While scrolling through Instagram, a post by a science trivia page caught my eye. It said that it’s possible for humans to survive only on a diet of potatoes and butter without being malnourished. The two ingredients together can supposedly give you all the nutrients you need to survive.
Soon, after the angels stopped singing inside my head, I snapped out of my reverie and set out to investigate whether a diet made entirely of potato and butter (something from my wish list as a child) is enough to sustain us.
Potatoes and butter nutrition
Researching potatoes was just the epiphany I needed in life; it shattered my previously-held beliefs about them. Telling me that potatoes have no nutrients were also among the many cons my parents pulled on me as a child – a well-meaning ploy to get me to eat more greens. So imagine my shock when I discovered how nutritious they actually are.
Potatoes get a bad rap mainly due to their association with nutritionally bereft junk food like french fries, tater tots, etcetera. Partly, the misconception that potatoes are unhealthy also arises from the way they are commonly served — fried or dunked in fat.
They are, in fact, a carb-rich, energy-providing food with very little fat. Protein content in potatoes is low, but it has high biological value, which means, it is easily absorbed into the human body.
It’s high in vitamin C (13 mg/100 g) and is a decent source of B vitamins and potassium. Eating potatoes with their skins is a great way to add more fibre to your diet.
A single cooked spud can give you 544 mg of potassium, 75 mg of phosphorous and 27 mg of magnesium per 100 gm.
That’s not all. The United Nations declared 2008 as the International Year of the Potato, noting that the potato is a staple food in the diet of the world’s population. Highlighting the many health benefits of the potato, the UN also stressed on the role of spuds in eradicating world hunger.
According to Spoon University, potatoes provide three of the most important macro-molecules for sustaining life (carbohydrates, protein, and nucleic acid). A decent famine food, potatoes also contain modest amounts of many micronutrients instead of being loaded in just one.
For more nutritional virtues of the potato, read this comprehensive review in detail.
But potatoes are terribly low in fat. So where do you get the lipids you need for survival? In comes butter.
When it comes to nutrition, butter isn’t too far behind. According to USDA, butter is a great source of vitamin A and D. Apart from that, butter also contains micronutrients like calcium and cobalamin.
Can you survive on potatoes and butter alone?
Now comes the real question — is it possible to survive on potatoes and butter alone? There are plenty of instances of people with weird food fixations eating only potatoes and nothing else. There was the case of a lady who only ate cheesy potatoes for 30 years of her life.
Tired of potatoes being labelled as a fattening food, Chris Voigt, the head of the Washington State Potato Commission, ate only potatoes for two months in 2010. With this freaky experiment, he wanted to show the world that potatoes are so healthy, it’s possible to live off them for an extended period without any negative impact on health. He documented his two-month spud diet, ultimately losing over 20 pounds.
Men’s Health mag also featured a story on Andrew Flinders Taylor, who ate only potatoes every day for a year. The result? The 334-pound Taylor dropped 117 pounds.
Fact-checking website Snopes.com, while validating the claim also added a caveat; eating only potatoes and butter can keep you alive but won’t keep you healthy. It also warned against possible potassium overload wreaking havoc on your kidneys if you eat around 20 potatoes a day.
There’s also the threat of toxicity in potatoes. Frying causes potatoes to develop acrylamide, a carcinogen. A 2015 study said that fried potato is the main contributor to total dietary acrylamide exposure, especially in youngsters.
To conclude, while potato-butter diet can help you survive it can’t ensure optimum health. So there go my plans to eat pommes frites for the rest of my life. q