymes in your small intestine," Boyers explains. "Instead, it travels to your large intestine where it acts like a prebiotic, or food source, for the bacteria that live there."

Boyers explains that the bacteria in the gut feed on the resistant starch and ferments it. Short-chain fatty acids are created in the process, specifically a short-chain fatty acid called butyrate. "Butyrate is one of the short-chain fatty acids—the different two are propionate and acetate—that is produced when bacteria in the large intestine ferment resistant starch," Boyers says. "It serves as an energy source for your gut, protects its lining, and controls intestinal inflammation." Ever heard of leaky gut? This occurs when the lining of the gut breaks down, allowing harmful substances to leak into the bloodstream. Butyrate helps keep the gut lining strong so that doesn't happen.

"All of this contributes to a healthier gut that allows good bacteria and other beneficial microbes to thrive—something that translates to improved digestion and even better mental health," Boyers says. The ramifications of this are pretty major. She says that butyrate has been linked to a decreased risk of colon cancer, which is unfortunately on the rise, projected to overtake breast cancer as the leading cause of cancer deaths among people between the ages of 20 and 49.

But in order to really get the maximum benefit from your white potatoes, Boyers says there are some important factors to keep in mind.

Originally published: Well+Good

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